New pledges for young people by world leaders at GenU’s Global Leadership Council Meeting

The meeting saw leaders of businesses, multilaterals, international organizations, as well as young people from around the world commit to action and forge new partnerships for youth

Generation Unlimited
Generation Unlimited
20 May 2021

New York, April 7 — The global multisector partnership for youth, Generation Unlimited convened its Global Leadership Council (GLC) meeting on April 30, which saw leaders of businesses, multilaterals, international organizations, as well as young people from around the world commit to action and forge new partnerships that will enable youth to thrive and contribute to economic recovery. The meeting marked an important milestone for Generation Unlimited (GenU) as it reconceptualizes itself as a leading public-private-youth partnership, where the voice, representation and agency of youth are at the heart of the partnership.   

Kevin Frey, Chief Executive Officer of Generation Unlimited said: “Our mission to upskill the world’s 1.8 billion youth and link them to opportunities has never been more critical as the world’s focus shifts to economic recovery and building back better. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help change the trajectory of young people’s lives and put youth at the heart of all that we do. We need to meet this moment and support young people with relevant and future-proof skills, connect them to entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, and support them as they change our world for themselves and for us all.”

The GLC meeting saw world leaders reaffirm the critical role of GenU on the global stage and highlight the importance of connectivity and universal access to digital learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a GenU leader and global champion for young people, welcomed Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium and Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana as the two newest members to the prominent line-up of global GenU Leaders, who will use their influence to open opportunities and mobilize resources for young people. Calling for urgent action to support youth to recover the pandemic, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Education, who has been a GenU Leader ever since the inception of the partnership, said that no generation of youth in history has suffered more from loss of opportunity than today’s 1.8 billion young people.


At the meeting, several partners expressed renewed support to GenU and its COVID related priorities and work in countries. Kate Behncken, Vice President and Lead, Microsoft Philanthropies, announced the new ‘Passport to Earning’ initiative, a GenU digital skilling platform which will help build government capacity to provide digital skilling and employability programs. The initiative aims to reach 10 million young people in 15 countries by 2025. Passport to Earning will help young people get the training and the digital certificates that they need to secure in-demand roles and opportunities for improved livelihoods.

Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares highlighted the importance of connecting every school and every young person to the internet and spoke about Dubai Cares’ crucial work with UNICEF’s and ITU’s Giga initiative towards scaling digital connectivity everywhere in the world. “COVID-19 has taught us that meaningful connectivity is mission-critical for the sustainability of our education systems,” Tariq said. “As the first global organization to support Generation Unlimited, Dubai Cares is pleased to provide financial support and technical expertise to Giga as a way to close the growing digital divide and make learning resilient to any future global crisis.”

Partners also called for new investments to scale up promising solutions that aim to address young people’s most pressing challenges. Feike Sijbesma, Honorary Chairman of DSM, spoke about DSM’s $50 million investment in an agri-food processing plant in Kenya under the Africa Foods Initiative. DSM will work with GenU to skill and employ an estimated 200,000 young people up/downstream along the food systems value chain and generate employment opportunities for young people. Adebola Williams, Co-founder and Group CEO of RED | For Africa delivered a call to action to GLC members to step up investments in youth and engage young people as equal partners so that GenU is transformed into the world’s leading Public-Private-Youth partnership.

Kitty van der Heijden, Director-General for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands highlighted how The Netherlands’ financial support to GenU in Kenya, Niger, and Bangladesh is contributing to the implementation of the Youth at Heart strategy. 

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, the Republic of Ireland, who is a GenU Champion, announced a financial contribution of 1 million euros from his country to support GenU and its mission. The Republic of Ireland is one of the first countries to provide funding to GenU and have been there from day one.


Sarah Anyang-Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science & Technology, African Union Commission discussed the African Union’s partnership with GenU’s Global Volunteer Initiative to scale up the number of youth volunteers to 10 million across Africa and called on other GLC members to join these efforts. Ravi Venkatesan, Special Representative for Young People & Innovation, UNICEF, and co-chair of the GenU India (Yuwaah!) Board, highlighted the partnership with PwC to upskill 300 million youth in India over the next 10 years, which will help bridge the digital gap, improve employability and earnings potential and enable youth to be change-makers in society.

Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary-General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement announced the new ‘Big 6’ initiative whereby the six largest youth organizations will implement the Youth Challenge with GenU. The Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge calls on young innovators to design solutions to improve education, employment, and civic engagement. The Movement is partnering with GenU and contributing their knowledge and extensive youth networks to scale up opportunities for youth

Recognizing young people’s commitment to combating climate change, there was consensus that there is a greater need to support them with entrepreneurial skills and opportunities to turn the current acute environmental challenges into green growth and business opportunities. The aim is to help get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in line with government pledges and in support of the Paris Agreement.

Per Heggenes, CEO of IKEA Foundation delivered remarks highlighting the partnership with GenU on green entrepreneurship one of the pathways to create employment while protecting the planet and how other members can join and contribute. Now is the time to turn young entrepreneurial energy towards approaches that can help turn environmental challenges into green growth and business opportunities. “Now is a good time to collaborate and channel the energies, entrepreneurism and innovations of young people to turn environmental challenges into green growth and business opportunities,” Heggenes stated. “This way, employment increases, incomes improve and the planet thrives.”

It was great to hear from many young people supported by GenU including Calvin Shikuku from Kenya who runs the green project initiative with a team of young people. One of the winning teams of the GenU Youth Challenge, the Green Project Initiative is a social venture that engages unemployed youth in providing clean, affordable energy through the production of organic energy from existing waste. Shikuku’s project is keen on solving the high rate of unemployment among the youth contributing to the fight against climate change and pioneering efficient management of waste. Their vision is to have cleaner cities where all our aspirations will thrive.

In an inspiring speech, Shikuku said that the clarion call of all young people is global unity, adding that youth must constantly dream of a better world where all of their common goals and ambitions will thrive. “The most urgent task of this generation is to act now so that the coming generations enjoy the world we built together," he added.

Together with UNICEF and Reimagine Education, Generation Unlimited is slated to reach more than 500 million young people across the world by the end of 2021 with world-class digital learning, skilling, and livelihood solutions. The partnership initiative is steadily bringing in new partners to pool investment to transform national outcomes for and with young people, while scaling promising innovations.