Youth is powerful. They are essential in driving changes and are positioned at the center of numerous sustainable development targets. However, there are still minimal opportunities for meaningful youth engagement in current policy-making processes.
Youth activism at a glance
There are approximately 1.2 billion young people today. Over the years, young people have been speaking up against various world issues. We have seen young icons like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and thousands of other young activists taking up leadership roles in creating a better world, supplementing the lack of leadership from the older generation.
Currently, as much as 70% of Gen Z are involved in social and political causes. With the internet and tech-savvy-ness under their belt, young people have unique perspectives and ways to express, advocate, and campaign for issues like climate change, gender equality, racial inequality, and more. This makes them strategic implementation partners for sustainable development.
At the same time, however, young people have yet to be granted enough space to participate in policy-making processes. Despite their huge concerns and interests, their voices remain underrepresented and have little impact in various settings. Recently, the UN Secretary-General published a policy brief on creating meaningful youth engagement in policy and decision-making processes.
Meaningful youth engagement
Meaningful youth engagement means actively involving young people’s ideas, expertise, experiences, and perspectives in decision-making. Countries and regions have established organizations and movements such as National Youth Councils and Youth Co:Lab to encourage youth participation and engagement.
Still, there are opportunities to strengthen youth involvement. In the policy brief, the Secretary-General urges the UN Member States to maximize young people’s participation through three main points.:
- Expand and strengthen youth participation in decision-making at all levels.
Making a solid commitment to meaningful youth engagement in decision-making at the local, national, regional, and global levels according to the UN core principles. This includes establishing country-level national youth consultative bodies and clear and effective monitoring systems.
- Make meaningful youth engagement a requirement in all UN decision-making processes.
Meaningful youth engagement must become the norm rather than the exception. This can be done by increasing the capacity of existing youth arrangements, creating new opportunities, and ensuring more systematic financial resourcing.
- Support the establishment of youth town halls and integrated programs.
The United Nations system is critical in supporting young people with dedicated and inclusive space for better participation in decision-making mechanisms. It calls for more robust synergies, greater leverage of digital technologies, and strengthened communications across youth organizations and platforms.
Read the full policy brief here.
Editor: Nazalea Kusuma
Madina is the Assistant Manager for Program at Green Network Asia. She is an English major graduate from Universitas Indonesia with two
years of demonstrated experience in editorial and creative writing,
researching, editing, and creating content.