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A two-year agreement was signed earlier this year, and this week representatives from UNICEF Norway and Hydro’s CEO and Sustainability team got together in Oslo to discuss the partnership and how concrete initiatives can make a difference in young people’s lives.

“I have always been fascinated by the shared destinies of business and local communities,” says Hydro President & CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim, “and education is what really drives a sustainable society. So this is an exciting agenda for me.

“Our heritage is something we’re very proud of. Hydro already has a variety of activities supporting our local communities around the world, and I am really looking forward to working with UNICEF.”

Among the first activities is “UPSHIFT,” a youth social innovation and social entrepreneurship program designed primarily for marginalized or at-risk young people (14-24). UPSHIFT allows young people to learn 21st century transferable skills though experimental learning which has a proven ability to favor advanced leaning outcomes. Active in 22 countries, and the first initiatives involving Hydro will help young refugees in Italy and children in a mining region in India. Other locations will be added later.

Says Camilla Viken, Executive Director of UNICEF Norway: “It’s all about collaboration and shared values. Companies and are more and more aware of the importance of sustainability and working with local communities. Our goal is to have every child learning and we can’t achieve that goal alone. We need Hydro’s help to make it a reality.”

Today, according to UNICEF:

  • 59 million primary school-age children and 65 million adolescents are still out of school
  • 250 million children worldwide do not learn the basics in reading and mathematics
  • 38% of children leave primary school without learning to read, write and do simple arithmetic

Hydro is committed to several of the United Nations Sustainability Goals, including to contributing to quality education and capacity building for 500,000 people in our communities and for business partners from 2018 until the end of 2030. UPSHIFT is one of nine solutions recommended for global rollout under Generation Unlimited and is part of the World Bank Solutions for Youth Empowerment as well.

UNICEF is embarking on a substantial digital transformation of UPSHIFT which is under development. These new approaches are being designed from the ground up to be used under physical distancing rules as well as in a post-Covid environment.  

Over time, Hydro and UNICEF will review the lessons learned and develop local initiatives that will engage employees through fundraising activities, volunteering, campaigns, and mentoring, among others.

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