Girls’ Leadership Matters!

By Alda, an 18 year old Plan International girl activist from Indonesia


 To mark the 2017 International Day of the Girl today, the author was tapped to serve as Secretary-General of the OECD on 11 October 2017
during a special girlstake over event organised by Plan International.


day-of-the-girlWhen someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. However, I know that the reality is still so much different from what I have in mind.

When I was 12 years old, my friend in school was pregnant. As soon as everyone in her family and school knew, she dropped out of school and I have never heard about her again. Three years later, I attended the wedding of another friend, who was pregnant at the age of 16. I was really confused at her wedding and feeling sad for her because she looked unhappy and very quiet. I imagine that it was a hard time for my friend to accept. After the wedding, she dropped out of school and moved in with her husband’s family.
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Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration in West Africa

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University

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Photo credit: Ryan Vroegindewey

Soaring and volatile international food prices since 2007-08 have forced West African governments and their development partners to translate their long-standing rhetoric about support for West African agriculture into concrete programmes. Doing so effectively, however, has proven much more challenging than simply meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goal of increasing the share of national budgets and donor funds dedicated to the agricultural sector. A recently released joint study by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and Michigan State University (MSU) draws lessons from such efforts over the past 10 years and suggests ways in which policies and programmes can be more effective in helping West Africa feed its young, burgeoning and increasingly urban population. Research by MSU, SFSA and West African scholars provides a number of crucial policy insights. Continue reading

Reimagining job-oriented education to give youth the chance of a better future

 By Mariana Costa, Co-founder and CEO of Laboratoria


 To find out more on youth and inclusive development, go to the 2017 International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean website


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Laboratoria graduates. Photo credit: the Laboratoria website

Receiving quality higher education in Latin America is still a privilege, with two-thirds of youth in the region lacking advanced technical, professional and management skills. Despite their limited access, acquiring these valuable skills is still the main vehicle to a career. The consequences are not minor. According to OECD data, 21% of youth are not working or studying, and another 19% are working in the informal economy. All of them face limited opportunities to fulfil or even discover their potential. A better way must be found to give the region’s young talent a path to professional growth.

A few years ago, I started a web development company in Lima, Peru. In the process of building our team of software developers, my partners and I discovered what appeared to be a loophole in the system. Most of these coding professionals, making competitive salaries and facing endless opportunities for career growth, did not have a fancy degree from a renowned university. They were self-taught developers, university dropouts or computer engineering graduates from obscure technical institutes. Despite the lack of a degree, they were doing great. And they were not the only ones. According to Stack Overflow’s 2016 survey, 56% of developers do not have a college degree in computer science or related fields. In tech, the key to a high paying job often has more to do with what you can build than where you studied.

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Youth Employment and Inclusive Growth: Part of the same coin in Cambodia

By Emmanuel Asomba, Development Policy Researcher, and Ji-Yeun Rim, Youth Inclusion Project Co-ordinator, OECD Development Centre

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Courtesy ©UNV Cambodia May 31, 2016

Some countries in the South Asia and Pacific region are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of working-age people. This will create some opportunities as it will contribute to reducing the dependency ratio and increasing the possibilities for social cohesion policies. But if these people fail to find decent jobs, then per capita income may slow down. With less income, people face lower living standards and difficulties accumulating capital and assets. For young people, these changes potentially bring significant challenges. Take, for example, youth in Cambodia.

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Girls robbed of their childhood in the Sahel

By Laurent Bossard, Director, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

In Mali, Niger and Chad, 40% of children under five suffer from stunting. These children do not receive enough nutrients. Their bodies — their brains, bones and muscles — do not get enough calcium, iron or zinc or enough vitamins (A, B2, B12 etc.), so they do not have enough energy to grow and develop. Many of these children will suffer from chronic diseases and will have cognitive problems — so they won’t be able to go to school for long, if at all. As adults, they will have little chance to flourish and, secondarily, will have low economic productivity. Many will also die very young, often before turning five.

