Over the years, 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 participations 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) (link is external), called “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future”, in line with the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (link is external) (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 (link is external)“, 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 (link is external), UNDP launched a Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – Youth-GPS (2016–2020) (link is external). 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 (link is external)” 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 (link is external)” at its 122nd Assembly and in 2013, established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians. Since then, IPU published two studies, one in 2014 (link is external) and another in 2016 (link is external), 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 (link is external)”, 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 (link is external), especially Goal 5 on gender equality. UN Women also published CEDAW for Youth (link is external) 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” (link is external) documenting the challenges and practices directed at youth inclusion in politics and within different electoral processes.
In 2018, having involved younger generation in administration for the past two years, The Rivers State Governor and Silverbird Man of the Year 2017 and The Sun Man Of The Year Back to Back. His Excellency, Chief Barr. Nyesom E. Wike CON GSSR, in his relentlessness effort in positioning the Rivers Youthss and Nigerian Youths at large, expanded the youth political participation by inviting members of the 24th local government in Rivers State, The Social Media influencers within the youthful age of 18-40 for a massive get-together and dinner at the government house, Rivers State on 2nd of January, he had promised social media influencers that their good works will be rewarded.
Furthermore, speaking at the Government House Port Harcourt on Tuesday 23rd, February 2018 when he granted audience to D-Source Connect Group, Governor Wike commending D-Source Connect Group for their commitment to the development of New Rivers assured that his administration will always accommodate youths in the development process and, members of the group will be considered for appointments.
On 27th of February 2018, in keeping with that promise Governor, Nyesom Wike, approved the nomination of Youths and Social Media influencers into the just constituted Care Taker Committees as Members and Chairmen in 15 Local Government Councils in Rivers State.
Recognizing and involving youth in a community’s decision-making processes is about more than engaging young people for the sake of inclusivity. It’s about recognizing the measurable benefits youth offer to organizations and whole communities.
Youth need meaning, control and connectedness to thrive in an adult-youth partnership. Youth must feel like they are involved in something important, have a valued say in what happens and the opportunity to work with other youth and adults in the community.
Organizations and communities benefit
Involving youth is a human rights issue! Involving young people fulfills the right to be involved in decision-making and recognizes full citizenship.