OECD Global Forum on Development, 5 April 2018

“Youth and women must be at the centre of sustainable development” – said Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD. He stressed that of the world’s 7,6 billion today, more than 4 billion are more likely to be at a disadvantage in terms of health, education or economic opportunities simply because they are young, a woman, or both.

Photo: OECD

The OECD has organized this year’s Global Forum on Development on the 5 April 2018. The Forum has put women and youth – who together make up 62% of the global population – at the centre of the discussion. The main topic of the conference was the economic empowerment of women and youth, the results achieved so far and the way forward.

The Secretary General said young people in developing countries are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. Women account for 50% of the global working-age population but generate only 37% of global wealth since they are more likely than men to work in low-productivity and low-wage sectors. He added that these and other inequalities harm our economies. According to recent estimate, discrimination against women costs the global economy an estimated 12 trillion USD per year. Angel Gurría emphasized that progress achieved so far is insufficient, further measures are needed, as in Africa and South-Asia demographic transition will put further pressure on labor markets. Worldwide 600 million jobs will need to be created over the next 15 years to maintain cur-rent employment rates. The Secretary General underlined the OECD’s work in this field, as the „Social Institutions and Gender Index” (SIGI) a composite measure to track progress on gender equality, analysis and policy advice and its work in the field of international development co-operation to promote gender equality.

The number of rural youth will continue to grow in the coming decades and they will have to face serious challenges in the labor markets and in the field of well-being. The participants of the Forum discussed the main challenges for youth in developing countries and economic and labor market measures, which are needed to overcome them. Representing the developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Minister of Grassroots Development, Crafts, Youth and Youth Employment of Togo called the participants’ attention to the need of a paradigm shift. In her opinion, in order to promote development, emphasis has to be put on those economic sectors, which – as agriculture in the case of Togo – have the possibility of development. Rural agriculture has to be modernized, so that young people see agricultural professions as a real option for living and renounce from moving to cities. As representative of the private sector, the Corporate Head of Agriculture of Nestlé also em-phasized the importance of fighting against brain drain, because if masses of young people go to the cities looking for better lives, workforce for rural agricultural production will be insufficient. The Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Senegalese SOORETUL stressed the revolutionary role of technology in women’s market access opportunities and economic empowerment. SOORETUL is the first digital platform to promote market access of agricultural products of Senegalese women.

Nowhere are women and young people at a greater disadvantage than in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. However, researches show that the participation of women in peacebuilding and state building processes improve significantly the chances for peace and resilience and contribute to the recognition of women’s rights. Her Excellency Rula Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan named the three main challenges that her country has to face: changing the mentality of violence and corruption, as well as changing from dependency on foreign aid to sustainability. She mentioned the improvement in the field of education, thanks to which population now is in favor of sending children to school. The First Lady emphasized that besides women’s rights men’s and young people’s rights are equally important. The Director General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) highlighted that 88% of Swedish official development aid targets the promotion of gender equality, while supporting girls and boys, women and men equally. The Girl Ambassador for Peace of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders stressed the importance of education in the recognition of women’s rights and gender equality. In her opinion, change of mentalities can only be achieved if special classes about these values are made obligatory for all children in primary educa-tion.

The participants of the conference agreed that adequate policies, implementation and financing mechanisms and continued dialogue is needed for progress. The efficient functioning of states, respect of law and political will is essential for success stories in developing countries.

Anita Obermayer