Editorial: A welcome news but will we jump in?

THE Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched in New York last February 1, 2016 the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which includes a focus on promoting decent employment opportunities for young people in agriculture and the rural economy.

Indeed, this is great news because with decent jobs in agriculture for the youth, this will mean a countryside that continues to provide the growing population’s needs while ensuring that the young and productive population do not leave the farms.

The news about the launching said the program will be under the lead of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and was developed by 19 international organizations that are committed to increasing the impact of youth employment policies and expanding country-level action on decent jobs for young women and men.

“The new UN Global Initiative aims to address the prevailing high levels of youth unemployment by scaling up action across the UN system and in all sectors of the global economy. FAO will be leading one of the eight thematic areas of the strategy, on Youth in the Rural Economy, while contributing to others,” the report said.

Reading news like these brings some sense of hope to a seemingly hopeless mass migration to the cities that are quickly choking up and becoming less able to provide for the basic needs of the people – jobs, included.

But, recalling how our government works, there is that feeling of frustration knowing that there will be programs that will conform with what the ILO and the FAO intends, as there are programs and memoranda of agreements, and resolutions, and even laws on just about every good thing that is happening in the world as applied to the Philippines, but very little is implemented.

Like when the whole world is drumming up interest on carbon credits and the massive reforestation and rehabilitation of indigenous forests, we give away our mountains for giant mining companies to ravage, flatten, and turn red like what we are now seeing in the whole stretch of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte provinces.

While the whole world is investing so much on renewable energy, the Philippines has more than 20 power plant companies putting up around 70 coal power plants all over the country. Even Davao City is not spared from the backwardness as when the whole world is drumming up protecting and care for trees, the local government insists on reducing the number of trees along Dacudao Avenue and even succeeded in amending its land use plan to remove the 10% required green zone in subdivision developments.

Faced with such realities of backward thinking, we can only applaud for UN and FAO, while admitting that we will not see much work here in our part of the world because, that’s just how it is. The Filipino leaders and governments just cannot seem to see the wisdom beyond today’s immediate needs. How sad. We mourn.

"Poverty and hunger cannot be eradicated without addressing the inadequacy of employment conditions and opportunities facing the world's young people, especially for young women and those living in rural areas," said Brave Ndisale, FAO Social Protection Division Deputy Director.

This is in line with achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was recently adopted by the international community. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals , Goal 8 explicitly calls for "inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all".

To date, in many parts of the world employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for young women and men remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality, particularly for those living in economically stagnant rural areas of developing countries.

The majority of rural youth are employed in the informal economy as contributing family workers, subsistence farmers, home-based micro-entrepreneurs or unskilled workers. They typically earn low wages, are employed through casual or seasonal work arrangements and face unsafe, often exploitive working conditions that compel many to migrate to urban areas - or abroad.

Swelling numbers, growing challenges Some 1.2 billion youth live in the world today - just over 14 percent of the global population. Almost 88 percent of these young people live in developing countries - a figure that is expected to increase over the coming decades. Asia alone is home to 60 percent of the world's youth, while a further 18 percent live in Africa. Within Africa, 61 percent of the entire population are under 24 years of age.

FAO underlines that greater efforts should be made to integrate young people in rural economies to promote food security and sustainable livelihoods.

Today, most of the world's food is produced by ageing smallholder farmers in developing countries, while a new generation of food producers needs to emerge and have access to new approaches and technologies needed to feed the planet's growing world population while protecting the environment.

A way forward

The Initiative is based on several guiding principles, including respect for human rights, the promotion of gender equality and the application of international labour standards and other relevant UN normative frameworks. It also seeks to promote investment to improve young people's education and skills.

More specifically, the Initiative will: Engage key stakeholders and world leaders in high-level policy action on youth employment; Expand and scale up national and regional policies and interventions on youth employment; Pool existing expertise and enhance knowledge on what works for youth employment; and Leverage resources from existing facilities while also mobilizing additional resources. FAO has placed the promotion of decent rural employment as one of its top priorities, and has established a specific programme of work targeting youth.

For example, young people's skills can be strengthened using FAO's Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology; facilitating their access to land, credit and markets; and enhancing their ability to participate in policy debates.

FAO also works with governments to integrate youth issues into national policies and strategies as well as national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs). To advise stakeholders about employment conditions and opportunities in their respective countries, FAO mobilizes its long experience and research expertise to conduct country-analyses of labour market conditions, youth employment situation and untapped opportunities for rural employment generation.
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