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Promoting political participation of youth around the world

Young people are seldom included in political decision making. Around the world, organisations are asking themselves how they can tap into the potential of the youth and promote their political participation in this age of the digital society.

More than a quarter of the world’s population is between 10 and 24 years of age – in other words around 1.8 billion people. However, many young people are not yet entitled to vote in their countries, or they live in conditions in which political participation is not usual or even possible. Many local authorities, associations and initiatives are therefore attempting to attract young people to get involved in shaping political processes and making decisions. Today, digital channels are almost indispensable in this.

E-participation to improve young people's living environments

Ypart is a participation platform on the Internet that makes it possible for young people to voice propose ideas online, to discuss these with others and then vote on them. Whether it is the construction of a skaters’ park or the organisation of video evenings in the youth centre, it always involves measures intended to improve the local living environment for young people. Behind the online tool is the non-profit organization Liquid Democracy, which has implemented the platform in cooperation with the International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (IJAB) and the youth organisation Youthpart. Youthpart is committed to the use of digital media as a means of promoting youth participation at community level. Today, the  Ypart platform is also used by other international youth organisations.

In Ghana, for instance, the Youth Bridge Foundation (YBF) is using Ypart to enhance the political inclusion of young Ghanaians at the local level, and help them participate actively in political decision making. They can use the e-participation platform to represent their interests, for example, by conducting a discussion with politicians and the public administration, or by submitting petitions. The platform only went online in October 2014, but already in the first weeks, some 22 proposals have  been commented upon and evaluated by other members.

With mobile technologies it's possible: access for all

To avoid excluding people who don't have access to the Internet, or those who do not feel confident in using it, the Youth Bridge Foundation and the German organisation, Liquid Democracy, also want to use mobile technologies for youth participation in the future by integrating IVR/SMS systems in their e-participation platform. This makes sense because today everyone on the African continent has a mobile phone, and can therefore take part. Mobile technologies have the additional advantage of using local languages, which means that educational differences need not be a barrier.

Youth participation around the world: examples from South Africa and Guatemala

Young South Africans are using social media to campaign for greater safety in their communities. This is the initiative #EKSE! My voice my safety, which is working to involve young people in security issues and the prevention of violence. Alongside workshops and awareness campaigns, a special effort is being made to use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote the participation of the youth. ‘This is meant to give young people a voice and to create dialogue around issues of criminality,’ explains Jeff Mohlele, chairperson of the Youth Crime Prevention Desk. As one of the young women involved says, ‘I have a chance to engage with other young people and to know how they deal with their issues and how we deal with ours. We can share our ideas.’  In 2014, for instance, 67 ideas have so far been collected for increasing the personal safety of people in their immediate environments. These ideas have been shared and discussed using social media.

In Guatemala city, meanwhile, in the districts known as ‘zonas rojas’, which are characterised by high levels of violence and poverty, young people are learning to work as reporters for an online news site, through which they can report about their daily lives – bringing positive stories as well! The project, called ‘Reporteros jóvenes’, aims to inspire the youth of disadvantaged areas to assert their rights to freedom of opinion and participation, equipping them with a platform for doing so which they themselves have designed. In this way, more than 100 articles have so far been collected, and almost everyday new ones are being added.

Video: Reporteros Jóvenes

Discussion of possible ways to get young people involved in the community

Young people are the decision makers of tomorrow and the starting point for social change. Digital and mobile technologies are excellent ways of including them in sustainable processes of change – and for letting them networking globally.

Do you know of other initiatives to promote political participation? How do you think it is possible to encourage young people to get more involved and share in decision making? What role can online media playing this? Join in the discussion with the community ‘Digitale Gesellschaft – Digital Society’!


Author: Miriam Moser

November 2014

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