Young voices for inclusive governance
- A rights-based approach is needed to ensure youth participation in public institutions.
- Tokenism is unacceptable.
- Accountability means more than just publishing reports.
- Youth leaders must be accountable to their own constituencies, especially to marginalised young people.
- Of all of the leading priorities defined by young people, corruption seems to be the hardest to tackle.
This high-level panel discussion was divided into three parts, one each for the top three items that emerged from a youth consultation process involving 346 young people in 12 countries: participation, accountability and corruption.
The wide-ranging discussion exhibited little consensus, except on one point – favouring a rights-based approach. Young people should not have to clamour to be heard. Nor should they wait for the ‘privilege’ of being invited to the table. Instead, their participation should be mandated as a required part of the political process.
Regarding participation, first and foremost, tokenism is unacceptable. Beyond this issue, there seemed to be little agreement about the way forward. Social media could offer an important tool, though many disadvantaged youths find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Some argued that formal structures hold the key. One model could be the Council of Europe’s co-management system, under which youth participation is written into the regulations. Youth parliaments can be effective, as shown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a local body was able to lobby for training for teachers in a school district that was lagging behind its neighbours within the national modernisation of the educational system.
The United Nations has offered formal participation to youth in its environmental negotiations since 1992. Now that the development and environmental agendas are being fused into the process of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this opportunity has been transposed into the post-2015 debate. The space exists, but it must be used. As counter arguments to social media and formal structures, it was pointed out that many governments have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, solving nothing.
It was also noted that well-structured official youth groups habitually signed-off on policies in the old Soviet Union. This did not necessarily mean they were formally included in policymaking.
On the accountability theme, everyone seemed to agree that it is not enough for governments and international agencies to publish official documents on their websites. Other mechanisms are needed to ensure greater accountability. Accountability is hollow if reporting requirements are not accompanied by measures that allow citizens to legally challenge things they do not like.
When governments strive to evade accountability, the job of citizens or civil society groups can become very difficult. One option would be to appeal to its partners in other countries or at institutions such as the World Bank. Youth leaders also need to be accountable to their own constituencies – especially in terms of reaching out to underrepresented, marginalised people.
Non-governmental organisations can play important roles as overseers to help public institutions when the majority wants to do the right thing. For example, the Nine is Mine campaign in India is attempting to force officials to spend the legally mandated 9 % of gross domestic product on health and education.
The topic of corruption is more difficult to tackle. Even institutions that one would expect to be anti-corruption allies, such as the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, seem to lack vigour when it comes to fighting the problem. One positive example came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the youth parliament uncovered and successfully fought the practice of selling good exam scores to students.
Rather than youths scrambling for their rights on one side and senior citizens pushing for theirs on the other, it might make sense for the two generational groups to join forces to combat age discrimination. After all, they often face the same issues. For example, younger people want their first shot at affordable housing, while their older cohorts often struggle to be allowed to stay in the places they have occupied for decades.
Body: The EU has a fantastic opportunity to show the world how it is done with regard to youth participation – and these EDDs are an excellent example of involving young people in the debate.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker: 1668Nid: 1669
Body: On the issue of governance, the three themes that most concern young people are participation, accountability and the fight against corruption.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1546
Body: What follows on from the MDGs will shape the lives of young people and their children – so it is key that they get their voices heard.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1545
Body: Young people have borne the brunt of the economic crisis – whether through high unemployment, the loss of benefits or loss of opportunities.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1544
Body:Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1543
Body: Very often you need people on the streets smashing the door down, but once the door is open you need formal structures to be able to walk through that door and negotiate with decision makers […] If you only have formal structures the door is never going to be smashed down, and if you only have the occupy movement, there are no interlocutors to change things. So you need both – and both need to work and respect each other.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1542
Body: A European youth parliament is a good idea, but action really needs to start at a local level and then rise up from there to have a real impact.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1541
Body: It is important to create formal structures for the most marginalised people so they can take part in decision making that affects them. That doesn’t mean taking someone off the street and putting them in a meeting just to say they have taken part – there need to be formal structures to tackle the problems these people face in a serious way.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1540
Body: We have to ensure young people and children’s opinions count. They need to see action and results from their interaction with you. Everything starts from hearing and seeing them.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1539
Body: I believe in interaction rather than participation. Not everyone has the time or desire to be involved but they have the right to interact and be part of the solution.Image:Quote Year: 2013Speaker:Nid: 1538
The eradication of poverty and ensuring that prosperity and wellbeing are sustainable are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. These challenges are universal, interrelated and need to be addressed together by all countries.
The European Union (EU) is involved in global discussions on the development agenda after 2015 – the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – placing particular emphasis on building towards an intensive exchange with non-state actors.
Public consultations, dialogue with strategic partners and wide-ranging research have fed into the EU position on an overarching framework. Through its February 2013 Communication ‘A Decent Life for All’ and the ensuing Council Conclusions, the EU states five building blocks for a post-2015 agenda:
- Basic, universal living standards under which no-one should fall. Even if all MDGs are reached, much unfinished business will remain to eradicate poverty and further human development.
- The promotion of ‘drivers’ of inclusive, sustainable growth. Investing in infrastructure or energy, for example, creates growth and decent jobs, whilst boosting human development.
- Sustainable management of natural resources. This is vital if we are to halt environmental degradation.
- Equality, equity and justice. Not only are these values in themselves, but also fundamental for sustainable development.
- Tackling insecurity and state fragility, which impede sustainable development.
Several international processes relevant to the post-2015 agenda are ongoing. Commitments made at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012 initiated work to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); a High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda recently published its recommendations for the post-2015 agenda; and a broad United Nations-led consultation process is ongoing. Recently, the UN Secretary-General published his report ‘A life of dignity for all’, which builds on these inputs. In addition, an MDG Special Event will take place in New York, USA on 25 September, which will also give recommendations on the way forward towards a post-2015 agreement.
This work will provide further impetus for the development of a framework that would offer a coherent and comprehensive response to the universal challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Against this backdrop, the eighth edition of European Development Days will discuss, debate and foster consensus on the EU’s objective to set a globally-agreed, ambitious framework that addresses poverty eradication and sustainable development, and ensures a decent life for all by 2030.
Under the thread of this year’s edition – ‘A vision for the post-2015 agenda’ – this year’s forum is structured around four themes. Each theme will be composed of three topics and each topic will be highlighted by an auditorium panel and a series of lab sessions.Image: