Local Solutions for a Global Economy


CITI Foundation Releases Report Highlighting Youth Economic Opportunity

CITI Accelerating Pathways
CITI Accelerating Pathways

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 23- On Monday, November 23rd the CITI Foundation released Accelerating Pathways, a comparative framework of youth perceptions and their economic prospects around the world. The report, which was developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by the Citi Foundation, includes a novel Youth Economic Strategy Index which compares the 35 cities featured in the study across a wide set of indicators, and ranks the cities against these. An interactive database is also included that seeks to identify “which factors contribute most to an enabling economic environment for young people.”

Drawing upon surveys of 5,000 young people ages 18-25 across 35 cities, Accelerating Pathways assesses policies and conditions for youth based on four key categories: Government Support and Institutional Framework for Youth; Employment and Entrepreneurship; Education and Training; and Human and Social Capital. By focusing on these strategic areas, the report concluded “Improving opportunities for youth requires a multi-faceted approach, not a narrow set of policies.”

One surprising finding of the report is that Latin American youth, despite relatively low city rankings, are among the most optimistic for their future prospects, even outranking North America where formal institutions, access to finance, and skills training are more readily available. Latin American youth also expressed the highest level of interest in entrepreneurship, with 89% stating they want to work for themselves, and envision starting their own business.

The most pressing need identified by Accelerating Pathways is the skills mismatch or outright skills shortages linked to youth unemployment, which is on average 3.4 times higher for 15-24 year olds than for society as a whole. Unfortunately, low financial assistance for education and training, especially in Latin America, means vocational schools that serve as a key educational channel to build the skills necessary for starting a business or joining the workforce are out-of-reach for many young people.

The report was commissioned as part of Citi’s Pathways to Progress initiative which is also a driver of the Citi Foundation’s investment in Creando Tu Futuro (Creating Your Future) an innovative skills development program launched by GFI in 2015. The program was created in close partnership with Kuepa, an innovative Latin American education company that has delivered blended learning programs throughout Latin America, combining robust internet-based courses with classroom tutoring. Creando Tu Futuro is aimed at bringing practical “employability” training including technical and life skills knowledge to low income youth in Latin America. Through an innovative structure combining online learning with monthly in-person instruction including math, literacy, computer skills, personal finance, and other key tools, the central goal of the program is to empower youth with the necessary skills to pursue formal, secure employment while ultimately providing a foundation from which they can launch their personal future success. The program is currently being offered in Bogotá and Buenos Aires, two of the cities highlighted in the Accelerating Pathways report.

Learn more about Creando Tu Futuro.

Learn more about CITI's Accelerating Pathways and #Pathways2Progress.

by Twila Tschan


For Immediate Release: October 9, 2015

Contact: Caleb Shreve

Global Fairness Initiative

+1 202-898-9022


Houcine Abassi Recognized with the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet

Washington, DC – The Board, staff and international partners of the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) extend our deepest congratulations to, and solidarity with Houcine Abassi, Secretary General of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), and the other members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, for their remarkable leadership and rightful receipt of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

“I commend the Nobel Committee for their thoughtful selection of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize,” said Danilo Türk, Chairman of the GFI Board of Directors. “I have had the opportunity to know Mr. Abassi through our work in Tunisia, and I greatly admire his leadership in helping transition his country to a more equitable, democratic nation and for his steadfast support of the working men and women of Tunisia.”

In April Mr. Abassi was selected by GFI to be the 2015 Recipient of the Global Fairness Initiative’s Fairness Award, an honor given annually to international leaders whose lives and leadership have helped create a more equitable, sustainable world for the working poor. Mr. Abassi will be presented with the Fairness Award at a ceremony in Washington, DC on November 2nd along with fellow award recipients Myrtle Witbooi, General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, and Paul Brest, former President of the Hewlett Foundation and Professor Emeritus at Stanford Law School.

“The Fairness Award has been our opportunity to recognize leaders who have created more equitable opportunity for the unrepresented poor and who have shown us what is possible when you put the greater aspirations of people first,” said Karen Tramontano, Founder of the Global Fairness Initiative. “We look forward to celebrating Mr. Abassi and all of our amazing honorees on November 2nd, it is always a night to remember.”

The Global Fairness Initiative is a not- for-profit international organization that promotes a more equitable, sustainable approach to economic development, ensuring that benefits and prosperity are extended to all people, including the working poor. GFI has been working in Tunisia since 2013 to advance the rights and economic opportunities for the nation's majority informal sector workers through partnership with local organizations such as UGTT and the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS). GFI’s Fairness Award was first presented in 2009 by Secretary Hillary Clinton to Ms. Ela Bhatt of SEWA, and has since be received at an annual ceremony by leaders such as Presidents Tarja Halonen and Joyce Banda, grassroots leaders Albina Ruiz and Zeinab Al-Momani, and a notable list of others. The 2015 Fairness Award ceremony will be held on November 2 at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC. Learn more at www.fairnessaward.org.


