A major new initiative in the Caribbean and Latin America that will improve the education and employment prospects of underserved youth throughout the region was launched today by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Obra (“work” in Spanish) was designed in response to US President Obama’s call at the 2009 Summit of the Americas for renewed and strengthened partnerships to promote greater opportunities among the region’s youth. A two-year initiative, Obra will ensure young people at risk have improved access to services and programs needed to prepare them for citizenship, work, and life.  

Janet Ballantyne, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Latin and America and the Caribbean, stated: “Obra responds to President Obama’s call for hemispheric partnership by creating effective alliances among public, private, and civil society actors to expand programs and services that address the urgent needs of at-risk youth throughout the Caribbean, Central, and South America.”

Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding gave the keynote address at the launch, which also featured remarks by leading ministries from the region and top officials from USAID, the US State Department, and IYF. The launch, which was hosted by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, was the culmination of a three-day meeting that kicked off partnership-building activities among participants from Central and South America and the Caribbean. During the learning event, Youth of the Americas partners from each sub-region joined key stakeholders to review the many challenges facing the region’s young people, identify what is working to support youth in the region, develop a common understanding and shared vision for Obra, promote multi-sector partnerships and strategies, and prepare initial action plans.

Participants in the learning sessions included top representatives from UNICEF; Children First; USAID; IDB; the US State Department; government and NGO leaders from Jamaica, Guatemala, and Peru; and youth leaders.