ILO and CDB hold policy dialogue on social protection and youth employment

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Members of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean met with representatives of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for a policy dialogue on social protection and youth empowerment and employment — two key areas of work for both organizations that play an important role in promoting an inclusive, equitable and prosperous Caribbean. Representatives from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Unit and the UN country team for Barbados as well as the countries of the OECS also attended the meeting. 

Development partners agreed on the relevance and importance of strengthened collaboration, especially in light of the integrated nature of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ascribed to by all the Caribbean nations. The meeting was introduced by Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), CDB; Claudia Coenjaerts, Director, ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean; and Stephen O’Malley, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the OECS.

Although the Caribbean has a good track record on the Human Development Index, the shortcomings in social protection and the persistent high levels of youth unemployment can reverse the development gains if not tackled sustainably. Countries in the Caribbean need transformational change to create decent jobs for young women and men. Likewise, social protection should not only be used as a strategy to ensure no one is left behind, or that will assist the poorest, but should also be approached as a strategy that builds our human and social capital.

Both the ILO and the CDB have numerous instruments and tools to assist member States and participants agreed that stronger collaboration will promote consistency in policy messages and can help to scale up good practices.

Representatives from the respective organizations highlighted a number of interventions currently ongoing in the two thematic areas and found common ground for future involvement in a number of areas. Those include, but are not limited to, promotion of social protection floors; integrating universal health care principles; review of the social protection expenditure, including its efficiency and effectiveness; approaching youth employment through integrated approaches combining macro policies and targeted interventions; expanding social protection interventions with employment related components; and introducing new elements within youth entrepreneurship support programmes. They also made proposals for the streamlining of operations of technical and vocational education and training systems in regional entities. Partners agreed that enhanced attention to work-related gender issues, e.g. sexual harassment at the workplace or the gender wage gap, and gender inequality need to be tackled more effectively.

Claudia Coenjaerts of the ILO, emphasized the need for more robust labour market programmes in the region as strong institutions can facilitate a transition from vulnerability to resilience. Greater collaboration between both Organizations can only be beneficial to Governments and social partners of the region.

Deidre Clarendon, Division Chief, Social Sector Division, CDB, highlighted the need for a multidimensional approach to poverty reduction and securing livelihoods. She also mentioned the need for collaboration and the harmonization of approaches which will ensure a more efficient utilization of resources. She indicated that “big wins” can be achieved through “small steps” such as sharing of, and participating in, each other’s work programmes where possible, and the formalization of the enhanced collaboration through the development of an aide memoire to guide future cooperation.

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