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US makes good on promise to Caribbean

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM
US President Barack Obama - File

The United States (US) is living up to the commitment given to the region last year by President Barack Obama, who had vowed to launch a programme to create opportunities for young people in the Caribbean and Latin America.

At the 2009 Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad, Obama promised he would request that funds be allocated to strengthening partnerships and improving employment prospects, education and other life skills for youth in the region.

"When he returned to the United States he asked all the government agencies to tell him how they were going to respond to his call for action, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) met with a cross section of its partners to discuss this," Kate Raftery of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) told The Gleaner.

Pilot countries

IYF has been selected to lead the two-year programme dubbed 'Obra', with Jamaica, Guatemala and Peru as the pilot countries.

"We were tasked to develop private/public partnerships throughout the hemisphere to respond to the needs of young people by providing them with additional employment and educational opportunities," said Raftery.

She said under 'Obra' there was no plan to start new programmes, instead IYF would work with established groups and strengthen programmes that were already in place.

"We realised that there are some very creative and innovative programmes going on here, and some dedicated individuals and institutions that are trying to address the needs of young people here in Jamaica," Raftery said.

"In terms of sustainability, when you have new programme activities building on already successful programmes you tend to have more of a chance for long-term sustainability."


According to Raftery, talks had already been held with local organisations that could form part of 'Obra's' initial activities.

Raftery said: "We want the programme to be defined by the people who are part of it so we don't want to come with a formula for how this should be developed here. We want to solicit from our Jamaican partners where they want to go with it."

No price tag has been assigned to the ambitious plan yet, but Raftery is not worried about the money which, she said, would be determined based on the plan that is developed.

"It is being financed by the US government through the USAID office in Washington, with the money coming out of the State Department."

'Obra' is to be officially launched in New Kingston tomorrow, with representatives of several US agencies and officials from countries around the region in attendance.