Guatemala's youth represent 70 percent of its 14.7 million inhabitants but they face many challenges in their medium- to long-term development, notes a new United Nations Development Programme study. Malnutrition, illiteracy or low levels of education, unemployment or informal employment, and the lack of documentation limit their abilities to get ahead in society and result in migration and violence. Video, en Español.
Proposed reforms to the education system have resulted in tense stand-offs between students, their teachers and riot police across Guatemala. Just this week at least 40 people were injured after riot police were called in to break up a protest.
The crux of Education Minister Cynthia del Aguila’s proposed changes is a requirement that those who are studying to become primary school teachers will have to study for two additional years—for a total of five years of training—and complete a university degree. This has split public opinion between those who believe the country's educators should be well-educated and those who are concerned that there will be fewer teachers because of the increased costs that will result from more training.
Teaching is one of the few professions that does not require a university degree in Guatemala, with the result being a surplus of teacher supply.
Complicating the picture is the pending reelection of Joviel Acevedo, the general secretary of the Guatemalan Education Workers Union. After 14 years in the position, Acevedo has overseen numerous labor disputes but remains popular with teachers after helping to push through two recent pay raises despite warning from consecutive finance ministers that there is no money in the budget to pay for them.
The role of the education minister is also fraught with uncertainty. Over the past 12 years, there have been 18 education ministers, including three appointments in a six-month period. A combination of poor infrastructure, dilapidated buildings and a lack of teaching hours has resulted in the mandated 180 school days per year remaining a pipe dream. Guatemala generally places poorly on international standardized tests with a system plagued by difficult labor relations.
#YoSoy132 has been called many things: “the voice of a new generation;” “the Mexican Spring;” and “young people manipulated by the PRD [Partido de la Revolución Democrática, or Party of the Democratic Revolution]” are just a few. Whatever its true nature, this youth movement has left a new mark on electoral processes in Mexico—one which could shape not only the outcome but the aftermath of the 2012 Mexican elections next Sunday.
It all began on May 11 when Enrique Peña Nieto, presidential candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), belittled a group of student protesters that had gathered at the Universidad Iberoamericana to repudiate his presence there. Peña Nieto called them a small group of rabble-rousers, accused them of not being actual students and minimized their protest to opposition made up of only 131 people.
This led to the students uploading a YouTube video showing their university IDs and claiming that their cause was shared by many more young people. The video went viral and the story spiraled into Twitter via the hashtag #YoSoy132 (“I Am 132”). Without a cohesive agenda or clarity with regards to what “being 132” really meant, people sympathized with the students and began retweeting that they too were 132.
In March 2012, the Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced that an approximately $1 billion investment fund to promote sustainable economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) would be operational this year. The joint project will invest in the public and private sectors and focus primarily on infrastructure, projects on energy and natural resources, and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
At the root of sustainable development is the notion that economies can still grow without endangering resources and the environment for future generations. However, although discussions about economic resources and the environment dominate the spotlight, the central role of future generations, or youth, in driving that notion and identifying related solutions is often relegated to the background.
Leslie Forman grew up in Silicon Valley, California, as the daughter of two serial startup veterans. She lived in China for several years and worked in diverse industries, such as advertising, consulting, corporate social responsibility and education. In 2011, she moved to Chile to take part in Start-Up Chile—a government-sponsored entrepreneurship program.
Given her unique background, Leslie has a coveted window into many worlds. She recently shared some valuable insights related to her entrepreneurial experiences and vision to connect Chile, China, California and beyond.
Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
Brazil’s black community faces many social and political problems, but a lack of economic opportunities is what most prevents this population from climbing the income ladder. According to Brazil’s National Association of Collective Black Entrepreneurs (Associação Nacional dos Coletivos de Empreendedores Negros, or ANCEABRA), the majority of Afro-Brazilians are in the informal workforce because of a lack of opportunities in the formal sector. Many Afro-Brazilians also face difficulty in opening legitimate, lasting businesses, with ANCEABRA reporting that only 3.8 percent of Afro-Brazilians identify professionally as entrepreneurs.
Why are Afro-Brazilians unsuccessful as entrepreneurs? Three factors are at play: a lack of societal encouragement to become entrepreneurs; family members without any history in creating their own enterprises; and, above all, the persistent difficulty of accessing capital. Brazil also has never had a public policy that sought to specifically promote black-managed enterprises.
This systemic problem presents a form of “black invisibility” in the business sector. This invisibility stands in stark contrast to Brazil’s position as one of the top-five countries in terms of entrepreneurship. Brazil’s enviable ranking puts it ahead of several enterprising European countries—yet most of these Brazilian enterprises are neither started nor managed by Afro-Brazilians.
But there’s more to this great challenge. A survey by the Ethos Institute showed that female Afro-Brazilians comprise only 0.5 percent of the top corporate executives of the 500 largest companies in Brazil. Our country, which proudly presents itself as a multicultural and multiracial nation, is ranking behind nations with similar ethnic compositions.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting this week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) held a panel discussion about “sports for development:” using sports as a catalyst for social development. Featuring 8-time All-star baseball pitcher Pedro Martínez, NBA defensive star Dikembe Motumbo, and speed-skating Olympian Johann Koss, the panel touched on the ways sports contribute to development. Among them were: facilitating social inclusion, building youth leadership skills, connecting youth to job training programs, and empowering women and girls.
