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Youth Political Participation

Young people are often excluded or overlooked as political candidates. Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalized because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience. As the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just youth. The Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) reports that people between the ages of 20 and 44 make up 57% of the world’s voting age population but only 26% of the world’s Members of Parliament (MPs). Young people under 30 represent 1.9% of the world’s MPs and more than 80% of the world’s upper houses of Parliament have no MPs aged under 30. While young people often play central and catalyzing roles in movements for democracy around the world, they are less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism. Together, these trends have inspired many international organizations to study the lack of youth political participation and train youth activists to become political leaders.  

Recognizing the potential of youth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed its first-ever Youth Strategy (2014–2017), called “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future”, in line with the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (2013) which calls on young generations to become more involved and more committed in development processes. 2013 also saw the publication of the “Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle: A Good Practice Guide“, UNDP’s first review of programming strategies for youth political participation beyond the ballot box. In 2016, to further boost the implementation of UNDP’s Youth Strategy and respond to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, UNDP launched a Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – Youth-GPS (2016–2020). The Youth-GPS focuses on civic engagement and political participation, among other areas, and responds to the concerns young people have expressed in global, regional and national forums and the growing demand at all levels for cutting-edge and strategic support in youth programming in all development contexts. In 2016, as a joint initiative of a number of partners including UNDP and IPU, the “Not Too Young To Run” global campaign was launched to elevate the promotion of young people’s right to run for public office and address the wide-spread issue of age discrimination.

In 2010, IPU adopted the resolution “Youth participation in the democratic process” at its 122nd Assembly and in 2013, established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians. Since then, IPU published two studies, one in 2014 and another in 2016, using a questionnaire to gather data from its Member Parliaments around the world on youth participation in national parliaments. Through these studies, IPU provides a number of recommendations for action which, if acted on, will ensure young people are fully engaged in politics. These include designing strategies by national parliaments and political parties that target the inclusion of young MPs and ensure diversity among youth, addressing the disparities between the number of young men and young women entering parliament. IPU also recommends to align the minimum age for parliamentary candidacies with the minimum voting age and to establish youth quotas (e.g. reserved seats, legislated quotas, party quotas) as a means of increasing the number of young MPs. In 2016 the IPU membership endorsed the document “Rejuvenating democracy, giving voice to youth”, based on the principles promoted by the young parliamentarians of the IPU: “No decisions about us without us”, that outlines how parliaments and parliamentarians could help rejuvenate democracy and give the world’s young people a voice in political decision-making.

In addition, UN Women established the Youth Forum at the CSW in March 2016, allowing global youth representatives to discuss the issues they face and to reflect on ways to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 on gender equality. UN Women also published CEDAW for Youth in 2016, a youth-friendly version of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) elaborated by young people. International IDEA published in 2016 a report entitled “Increasing youth participation throughout the electoral cycle: entry points for electoral management bodies” documenting the challenges and practices directed at youth inclusion in politics and within different electoral processes.

Objective of the e-Discussion

This e-Discussion seeks to bring the voices of the iKNOW Politics and UNDP4Youth communities into this growing debate on youth participation in politics. Please join the e-Discussion from 03 April to 08 May 2017. Students, young parliamentarians, political party and social movement activists, civil society representatives, youth movements and networks, government and international organizations representatives, and academia are invited to contribute with their experiences by answering to one or more of the below questions. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic of youth political participation. We look to an informative knowledge-sharing exercise on this topic.

Questions

  1. How do you explain the low representation of young people in parliaments and governments around the world?
  2. What is an enabling environment for young people’s participation in politics, in particular young women?
  3. What can parliaments, governments, political parties, and civil society do to increase young women and men’s representation in politics? Do you have examples of good practices?
  4. What are some of the most innovative alternative methods (marches, sit-ins…) to formal political participation that young people choose to bring about change and be heard?
  5. How can we support more young people who would be interested in channelling their activism through formal political institutions?
  6. What strategies and approaches have been successful in recruiting young men and women in political parties?
  7. What can be done to support young MPs in their parliamentary career? Please share any initiatives you are aware of.
  8. How can young parliamentarians better address gender equality and women’s empowerment? Are youth more likely to be active in combatting discrimination and gender based violence?
  9. How can we best measure youth political participation and policy influence? 

