BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke on Friday during an exclusive interview with EFE about the importance of the youth empowering themselves and taking sides in society’s most crucial decisions.
“It is very important for our democracy, and very important for any society, that young people empower themselves and take part in big decisions. And what decision could be greater for a country than peace?” said Santos in reference to the wave of demonstrations in Colombia calling for a peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla.
It is the youth question precisely which will be a key matter to be discussed by the Heads of State and Government attending, on Friday and Saturday, the 25th Ibero-American Summit being held in Cartagena de Indias.
Along with this matter, the statesmen will convene to discuss the subject of education and entrepreneurship during a meeting that will include the King of Spain, Felipe VI, along with 11 Ibero-American Head and Chiefs of State, Santos included.
“The matters to be discussed at the Summit are timeless and extremely relevant for any country, even more so in these times,” said the Colombian president.
In his opinion, Ibero-America is “competing against other global regions in the field of education,” and also in “what to do with our youth and how to encourage entrepreneurship.”
These matters should be acknowledged by all nations “as a priority,” which is why president Santos believes that “there is a chance that this priority becomes a common ground so we can generate synergies among these nations and ensure better education, more innovation and a youth that chooses the right path, that is how we guarantee a better society.”
He said that was the reasoning behind the chosen themes, adding that he was hopeful that “specific proposals would emerge” as a result.
He hoped it would result in proposals on “how to collaborate more in the field of education, how can we better undertake businesses, how can instill in our youth the spirit of entrepreneurship, which is so important and necessary in a world, that is being rapidly changed by technology and challenged by what is happening across the length and breadth of this planet.”
Regarding Colombia’s track-record on education, one of the key guidelines of his administration and how it could be exported to other countries, the chancellor expressed himself in a modest manner when he said that he wouldn’t be so pretentious as to say the his nation’s model can be exported, and that it was more a case of learning from other countries.
After acknowledging that Colombia still has a long road to travel in the matter of education, he added that “many of the things we undertook had a very positive feedback as to the quality of education” and also in improving access to it.
“The latest results of the tests that we have done with high school students indicate an unprecedented increase in the quality of education,” said president Santos, who went on to explain the different grant programs for excelling students or underprivileged alumni who have seen how prestigious private universities opened their doors to them.
For Santos, the Ibero-American Summit is also an opportunity for 22 nations to underscore their support of the peace process that Colombia has embarked upon.
In this sense, the president explained that “the tremendous backing and support received from the international community” was personally very important to him because it “has given a high degree of legitimacy” to a peace process that he hoped would not dilate itself too long in time.
The Ibero-American Summit celebrated this year in Cartagena de Indias its 25th anniversary, and President Santos recalled the second Summit which took place in Madrid in 1992, and which he attended instead of then president Cesar Gaviria who was unable to go as Pablo Escobar had just escaped from prison.
The Cartagena de Indias summit is the first to be held on a biennial basis, and the last one was held in Veracruz in 2014.
This, he considered, would give more time to think about decisions and achieve a greater consensus.
“I think that we could identify the common denominators we can work together on and make summits more effective, which we can all gain from, but there are indeed too many summits and the quantity has affected the quality,” said Santos.