Widening the Democratic Space: The Role of Youth in Public Decision-Making
On November 21st, AYUDH members from England, Ireland, Germany and Spain joined young leaders and State delegates from all over the world gathered at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in a historic moment: the First Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
The Human Rights Council, the responsible body within the United Nations system for the promotion and protection of human rights, succeeded at gathering at this Forum spokespersons from all different sectors of the civil society but especially those working with and acting in representation of young people. ‘Strengthening youth participation in public affairs should be a core objective for any society aspiring to inclusiveness, democracy and respectful human rights’ stated at the beginning of the first session Choi Kyonglim, president of the Council.
The opening remarks introduced the purpose and objectives of the forum, highlighting the urgency for youth engagement in the public sphere and inviting all participants to share best practices and identified challenges and opportunities in their respective countries. Co-Chairperson Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on Youth, also took the chance to present at the Forum the global campaign Not Too Young To Run, aimed at promoting the rights of people between 18 and 30 to run for public office and improving the democratic representation of the younger generation.
The interactive sessions consisted of moderated discussions where a number of recommendations were offered and recurring topics were addressed from different perspectives, such as the role of youth organizations as platforms for dialogue and progress and the need for legal frameworks to recognize their potential as such. Special emphasis was made on finding practical ways to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a shared responsibility between governments and citizens themselves.
Youth today are leading businesses, movements, art, technology, student councils, etc. Why not politics too? How to transform social media into social action? Ms. Sara Oviedo, Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, believes ‘they are already there, we only need to learn to see and appreciate what they are doing’. The panelist stressed that this will only be possible if we take youth NGOs into account in events and committees as ‘fundamental’ instruments of articulation within civil society.
‘Politics is not just an abstract concept, politics is about education, healthcare, and the life of society in itself; if youth are part of this life then they are definitely able to make decisions on these important issues’. - Hajer Sharief
To get an overview video of the entire conference please click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-sRy5GTltw
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of groups like AYUDH to create cause-oriented engagement and spaces for real youth representation, as well as to establish the necessary collaborations with public stakeholders. Governments, on their side, need to learn to work not only for young people but also with young people, making institutions appealing and accessible to them.