Please note that there are different options to send your contributions:

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  2. Use the below comment section by signing in with one of your social media accounts.  
  3. Send your contributions to connect@iknowpolitics.org
 

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bachia2017's picture

When we talk of real democracy it is only real when everybody (youths and women) are participating in the decision making, We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation, Africans believe political participation is only for the senior men, No youths and No women.

Annet Mpabulungi Wakabi's picture

1.     Thanks for posting queries on this interesting topic.  Here are some views from Uganda:

do 1. How do you explain the low representation of young people in parliaments and governments around the world?

        i.    1. Uganda representation by young people/the youth – both male and female is provided for by law and policy.  The National Youth Council Act (http://www.ulii.org/ug/legislation/consolidated-act/319) and the National Youth Policy are key precursors for creating an enabling environment for young people to reach their potential.  At parliament level the youth have quotas, so indeed this is a given in terms of numbers.  However the dynamics around representation of young people in parliament and governments are several:

       ii.   ii. Minimal investment in young people to take on representation role: Young people have not been nurtured to debate, present and deliberate on current issues, so in most cases they are left behind.   From my time at Makerere University in Uganda I observe that my former Guild Presidents were indeed leaders including the young people that took on leadership positions in the Makerere Guild Council.  However, often time these potential leaders are not identified early by the older leaders for grooming, nurturing, exposure and encouragement to take the mantle of representation at parliament level and in government. 

iii. Lack of knowledge and awareness about roles:Young people are sometimes unaware of what a representation/political career would entail - beyond attending functions and campaigns.

 iv. Gender Power relations: The older ones are often times not interested to see young ones in their space so they tend to block this space.  Further, the space for young women to participate is hampered by the patriarchal nurture at the household level and externally. 

v. Financial limitation: Young people do not have the resources to engage actively in a context that has monetized politics.  Without the financial muscle it becomes hard and almost impossible to draw attention and votes, nobody will listen.  In some contexts it is no longer politics of ideas and issues but how well one can pay for votes or use money to protect the votes during elections. 

 2.    What is an enabling environment for young people’s participation in politics, in particular young women?

         i.Identify them early from the young prefects, identify role models who can be coached, mentored and exposed for the representation role. Interest in representation starts at an early age, see document example “ Student Power in Africa's Higher Education: A Case of Makerere University, https://books.google.ch/books/about/Student_Power_in_Africa_s_Higher_Educati.html?id=TWMFspwCJdkC&redir_esc=y

       ii.  ii. Through civic education there is need to continuously advocate for issue based politics as opposed to commercialized politics.

iii.  School programmes such as debating clubs, students councils, patriotism clubs that nurture political representation and leadership ambitions at an early age should be revitalized.

 iv. For the young women, parents should be supportive and provide the exposure and space to participate as opposed to keeping the girls silenced and in the kitchen.

3.   What can parliaments, governments, political parties, and civil society do to increase young women and men’s representation in politics? Do you have examples of good practices?

        i. I i. Insome countries  political parties do their recruitment at student level at the universities, these students proceed to work as interns or  staffers in the party. With this approach, the party ideals are inculcated at an early age and one decides from the onset which political party to go based on the ideologies which are also mostly influenced by religion, economic background hence accounting for liberal versus conservative, pro-life or otherwise, taxing the wealthier or not, etc. 

       ii.     ii. Clearly define ideals along party lines or national values  to guide leadership. This would be a good way to interest young people along specific ideals/values

      iii.     iii. The  Parliamentary youth forum and Youth councils in Uganda should be reinvigorated to support representation by the youth.  This can be done through targeted capacity development interventions.

  1. Leaders should be encouraged to evolve succession plan, this should involve identifying a potential successors early and nurturing the individuals to the desired position.

       v.     v. Innovative to create employment and spur economic growth. This will definitely lead shift the terrain of representation from a commercialized one to a better crop of leaders and also an economically empowered youth would be more interested in policies and politics.

4.  What are some of the most innovative alternative methods (marches, sit-ins…) to formal political participation that young people choose to bring about change and be heard?

         i.     i. Position papers based on evidence

       ii.     ii. Lobbying and caucusing to get issues incorporated in key country statements, budgets, policies etc

              iii. Institute forum for quick regular discussions with young people thinking of leadership positions – e.g. Use mobile phones and the internet to create leadership communities that can share ideas, party news and information. 

     iv.      iv.Popularize and raise awareness about good leadership - Young people need to know what is possible with good leadership.

       v.   v.  Mobilization through sports, Music and drama (that most youth are interested in) can be viable entry point to bring about change and ensuring young people are heard.

     vi      vi. Platforms such as the Parliamentary outreach support by UNDP in Uganda UsPeak in also in Uganda, and Australia’s vote flux (https://voteflux.org), that bridges the gap between the closed doors of parliaments and the public should be encouraged – to increase the space for participation by youth.