TILI Partners Engage in Workshop on Informality

TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 17 - On September 17th, members of the Tunisia Inclusive Labor Initiative (TILI) convened a meeting of local leaders from the private sector, unions, civil society and government to discuss plans for implementing Phase 2 of the TILI program, aimed at integration of Tunisia’s informal economy. Drawing on the roadmap recommendations and achievements of Phase 1, the goal of the conference was to engage all stakeholders in the development of Phase 2 program activities with a particular emphasis on strengthening the ability of labor inspection, social experts, and civil society to support informal workers on the path to formalization.

Chema Gargouri, President of TAMSS, opened the event with a warm welcome to the 30 participants. Following Ms. Gargouri’s remarks, several TILI partners including the Director of the Labor Inspectorate and the Director of Taysir, a Tunisian micro-finance organization, presented their pilot programs aimed at supporting informal laborers through training, coaching, local dialogues, and various financial and social incentives. A case study provided insight on the past efforts of TILI and GIZ to organize recyclers in the neighborhoods around Tunis. The presentation highlighted how establishing two workers’ associations and providing the recyclers with information on health and safety, as well as materials had markedly improved their quality of life and labor conditions. Furthermore, GIZ’s past experience of opening a liaison office to support recyclers in the formalization process was presented and a thorough discussion of their lessons learned analyzed. This provided the basis of the discussion around the one-stop-window formalization office that TILI is working on implementing in partnership with the government.

The second part of the conference consisted of a series of discussion-based activities that allowed attendees to actively brainstorm ideas, suggestions, and responsibilities related to four main subjects. Topics included:

1. The creation of a “one-stop-window” formalization office under a municipality or government ministry to provide individualized guidance and resources for workers who wish to formalize their activities and access government services and benefits.

2. Revision of current Social Security and Medical Coverage regimes.

3. Working with local CSOs to certify them as master formalization trainers.

4. Specific financial incentives for workers to formalize.

Overall, the event was a great opportunity to emphasize the benefits of formalization and cooperation across multiple parties. Our partners are enthusiastic, highly willing to learn, and eager to share with one another. As GFI continues to solidify government and civil society coalitions, we look forward to seeing continued progress in forming a more inclusive legal and economic framework for a stable and thriving Tunisia.

by Twila Tschan

NYC Event Highlights Responsible Rebuilding in Nepal

Panelists with Humanity United CEO Randy Newcomb

NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 27 - On September 27, 2015 GFI and Humanity United presented the joint panel discussion “From Response to Responsibility: Protecting Human Rights and Preserving Cultural Integrity in the Rebuilding of Nepal” at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC. The goal of the event was to facilitate an active discussion on how to integrate a lens of decent work while advancing social and cultural protections during post-disaster recovery. Given its ongoing rebuilding efforts, Nepal was seen as a good example of the challenges and opportunities that come to light in post-disaster reconstruction.

The opening discussion highlighted the work being done through Better Brick Nepal (BBN), a collaborative effort of the Global Fairness Initiative, Humanity United and GoodWeave to eradicate child and forced labor within the brick kiln industry. Humanity United CEO Randy Newcomb provided an overview of the philosophy and motivation behind the BBN project, and described how the April earthquake had forced GFI and HU to take a closer look at existing strategies and adapt to the changes in demand for labor and supplies. He noted the challenge in advocating for fair, sustainable, ethical building materials in a market where demand is high, labor supply is low, and time is of the essence.

Dr. Danilo Türk, Former President of the Republic of Slovenia and GFI Board Chair, then introduced the members of our expert panel who represented a range of perspectives from NGOs, academia, and government. The panel included:

Dr. Neil Boothby, Allen Rosenfield Professor and Director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University

Catherine Chen, Director of Investments for Humanity United and head of the Partnership for Freedom

Steven Feldstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State

Ashok Gurung, Nepal native and Director of the India China Institute at The New School

While the bulk of the discussion focused on the challenge of maintaining international attention and involvement during the long, slow, ill-defined process of recovery, our panelists each had cause for optimism. In describing his 20 trips to Nepal since the April Earthquake, Ashok Gurung noted, “For the first time you see strong collaboration across political parties, class, and ethnic lines. Everyone has to work together. Youth Groups, who have traditionally been written-off as unimportant, are performing a key organizing role and are now being treated with high regard in society.”

Steven Feldstein talked about the resiliency he witnessed having served with the State Department in Nepal at the time of the disaster. He posed the questions: “How can Nepal embed resilience into its rebuilding?” “What does sustainable recovery, beyond just infrastructure, look like?” “How do we bring about inclusive recovery?” Mr. Feldstein reminded audience members that on a psychological level, the earthquake and its aftershocks are going to continue to affect people for a long time, therefore it is imperative that recovery efforts be sustained and include social protections for individuals, families, and communities struggling in the aftermath.

