The President of the “Foundation for the Child and the Family”, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, was invited as a keynote speaker to the 4th Global Youth Employment Summit on the fight against poverty and unemployment.

The summit was organised in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, in September 2008, by YES (Youth Employment Summit) in collaboration with the Government of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Youth and Sport.

The summit was held under the auspices of the First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, H.E. Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, as well as of the First Lady of Egypt, H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak.

The two first ladies were the keynote speakers at the Opening, together with Mrs. Vardinoyannis, the Minister of Youth and Sport of Azerbaijan, Mr. Azad Rahimov, the Director of the Library of Alexandria, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, and the President of YES, Mrs. Poonam Ahluwalia.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis said during her speech:

“All issues concerning children and youth go straight to our heart, which is why I feel particularly moved to be with you here today, and to share these moments with you. With this meeting we are joining forces towards one of the greatest challenges faced by humanity, the eradication of poverty – putting forward the investment in youth as a decisive factor.

Today, civil society’s attention has turned to Azerbaijan, hoping to see a further step taken in the struggle against poverty. This is thanks to the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and our hostess here today, Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva, and to the President of the Board of Trustees οf Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, who embraced this initiative. I would very much like to thank them for this, as well as the government of Azerbaijan and the YES Organization for organizing this conference.


Our world has never been richer than it is today; rich in ideas, knowledge, technology and goods. And yet more than a billion people throughout the world live in extreme poverty. The numbers are shocking, according to UNICEF: 9,7 million children die each year of diseases related to poverty; 143 million children suffer from malnutrition; 93 million primary-school-age children are not in school. Why is there such a colossal contradiction in our world? How can anyone answer this question, so evident in the eyes of these children? Nobody can. We can, however, find ways for the modern world to reverse these appalling numbers. Can we achieve this by the year 2015? The United Nations have set the reduction of extreme poverty, by half until then, among the Millennium Development Goals. I want to believe that we can.

On our side, at UNESCO, our efforts lie in raising public awareness , by disseminating the message that liberation from poverty is a fundamental human right. UNESCO has placed poverty reduction among its top priorities and has developed specific youth education programmes and initiatives for the development of areas around the world, such as :

Empowering marginalized adolescent girls in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to become agents of social transformation.

Promoting of culturally appropriate policy responses to exploitative migration of women and children in Africa.

Improving the socio-economic opportunities for marginalized youth in four Arab countries through a skill training and capacity building program.

Supporting several communities in Indonesia through non-formal education and environmental management.

Using formal and non-formal education among young girls in Cambodia, Indonesia and Nepal.

Fighting urban poverty among young and female migrants in China and Mongolia through training, support and action.

Involving youth in community tourism, cultural and natural heritage preservation for poverty eradication in the Carribean.

There are many ideas, and I am sure that at this Summit, many ideas will be proposed for targeted and coordinated actions providing young people with the opportunities, the motives and the prospects to master the present and conquer the future.

For all these to come about however, there is one basic precondition: peace on our planet – the same message sent to every corner of the earth three days ago when we celebrated the World Peace Day. Development can only flourish in a peaceful and healthy environment. Only when the sky is clear can children look far into the horizon and see a brighter future. It is exclusively our responsibility to make every possible effort for this. So let us all, from every corner of the earth, unite our voices and say YES to Peace, YES to Education, YES to Development, YES to the Future of our children.”

* The YES campaign

The YES network and its Campaign for the professional development and settling of young people are already extended in 55 countries, which have positively responded to the global challenge for the elimination of youth unemployment. Its strategy is driven by the following 4 main objectives:

1. Convening governments, enterprises, educational institutions, professional organisations and trade unions as well as experts to set global agenda for youth employment.

2. Building leadership and entrepreneurship capacity of youth.

3. Promoting in-country youth employment linked to development challenges.

4. Building multi-sectoral in-country coalitions to develop national strategies for widespread youth employment.

Read the declaration


The Baku Declaration

27 September 2008

We the participants in the Fourth Global Youth Employment Summit (YES Azerbaijan 2008) have assembled in Baku from 24-27 September 2008 to reaffirm the essential message articulated in the first YES summit held in Alexandria, Egypt in 2002, ad reaffirmed in Mexico 2004 and Kenya 2006. We are conscious that we meet at a critical and historical moment, when the world stands on the verge of major changes, and where everyone recognizes that profound changes are needed in the way we manage our affairs if humanity is to reap the benefits of the enormous technological advances we are witnessing, while avoiding the negative environmental and social consequences of an insensitive greed-driven globalization.

We stand committed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We believe that this will require a special recognition of the role of youth. Youth are society’s most valuable resource, the recipients of its heritage and the very content of its future. Our development demands special attention to the reduction of unemployment, specifically among youth, and this will be best achieved by the empowerment of youth that they may become full partners in the crafting of their destiny. We want to change the development paradigm to a youth-led development where they will be the main actors in the design of the policies, programs and partnerships that will shape their future.

To that end, we rededicate ourselves to focus on the quality of education that youth receives, and to the manner in which they transit from school to the labour force. We recognize that these years of transition are fraught with dangers and filled with opportunities. The kind of choices they make in those years are critical to ensure that they adopt healthy lifestyles, and acquire the self-confidence to take on the challenges of the new world in which they will both compete and contribute. It is essential that our policies and programs provide second chances to those who make wrong choices.

We want to ensure that our youth have learned the skills required for continuous life-long learning, and acquired the social, interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills that will stand them in good stead as they design their own sustainable livelihoods, be they employed or self-employed, be it in existing enterprises or in new ventures.

This will not only require the creation of new market opportunities, new social innovations and new models of operation, it will also require that the content of the work that youth will do will fulfil their aspirations and help push their societies onto the path of sustainability.

This outlook must permeate the manner in which we evaluate our policies, our programs and the enabling environment created by existing and pending legislation.

From Baku, we shall continue the journey started in Alexandria, through Mexico and Kenya, towards the next summits in Sweden and back to Alexandria in the years ahead.

Together, we shall advance successful models of the past, such as micro-credit and development services, as well as harness the powerful technologies shaping our world such as Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), as we invent the new models of the future.

Together we shall ensure that the societies we are creating are human centered and environmentally conscious, dedicated to pluralism and social justice, respectful of cultural diversity, and that the opportunities they shall afford will be gender balanced and respectful of the rights of all.

Together we shall actively support a new world economic order, where trade shall be fair, environmental considerations shall be accounted for, governance shall be transparent, transactions shall be honest, and where our actions, linking local, regional and global, shall be driven by ethical standards adopted by the community of nations.

Only thus can we have harmony and peace in a multi-cultural world.

Only thus will we be able to create youth employment and self employment through entrepreneurship.

Only thus can our youth find fulfilment for themselves and purpose for their activities.

Only thus will we be able to ensure opportunities for everyone and solidarity for all.

This declaration was adopted by the Fourth Global Youth Employment Summit (YES Azerbaijan 2008) on 27 September 2008