 

5.   How can we support more young people who would be interested in channeling their activism through formal political institutions?

 i.  Meaningfully invest in Youth councils, guide their debates and position critical issues of young people.  Regional issues could sell better.

       ii.     ii. As there is already quite a bit of political conversation going on social media, improving access to affordable internet would increase the level of sharing and encourage higher participation.

      iii.        iii. Listening to young people, understand their cause, find out who and what they stand for and guiding them.

6.   What strategies and approaches have been successful in recruiting young men and women in political parties?

         i   i. Political parties and governments need to define their values - what do they stand for and why?  This will help young people identify with parties and ideology of interest for their pursuance. ii.Support young people with sholarships for study, in areas such as political science.

iiii

 7.   What can be done to support young MPs in their parliamentary career? Please share any initiatives you are aware of.

         i i Some lack information or Evidence.  Empowerment with well researched topics and facts, enough evidence on key policy issues, and how to position these issues is critical for representation. Parliament research departments need to be strengthened to deliver on their role.

       iii.   Exposure to national and global issues.  Engage them in dialogue such so that they can follow up on international commitments and domestication according to national policies and guidelines

      iii.      iii. Work with the retired MPs and leaders to mentor and coach the young Parliamentarians/leaders.

     iv.            Clear orientation/induction on their roles/responsibilities and expectation of the public.

 8.   How can young parliamentarians better address gender equality and women’s empowerment? Are youth more likely to be active in combatting discrimination and gender based violence?

         i.            1st the women need to understand what is meant by women empowerment and discrimination.  This should then inform when, how and where to advance for rights with support of fellow women and the men.  Youth have grown up in an environment that advocates for combatting discrimination and gender based violence and thus should be more responsive and accomodative to advancing the respective areas.

 

9.   How can we best measure youth political participation and policy influence? 

         i   i  Beyond numbers of representatives, we should look at the policy issues that have been influenced.  These should be clearly documented with the results achieved.  If one is advocating for budget allocation for maternal health, s/he should be able to follow through, how much is allocated, how much is spent on maternal health and what change has it caused - impact.

       ii.     ii. Policy briefs to provide information on key issues and how they can influence at what level and when appropriate.  i.e. timing is key.  For example budgets cannot be influenced when they have been passed.

 iii. Number of youth that are registered voters and those who actually vote

iv. Level and number of youth quota positions that are filled.

How do you explain the low representation of young people in's picture

For the past 15 years civic education has been cancelled in the majority of curricula. The other reason is that politicians all over the world have been doing a poor job to ensure that every citizen gets a minimum standard of living and are the reflection of what greed is. Therefore, they distanced themselves from this corrupted arena. it is unfortunate because their inputs will help to improve the social and economic environments throughout the world.

Anonymous's picture

Food for thought :)IPU research and report on Youth participation in national parliaments 2016 shows that:Young people under 30 make up less than 2 per cent of the world’s MPs.

  • About 30 per cent of the world’s single and lower houses of parliament have no MPs aged under 30.
  • More than 80 per cent of the world’s upper houses of parliament have no MPs aged under 30.
  • Not a single upper house of parliament anywhere in the world has more than 10 per cent of its members aged under 30.
  • Trends for different age groups

  • 1.9 per cent of the world’s MPs are aged under 30 – up from 1.6 per cent in 2014.
  • 14.2 per cent of the world’s MPs are aged under 40 – up from 12.9 per cent in 2014.
  • 26 per cent of the world’s MPs are aged under 45 – up from 23.9 per cent in 2014.
  • Male MPs outnumber their female counterparts in every age group.
  • Encouraging signs

  • The gender imbalance is less pronounced among younger MPs, where the male/female ratio is 60:40.
  • Recent elections have seen a global trend towards more young MPs aged under 45.
  • Youth quotas, lower eligibility ages, proportional representation and inclusive parliaments are all factors that increase the number of young MPs.
  • Best performers

