The EU-LAC Foundation, chaired by Benita Ferrero-Waldner -also patroness of the Novia Salcedo Foundation- has organised a conference in Quito, in collaboration with 46 countries belonging to the EU, CELAC -chaired by Ecuador this year- and the ILO aimed at discussing issues affecting millions of young people worldwide, especially in the American continent. The participants exchanged views on various issues, especially employment and education as essential tools to combat the problem posed by the fact that 13.1% of young people around the world are unable to access the labour market. This unemployment rate, which is three times higher than that for adults, has reached 21.6% in the EU and affects 4.98 million people, according to Eurostat data, while the rate in Latin America is 13.7% (29.1 million people).

The chairperson of the EU-LAC Foundation, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, stressed the importance of initiatives such as the Junker Plan to stimulate the economy through investment programmes that will enhance economic growth in the mid-term, benefiting young people. Ferrero-Waldner, at a press conference called to announce the events launched by the EU-LAC Foundation, made a special appeal regarding the role of civil society and, in particular of young people, in the pursuit of initiatives aimed at achieving the necessary social cohesion that will lead to progress in the field of education and employment.

The conference has generated some important data, such as the fact that 6 out of every 10 young people entering the labour market in Latin America, which accounts for 27 million workers, do so in an informal manner. In the Caribbean region, youth unemployment has exceeded 30%, while another 10% are affected by precarious employment situations. These figures seriously affect the future of the respective sister republics.

Ferrero-Waldner stressed some actions that, since the establishment of the foundation, have been aimed at encouraging SMEs in the more competitive sectors, creating networks with universities and improving policies aimed at the labour insertion of women. The former European commissioner highlighted the role of Vocational Training in both hemispheres: Latin America and Europe.

The conclusions reached in this conference shall be submitted to leaders from both continents who will be holding a yearly meeting in Brussels in June.