Clinton adviser talks about youth unemployment

2012-05-12 11:05

Ronan Farrow believes that unemployment is “one great crisis” facing the youth in South Africa and that schools must do a better job of producing skilled matriculants.

“Young people need to stay entrepreneurial, as start-ups produce a majority of new job opportunities in the region. Young people need to stay politically active and to build on the gains of the ‘freedom generation’.

“They need to participate in civil society groups, and work to nurture a culture of rights and democratic accountability,” says Farrow.

The son of the ill-fated Hollywood pair, Mia Farrow and Woody Allen is the special adviser on global youth issues to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and director of her office for global youth issues.

He says Clinton asked him early on about what he thought were the challenges of global youth and whether these were shared by their American counterparts.

“In fact, it was that question that initiated a hard, honest look at all of the US’s policies and programmes around the world to see if they were responding to young people’s challenges.

“We’ve focused on two of the most common challenges I’ve seen in my work. Firstly, no matter how disparate their circumstances, young people need to support themselves and their families.

“People under 30 are as much as two to three times more likely to be unemployed than those over that age, and I know young South Africans are feeling that acutely.

“Secondly, young people everywhere – myself included – wrestle with how to make their voices heard. Each one deserves dignity and a voice in their community,” he explains.

He continues: “The reality is that preceding generations left today’s young men and women with many of our great challenges worsened – from a changing climate and proliferating nuclear weapons to global pandemics.

We’ve seen how young people have harnessed new tools and technologies to unseat repressive leaders, champion democracy and spur economic growth.

“A revolutionary youth is someone who refuses to accept the old order – and, more importantly, refuses to become the old order.

“Secretary Clinton has said for every great challenge there is probably an entrepreneurial young man or woman seeking to solve it – the challenge is tapping that potential.”

To tap that potential, Farrow has launched a campaign to establish youth councils at American
embassies around the world. There are already 40 and counting, he says.

But things do not always run smoothly for this young man.

“Advancing new counter-culture initiatives in a slow-moving bureaucracy is draining, and at times fraught. I’ve been fortunate to find some wonderful allies and to produce real results, but there were absolute low points where I took heavy fire.

“The highlights are, thankfully, more numerous,” says Farrow.

He recently received a Rhodes scholarship and will soon be moving from the corridors of government to those of an illustrious university’s lecture halls.

He already holds a law degree from Ivy League Yale University.

“I’ve been fortunate to mobilise significant change from within the government, but ultimately I always knew I wanted to launch this initiative, and then return to writing and speaking as an individual.

“I’ll continue to team up with Secretary Clinton and my successor, and support this important work from the outside, as I know Secretary Clinton will upon her departure.”

Before he joined Clinton, he worked as a human rights activist – like his mother – and wrote articles for prominent publications.

He has also spent some time in Africa.

“So much of our support for health, human rights and economic development on the African continent is focused on young people. How could it not be, with one of the largest generations of youth ever in Africa?”

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