  • Ecuador, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the only parliaments in the world where more than 10 per cent of members are aged under 30.
  • Andorra, Denmark and Ecuador have the highest proportion of MPs aged under 40 in lower or single houses of parliament.
  • Belgium, Bhutan and Kenya have the highest proportion of MPs aged under 40 in upper houses of parliament.
  • More than 60 per cent of MPs in the unicameral parliament of Andorra and in the lower houses of parliament of Ethiopia and Oman are aged under 45.
  • More than 80 per cent of MPs in the upper house of the parliament of Bhutan are aged under 45.
  • Youth and policy-making in parliaments Networks of young MPs, as well as caucuses that promote youth issues in public policy, are present in a small but growing number of parliaments.

  • Parliamentary committees dealing with youth issues exist in the vast majority of countries, but most share their remit with other subjects such as sports, education, the family or vulnerable groups.
  • Parliamentarians under the age of 45 chair less than 25 per cent of those committees, and form a majority in less than one third.
  • Other strategies to engage young people in parliaments Youth parliaments exist in half the countries surveyed. Some have formal ties to the national parliament but most are coordinated by non-governmental organizations, government ministries, schools or other local authorities.

  • New technologies and online tools are helping citizens, including young people, to understand and monitor the work of parliaments, and are also boosting accessibility and transparency.
  • Agripinner Nandhego from Uganda  In Uganda young people are 's picture

    Agripinner Nandhego from Uganda

    In Uganda young people are encouraged to participate in politics through the policy that calls for regional representation. All the 4 regions of Uganda have to elect a youth representative and one national female youth bringing the total to 5. Currently there are 2 female youth MPs and 3 males.

    The youth MPs also have a Uganda Youth Parliamentary Forum where they meet and discuss peculiar issues affecting youths and also come up with strategies to address them in the legislative process. A lot of capacity building for the youth MPs is also done through this forum by civil society organizations and also development partners.

    UN Women and other development partners support mentoring programs for young people specifically to enhance their skills in leadership and understanding of politics and importance of youth participation.

    admin's picture

    By Ibrahim Okinda, PhD in Communication and Media Technology Candidate, Moi University, Kenya

    1. How do you explain the low representation of young people in parliaments and governments around the world? 

    Factors contributing to the above are:

    • Inadequacy of political knowledge, interest, efficacy and sense of civic duty
    • Dominance of the political scene by the old conservative people
    • Poverty among the young people yet politics is a very expensive activity 

    2. What is an enabling environment for young people’s participation in politics, in particular young women?

     An environment with:

    • a media industry that has a social responsibility to positively and adequately cover  young women
    • constitutional and  other legal mechanisms to support young people’s political participation
    • economic support systems for young women
    • political party system that  reserve special seats for young people
    • role modeling by other successful women in public life

    3. What can parliaments; governments, political parties, and civil society do to increase young women and men’s representation in politics? Do you have examples of good practices?

    •  The above should take up affirmative actions through constitutional and other legal mechanisms, and party structures 

    4. What are some of the most innovative alternative methods (marches, sit-ins…) to formal political participation that young people choose to bring about change and be heard?

    •  Political activism via social media

     5. How can we support more young people who would be interested in channeling their activism through formal political institutions?

    •  Support  them to increase their internet access and social media use

     6. What strategies and approaches have been successful in recruiting young men and women in political parties?

    •  Having political seats reserved for young people
    • Having vibrant youth wings of political parties like the ANC in South Africa

     7. What can be done to support young MPs in their parliamentary career? Please share any initiatives you are aware of.

    •  Research support to enable them to be equipped with knowledge to initiate laws and policies supporting young people

    8. How can young parliamentarians better address gender equality and women’s empowerment? Are youth more likely to be active in combating discrimination and gender based violence?

    • Through their active participation in parliamentary proceedings so as to raise their political stature  for themselves and other young people
    • Youth being active participants in the more involving political activities such as campaigns have largely contributed to gender violence in Kenya as they are used by politicians to  cause such among women aspirants

    9. How can we best measure youth political participation and policy influence? 

    • Research that specifically focuses on them and one that is comprehensive to include a wide range of micro-level factors such exposure to media, political attitudes, socio-demographics and youth political participation. Also macro-level factors focusing on political system in place, legal framework.
    • We should be able to do the research on both national and local levels especially in Kenya which has the national and county governments. Local participation in Kenya now occurs at county level and is important to be measured