In these countries, at least 100 children out of every thousand die before reaching the age of five. That’s 10 times more than in Sri Lanka, 20 times more than in Canada and 50 times more than in Luxembourg. Why are these children dying and why are they doomed to a hopeless future?  Continue reading

Closing the gap on youth well-being

By Alexandre Kolev, Head of the social cohesion unit at the OECD Development Centre

Today’s world youth population ages 10 to 24, is 1.8 billion people strong and represents the largest cohort ever to be transitioning to adulthood. The vast majority of these young people – 88% – live in developing countries. These young people are the next generation. If properly nurtured, they can be engines for economic and social progress. However, if policies and programmes fail to reach them, particularly the disadvantaged youth, and give them a voice in decision-making, the youth bulge may well turn into a brake for economic and social development, leading to increasing poverty, illegal migration or failed citizenship.

While world leaders are defining the post-2015 agenda, building on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, the evidence suggests that a large segment of youth in both developed and developing countries continues to remain outside of mainstream economic and social life. Perspectives on Global Development 2012 “Social Cohesion in a Shifting World” discusses how social discontent worldwide is a sign of dissatisfaction with a development model that seems to put narrow aggregate income measures first and issues of inequality and widening social gaps on the backburner. More and more, the sentiment is that the fruits of growth are not being shared equally.

Gaps in initial education and skills, for example, are forcing too many young people to leave the school system at an early age, unprepared for work and life. Today, one out of four children in the world drops out of primary education. Surprisingly, no progress has been made on this over the last decade. Youth joblessness and vulnerable employment are widespread; young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Adolescent reproductive and sexual health needs are poorly addressed while new health risks have emerged. Not all youth have equal opportunities for legal mobility, and too many young people remain excluded from decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Yet, the opportunity to close the youth well-being gap is real.

Many governments demonstrate growing political will to develop comprehensive policies to better respond to the needs and aspirations of young people. In fact, nearly 2 out of 3 countries in the world today have a national youth policy. Such good intentions, however, continue to be undermined by serious challenges: fragmented responsibilities and weak implementation in national administrations, the lack of reliable knowledge and data, insufficient analytical and financial ressources, difficulties capturing the needs of disadvantaged groups, or the absence of appropriate monitoring and evaluation plans. No wonder countries are turning to development partners for strategic guidance on how to develop, implement or update youth policies that are based on rigorous empirical evidence and international good practices.

Designing and implementing an inclusive well-being agenda for youth calls for a number of actions.

First, data. A large number of young people, especially in low- and middle-income countries, are exposed to risk factors that threaten their development. These factors ultimately contribute to well-being deficits. Measuring and analysing the problems of disadvantaged youth is a prerequisite for developing evidence-based policies for youth. Doing this is an important feature of the OECD Development Centre’s work on social cohesion. Through country reviews on youth well-being, the Centre is actively engaged in an evidence-based dialogue with countries to help them identify policies and institutions that work well for youth under different economic, social and political contexts. The Centre is doing this work with the European Union.

Second, timely investments. Sharing good practices and exchanging information on what does and does not work and why have crucial roles to play in youth policy making in both poor and rich countries. Young people become more disadvantaged when risk factors in different areas multiply and reinforce each other or when risks lead to deprivation in one or more well-being dimension. And they suffer when there are few or no effective policies in place to prevent or mitigate such risks (prevention programmes) or to relieve the impact of such risks once they have occurred (second chance programmes).

Third, specific interventions. Policies that intervene at critical stages can significantly reduce the risks of youth becoming disadvantaged. A growing body of evidence on the promising impact of youth programmes comes from rigorous impact evaluations of specific interventions across a broad range of sectors. In the area of education, for instance, teaching children, particularly from disadvantaged groups, until at least secondary school appears to be one of the most effective policies to prevent low literacy among young adults. Facilitating the transition to the world of work through labour market counselling and comprehensive on-the-job training services are fostering youth economic inclusion. Effective youth health outcomes begin with maternal health and nutrition at an early age. During adolescence and early adulthood, youth-friendly health services, grounded in non-judgemental counselling and practical services, such as testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, access to contraceptives and information on HIV/AIDS prevention, become crucial for reproductive and sexual health. When advice on nutrition and mental health problems are included in the services, it can ensure a balanced life and improve the overall well-being of young people. The evidence also suggests that cultural and creative activities, violence prevention programmes and juvenile justice services, to name a few, can support active citizenship among the youth.

The youth bulge offers tremendous potential for development, but also large and interlinked economic and social challenges. Tapping into the evidence to design better policies is one of the best ways to minimize those challenges and maximize the potential, turning the youth bulge into a youth bonanza.