Catherine Chen also drew on the theme of “resilience,” asking more broadly, “What does resilience mean for Human Rights?” She went on to say, “The earthquake didn’t come out of nowhere. What I mean by that, is it enhanced a lot of the social and economic issues already there.” Having done fieldwork in Nepal, Ms. Chen described the shortage of labor and the pervasive predatory lending practices that have arisen to make up for the shortfall. “Most adult males are leaving the region to work in Gulf Oil fields,” she said. “That shortage of labor has been counterbalanced by a child and forced labor situation where families with emergencies, say illness or disaster, will take out loans with 36-40% interest, which results in them having to work at these brick kilns for 10-20 years to pay off their debts. More often than not, the amount of money that could save families from this fate is less than $20.”

Dr. Neil Boothby closed the presentations by drawing on his experience with INGOs and local partners. He stated, “In the aftermath of the earthquake I re-engaged with the international organizations I had come to know on the ground in Nepal. Not one had received funding.” He related the story of colleague complaining, “This response and recovery effort is not a partnership, it’s a subcontract.” Dr. Boothby cautioned “You can be generous and ineffective at the same time. Organizations like the UN, Western NGOs, and ICRC receive by far the most money. However, that checkbook accountability is not leading to local action, innovation, and efficacy.”

Having worked with survivors of trauma, Dr. Boothby addressed the psychological needs underlying recovery and relief efforts. “In order to cope with tragedy, survivors need to be able to transfer tragedy into altruism. We have to make sure that local people on the ground are given the opportunity to activate altruism.”

After a short Q&A session, Dr. Türk concluded the event, thanking our panelists and summarizing “We have to define what resilience is possible, in what time. How can local energy transform the country in the long term? How will governments and INGOs define relief and recovery? Most importantly, how will we know when recovery efforts have been successfully completed?” The event proved to be a lively discussion, and our hope is that it fuels many more conversations in the coming months around disaster relief and sustainable planning.

For more details, check out the event’s live Twitter feed @globalfairness using #R2RNepal

Las Gravileas Training a Sweet Success

Las Gravileas Training Participants

The following piece was authored by GFI’s Guatemala Country Director, Jessica Yarrow. Jessica has lived in Guatemala since 1997, supporting a variety of local initiatives to improve labor rights, access to justice, economic development and end human trafficking.

GUATEMALA, SEPTEMBER 18 - Twenty-eight women from communities of Sololá spent three days at Las Gravileas training center in Santa Catarina Bobadilla just outside of Antigua, Guatemala. They were completing a seminar on how to make a variety of pastries. This training included an exercise in calculating the costs of raw materials, pricing the final product, and filling out a questionnaire to get participants thinking about market opportunities in their communities. Las Gravileas has supplemental funding from the Italian Archbishop, who provided each participant with materials including flour, sugar, an aluminum baking pan, and wooden rolling pin. This provision of raw materials and equipment allows the women to practice what they learned, and ensures they have the necessary “startup” ingredients. I asked women about the market to sell pastries in their communities and they expect there will be significant opportunities during special celebrations.

One challenge for getting women involved in the program has been that some husbands do not give their wives “permission” to attend such trainings since it requires leaving their communities for three days. Over time, some husbands have come around as they see what the women have learned. One women made her husband a cake for his birthday, which helped him realize that she was acquiring beneficial skills. He had a change in opinion and now supports his wife whenever she wants to participate in trainings.

Since the training’s location meant that the women were already near Antigua, I arranged a market access site visit to CAOBA Farms, an organic farm with organic store and monthly Farmers’ Market. Most of the women have only seen basic “tienditas” (stores) in their communities that sell limited basic goods and bags of junk food, larger stores in Sololá, and the local market. None of them were familiar with the concept of an organic store. Since organic produce practices are new to the participants, they were very interested to see an entire organic store. The store manager, Luis, spoke with the group about CAOBA Farms and what they look for when sourcing a new product. He spoke of the importance of hygiene, quality control, environmentally friendly packaging, organic practices, and gave a few product ideas. Visiting a potential buyer was a great experience for the group.

I am impressed that CAOBA Farms is interested in supporting community initiatives. This visit was a great lesson in market access, and was an important opportunity for the women to hear directly from a potential buyer regarding what they look for in a new product and the requirements to become a supplier. Luis said CAOBA Farms will gladly accept samples of products and provide feedback to see if it is something they want to offer in their store. Overall, we look forward to strengthening our relationship with COABA as we continue to expand women’s access to these types of skills-based trainings and opportunities.

by Jessica Yarrow