One particularly interesting component of sports for development—especially in light of the discussions this week at the UN General Assembly— is the role sports can play in peace-building. One theme echoed among participants at Tuesday’s event was the universality of sports. Longtime ESPN reporter Jeremy Schapp said sports aren’t just about elite athletes competing at the highest levels, but rather the millions of children “who play in playgrounds and ball fields everywhere [and share] a passion to play.” Johann Koss, CEO of Right to Play, a Canada-based sport-for-development organization, said his organization was founded on the principle that “all children have a fundamental right to play.” Donald Steinberg, deputy administrator of USAID, told the story of kids he met at a refugee camp in Ethiopia who so craved the experience of play that they made soccer balls out of rags and used what little energy they had to score goals.
The universal quality of sports lends them a unique power to bridge social, political, economic and cultural divides, and to foster peace between individuals and groups in conflict. Sports promote shared identity and humanization of the “other”; individuals and groups who might otherwise approach one another with a lack of trust, hostility and/or violence learn about what they have in common and build relationships as they work toward a shared goal.
The West Indian Day Parade and its pre-dawn “J’ouvert” revelries have taken place every year on Labor Day in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 1960s. Modeled on the traditional Carnival festivities of the Caribbean islands, the parade includes revelers painted black and red to evoke the devil, mas bands dancing to soca, calypso and steel drums, masqueraders dressed in elaborate feather and sequined costumes, and plenty of Caribbean food. Monday's event concluded a series of activities over the Labor Day weekend this year celebrating West Indian culture.
As an annual attendee myself, I was deeply saddened to hear of the violence that took place near and around the parade routes, both during and after it—not to mention the spate of shootings across New York City during the holiday weekend. All in all, from Friday through Monday, 52 shootings claimed the lives of 13 and wounded 54 others, according to police data. In a particularly devastating incident, a shootout on Park Place and Franklin Avenue around 9 p.m. on Monday left two men and an innocent bystander dead, in addition to wounding two officers. Fifty-six-year-old Denise Gay was sitting on her stoop with her daughter when she was struck by a stray bullet in a dispute between Leroy Webster and Eusi Johnson, both former convicts who lived nearby.
In processing this violence, I was disheartened to hear people blaming the West Indian parade, which I and many others experienced as a celebration that brought together the neighborhood’s diverse communities—with roots in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, and Haiti, to name just a few—to recreate a Caribbean tradition in New York.
I also tried to come up with an explanation—and perhaps more naively, a solution. What caused these acts of violence? Why were my neighbors and peers caught in crossfire and engaged in violence when I led a life of comparative security and ease? What could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future?
On May 22, 2009 in St. Ann, Jamaica, seven girls died in a fire at the Armadale facility, which was a state-run juvenile center that housed girls exposed to crime and violence. Those that made it out of Armadale alive suffered severe injuries as a result of the blaze.
While the fire has long been put out in St. Ann, the apathy surrounding the protection and promotion of children’s rights in Jamaica is not yet extinguished. In fact, it has been burning for decades. The underlying problems continue: weak governing policies, lack of accountability for responsible adults, inherent flaws in the child protection system, and lack of training and capacity building for those in charge of children in juvenile facilities.
The Armadale tragedy is testament to the pervasiveness of these problems, which impede important steps in appreciating and fulfilling human rights as we seek to build a more advanced country in Jamaica. The roadmap for Vision 2030, the National Development Plan, seems clear and exhaustive. But the rights of our children are not adequately taken into account; if they are not addressed, Vision 2030 will be a useless blueprint and will fail to take Jamaica forward.
Jamaica ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991 and has legislated the obligations of this international treaty into the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) of 2004. But arguably, there have been few changes on this front since the CCPA. Teachers still practice capital punishment, parents continue to neglect their child rearing responsibilities, older men and women continue to use power and influence to engage in human trafficking, and even religious leaders sexually exploit our children while pretending to offer guidance and emotional support. Additionally, those who must take action and make a difference ignore the immediate and long-term implications until these situations escalate and draw the attention of the media.
However you feel about big-box retail setting up shop in New York, Walmart’s announcement last week of a $4-million donation to New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) offered some cause for celebration. According to the New York City government, private funds donated by Walmart and other companies will enable the program to provide an additional 4,000 New York City youth (aged 14 to 24 years old) with summer employment and educational opportunities. This comes on top of the 24,000 slots the program had secured through public funds alone.
SYEP, which began in the 1960s, places youth in various minimum-wage jobs at camps, parks, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, retail companies, and small businesses across the five boroughs of New York City. It also offers career exploration opportunities, training in financial literacy and information about post-secondary educational opportunities. Though reduced from the 35,000 placements made in 2010 and the 52,000 made in 2009, the 28,000 jobs SYEP will offer youth this summer are good news at a time when 24.5 percent of 16- to 19-year olds and 14.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds are unemployed across the country. But still, with 131,000 young people filing applications to be a part of SYEP this year, there remains unmet demand by aspiring workers.
No longer can policymakers ignore the grim reality of the level of violence in the seven countries that comprise the Central American isthmus. The situation today evoke comparisons of the homicide rates that many countries experienced at the height of their armed conflicts—a time of violence that all had hoped would remain in the past.
The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Central America’s homicide rate tops 33 murders per 100,000 people, making it the most violent area of not just Latin America, but also the world. In fact, the region’s homicide rate is more than four times the global average. The situation is particularly troubling when it comes to the region’s youth; 39 of every 100,000 young people age 15 to 24 years old will fall victim to murder each year.
Increasing international attention and assistance to the region is certainly a very welcome development. Last week, Central America's heads of state along with the presidents of Mexico and Colombia and other international observers decamped to Guatemala City for the International Conference in Support of the Central American Security Strategy organized by the Central American Integration System (SICA). In a region where divisions often bubble to the surface, the leaders’ resolve to jointly tackle insecurity was perhaps one of the conference’s biggest achievements.