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Discussion on Economic Opportunities for Latin American and Caribbean Youth Comes to Capitol Hill

Multilateral Investment Fund Releases New Strategy for Youth Training Projects

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill on Friday, September 14 from 10:00-11:30am on the topic “Developing Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The event had bipartisan co-sponsorship from Representative Joe Baca (D-CA), Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI).

During the panel, the MIF’s general manager, Nancy Lee, presented “Give Youth a Chance: An Agenda for Action,” a newly published report that evaluates the MIF’s work to date in support of the region’s youth and outlines its strategy moving forward. This report was launched on September 12 during the 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference in Washington, DC.

Over the past 18 years, the MIF has carried out more than 120 youth training projects region-wide, benefiting over 235,000 young people, most of them from low-income communities. The report outlines the most important lessons learned from this project portfolio, including the key elements of effective employment and entrepreneurship training projects; the most effective ways of teaching and reinforcing essential life skills like communication and reliability; and how to scale up training models through government and corporate partnerships.

The report also sets out the MIF’s priorities for its future work with youth, notably New Employment Opportunities (NEO), a public-private initiative announced at the 2012 Summit of the Americas, which will provide high-impact job training and placement services to at least one million youth in Latin America and the Caribbean in the next ten years. The new strategy also calls for more rigorous evaluation of the impact of MIF projects, and increased information sharing with other institutions about results and best practices.

“There is no other issue on which the interests of government and the private sector are more aligned than addressing youth unemployment and creating economic opportunities for young people,’’ said Lee.

“The MIF holds a unique and privileged position as an institution that can help bring these two sectors together to work on this shared challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the release of our new strategy, we, at the MIF, are re-committing ourselves to developing innovative and effective models that will help the next generation of our region’s youth reach their potential, and build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.”

The panel also showed the human “face” of the projects that the MIF finances in the Americas by including personal testimonials from youth beneficiaries from Brazil and Mexico, and from a project coordinator working with a MIF employment program, A Ganar, in Juarez, Mexico.

The IDB’s US Executive Director, Gustavo Arnavat, delivered introductory remarks at the event. "As the largest provider of technical assistance for private sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean, the MIF is a key player in the IDB Group's efforts to build and support the region's micro and small enterprises,’’ said Arnavat.

“The MIF's work in promoting youth employment and entrepreneurship is a key part of building the ecosystem of small businesses in the region. The United States Government is a strong and active supporter of private sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the MIF's strongest advocate, having helped establish the Fund in 1993. The United States appreciates the direct impact the MIF has on strengthening the region's private sector, particularly with regard to micro and small enterprises."

About the Multilateral Investment Fund

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), funded by 39 donor countries, supports private sector-led development benefitting low-income populations and the poor—their businesses, their farms, and their households. The aim is to give them the tools to boost their incomes: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services, including green technology. A core MIF mission is to act as a development laboratory—experimenting, pioneering, and taking risks in order to build and support successful micro and SME business models.

The MIF works through technical assistance grants, lending, and equity investments, as well as through combinations of these tools when both capacity building and risk sharing finance are needed for success. It is the largest international technical assistance provider to the private sector in Latin America and the Caribbean. Every dollar approved by the MIF leveraged more than $2.5 from partners in 2011. More information at www.fomin.org

The MIF and Youth

The MIF has funded over 120 youth employment and entrepreneurship projectssince 1994, training approximately 235,000 poor and low-income youth in 24 countries, with a total investment of over $77 million, with an additional $125 million leveraged from public and private partners.

Through such projects, the MIF is also an effective partner in addressing many issues important to the U.S., including increasing economic opportunity for citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean, reducing violence and crime in the region (by providing job training and placement to at-risk youth who might otherwise join gangs or engage in other illegal activity), and helping U.S. companies reach new markets and solve local hiring challenges.