Major Issues and Cases Involving Youth Participation

The UN, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), lists fundamental issues relevant to governance and youth participation. Among these are the following:

  • Young men and women are excluded from policy development given their disillusionment with political leadership and political institutions. This situation leaves political activism of the youth as under- or unrepresented in formal groupings/organizations.
  • The youth’s participation in governance, including opportunities for engagement, is dependent on different political, socioeconomic, and cultural contexts.
  • The participation of youth in formal and institutional processes is relatively low compared to older citizens. This could be a manifestation of the youth’s disenfranchisement to the political system. Both formal and informal means of participation are beneficial for a democracy to work, and these means must be supported.
  • The youth are not adequately represented in formal political institutions and processes including political parties, parliaments, elections, and public administration. It is all the more difficult for young women as they occupy mid-level positions.
  • It has only just been recently, although very timely, that the youth’s engagement in the political landscape has received major attention.

  • Young men and women tend to feel excluded and marginalized in their communities given the limited opportunities and exposure provided for them to participate meaningfully in decision-making processes (UNDP-Focal Point on Youth UNDESA, n.d.).

The UNDP and other UN entities have a strong reference for a rights-based approach in promoting programs for youth participation. Because participation is a basic democratic right, an effective and meaningful youth political participation should have the following democratic attributes:

  1. Consultative
  2. Entails youth-led participation
  3. Involves youth collaborative participation

In order to reach the objective of substantive inclusion of the youth in governance and in decision-making, the UNDP further claims that actions must revolve around two main commitments in political inclusion.

  1. Support to young people’s participation in inclusive political processes and democratic practices through the following:
      • Promotion of an enabling environment (legal frameworks, policies, and programs) for young people’s participation in a broad range of processes and areas (electoral and parliamentary processes, public administration, local governance, peace-building arenas) at local, subnational, and national levels

      • Promotion of young people’s skills and capacities to participate actively in democratic practices, including in local, national, and international contexts (leadership workshops, etc.)

      • Promotion of young women’s participation and presence in political office and decision-making at all levels (both in elective and nonelective positions)

  2. Support to young people’s inclusion in decision-making and in all levels of development processes through the following:

      • Effective participation of young people and young people-led organizations in UN governance and decision-making processes

      • The ability of young people and young people-led organizations to contribute to the achievement of durable solutions for humanitarian and peace-building initiatives, focusing on enabling young women and men to become active leaders in global efforts to achieve sustainable human development as a long-term investment