ITUC-Asia Pacific's Youth Leadership Course (YLC), a flagship program aimed at training youth leaders in organizing and union building, has successfully taken place in Singapore on 23-27 January 2023. The program was supported by the Japan International Foundation (JILAF) and the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTCi). The theme for this year's program was 'The new social contract for recovery and resilience: five major demands', with a focus the key elements of a new social contract – creating environmentally friendly jobs, workers' rights, social protection, equality, and inclusion.
For the first time in two years, the YLC was held in-person, albeit the reduced duration of five days. Despite the shortened duration, the participants were able to broaden their perspectives and understanding of trade union issues, strengthen their capability to develop trade union responses and strategies against trade union issues, and boost international solidarity through sharing views and experiences.
At the end of the program, participants submitted their work plan, which included bringing more youth into the trade union fold, a special focus on organizing youth workers in the informal economy, fighting against precarious work and demanding the creation of environmentally friendly jobs, working with multi-stakeholders for the realization of the SDGs, gender sensitization and effective campaigns for the ratification of Convention-190, creating awareness on occupational health and safety, and synchronizing various ongoing movements with the trade union movement.
However, the situation for some youth leaders in countries where democracy is at risk is not as positive as they are living in exile due to the threat to their lives. Youth leaders from Afghanistan and Myanmar, Tamim Ahmed (NUAWE), and Khaing Zar (CTUM), said that they will continue their struggle wherever they are. Ivana Khrapko (FTUU) from Ukraine highlighted the devastating situation in her country, where since the beginning of the Russian invasion, cities and villages have been under constant bombardment, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries, including workers at work. Moreover, almost 1.2 million Ukrainians are in Russian captivity, and more than 5 million people (almost 45%) lost their jobs. The situation has significantly narrowed workers' rights, reducing trade union membership to one million, suspending employment contracts, and prohibiting protest actions.
Despite these challenging circumstances, the youth leaders remain hopeful for a better future and demand the stoppage of the war, restoring democracy, and a call to the international community to work together for peace.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of ITUC-Asia Pacific, emphasised the role of the youth in building workers' power, making social dialogue work, and creating social waves. “To build a new countervailing force, trade unions must go beyond traditional trade unionism and harness the potential to work with various stakeholders in the society,” he said. He also congratulated all attendees and wished that they would contribute to make a robust trade union movement.
The YLC has been instrumental in training 881 participants, 395 of whom were female, since its inception in 1992. The program aims to create a new generation of youth leaders who will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on society.