Bringing young people closer to political decision-making: an urgent challenge

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STANDARD

Bringing young people closer to political decision-making: an urgent challenge

Written by Ines Costa y Teresa Juncal Pires

As young people are the main beneficiaries of the 2030 Agenda, they must be actively involved in the processes that support the implementation of the targets related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is important to give them the opportunity to participate in decision-making at local, regional, national, and European levels. According to the World Youth Report (2020), there are 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24, representing 16% of the world's population.

Young people are offline from national and European public policies.

Although in recent years we have witnessed an increase in the involvement of young Portuguese in the political process and in civil society initiatives, as confirmed by the study “The Political Participation of Young People in Portugal”, promoted by the Gulbenkian Forum of the Future in collaboration with the Centre for Studies and Opinion Polls of the Portuguese Catholic University, which affirms that “the often expressed idea that there is a general decline in the political participation of young people in Portugal is not supported by the available data”, we see that the reality of participation is neither adequate nor sufficient to have a positive and significant impact on the creation of policies that affect the present and future of these young people and the society in which they will live.

Many young Europeans are already involved and aware of political and civic issues, mobilised either through conventional mechanisms such as voting, party meetings and participation in party activities, or through “unconventional” mechanisms such as youth volunteering, debates, and demonstrations. Despite this involvement, this age group remains aloof from national and European politics.

The level of mobilisation and participation varies among young people depending on different factors, such as access to information, level of education, socio-economic status, or geographical location.

According to the European Parliament Youth Survey data report, carried out by Ipsos European Public Affairs at the request of the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Communication, only 63% of the Portuguese young people surveyed voted in the last local, national, or European elections. Moreover, only 25% participated as a volunteer in a charity/campaign organisation. As for contacting politicians on issues of concern to them, only 8% did so.

This is similar in Spain and Italy. In Spain, only 56% of young people voted in the last local, national, or European elections, 23% volunteered in a charity/campaign and 10% contacted politicians about current issues. In Italy, 50% voted in the last local, national, or European elections, 23% participated in a volunteering action for a charity/campaign, and 9% had contact with politicians.

Group of multiethnic creative entrepreneurs working on a project and having a brainstorming meeting. Teamwork and brainstorming concept.

Young people’s voice as part of the solution

Young people’s participation in national and European politics is essential to ensure that their concerns, needs, and perspectives are adequately represented. A democratic society seeks to represent all its citizens, so it is essential that young people have an active voice in debates that directly affect them and that their views are considered in government decision-making, especially as they represent a significant proportion of the population.

In the conclusions adopted by the Council (Education, Youth, Culture and Sport) and the representatives of the governments of the member states on the social dimension of a fair and caring Europe for young people, EU ministers stressed the need to take into account the social dimension of a Europe adapted to the interests and expectations of young people and highlighted their role as key actors in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Jakob Forssmed, Swedish Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health stressed that “without young people, there can be no promising future. We must ensure that the next generation plays a significant role in policymaking on sustainability issues at all levels”.

Being aware that there is a part of the youth that is passive and disinterested in national and European politics, which is reflected in the level of abstention of the youth vote and other variants, we are aware that this phenomenon is partly due to the lack of identification with the current mobilisation and communication strategies of government bodies and political parties.

There is also a feeling among young people that there is an inability to give this generation prominent positions in internal structures, which is seen as a sign of an unwillingness to take young people’s views into account, as the summary report of the study “Political Participation of Young People in Portugal”, promoted by the Gulbenkian Forum for the Future, concludes. When they do not agree with conventional policies, young people create alternatives to express themselves and become politically and civically involved.

Therefore, we see the need to adopt new approaches that encourage political participation among young people, in order to prepare them in the present to take on leadership roles in the future. It is crucial to ensure that they are active and educated on political and environmental issues and are able to make a difference in their daily lives, both individually and collectively, and that they are real agents of change and innovation.

Harnessing the potential of young people, involving them in policymaking, involving them in all areas of intervention, developing initiatives and policies with, for and by young people, is essential for their active and meaningful participation.

It is crucial to create effective mechanisms to ensure that young people’s views are taken seriously and that their contributions are not just symbolic.

Opening channels of participation for young people

Digital platforms play a crucial role in the active participation of young people. The use of online spaces such as social networks, forums and other interactive platforms allows for the creation of direct channels of communication between young people and policy and decision makers. These tools allow the younger generations not only to express their views, but also to engage in constructive debate. In addition, the strategic use of digital platforms can transform political processes into more accessible experiences for young people, who are closely linked to the digital world, and can be used to disseminate information, educate young people about political processes, and encourage their participation in online debates.

Creating open channels of dialogue, such as public forums, roundtables and debates, allows young people to voice their concerns and propose solutions, ensuring that their voices are taken into account in policymaking. As well as promoting transparency, they build trust between young people and national and European decision-makers.

The direct involvement of this generation in decision-making processes, by integrating them into organisational structures, councils, and assemblies, allows young people to influence decisions from the outset and to contribute their vision to shaping the future. This kind of active participation contributes to the development of young leaders and promotes a culture of inclusion in governance structures.

Ultimately, promoting meaningful youth participation at all levels of society is essential to building a future that is inclusive, environmentally responsible and in line with the aspirations of the younger generation.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

  • World Youth Report (2020)
  • Summary report “A Participação Cívica dos jovens em Portugal” Fundação Gulbenkian
  • European Parliament Youth Survey
  • Conclusions adopted by the Council (Education, Youth, Culture and Sport) and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting on the social dimension of a sustainable Europe for youth, at their meeting on 15 and 16 May 2006.
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Documents available at: https://essenciacompleta-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/teresajuncalpires_essenciacompleta_pt/EsJLYzpmo2lFn34hf2GJhSoBG_5PUyXubuMkRDDTyeNRZg?e=uRER3x  

complementary activities

Video Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals.
Vídeo “Do you know all 17 SDGs”
Set of videos about each of the 17 SDGs
Ranking of the performance of all 193 UN members in relation to the 17 SDGs
Sustainable Development Goals
Tracking Portugal's progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

EASY

Bringing young people closer to political decision-making: an urgent challenge

Written by Ines Costa y Teresa Juncal Pires

Sendo os jovens os principais beneficiários da Agenda 2030, devem os mesmos estar ativamente envolvidos nos processos que apoiam a implementação das metas relacionadas com os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (ODS), sendo importante dar-lhes a oportunidade de participação na tomada de decisão nos níveis local, regional, nacional e europeu.

De acordo com o World Youth Report (2020) existem 1.2 mil milhões de jovens, entre os 15 e os 24 anos, que representam 16% da população mundial.

Young people are offline from national and European public policies.

Young people are the main beneficiaries of the 2030 Agenda and their active participation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in decision-making at local, regional, national, and European levels is crucial. According to the World Youth Report (2020), there are 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24, representing 16% of the world’s population.

Despite the fact that in recent years there has been an increase in the political involvement of young people in Portugal and their participation in civil society initiatives, as shown by the study “The Political Participation of Young People in Portugal”, promoted by the Gulbenkian Forum of the Future in partnership with the Centre for Studies and Opinion Polls of the Portuguese Catholic University, which emphasises that “the idea often put forward that there is a general decline in the political participation of young people in Portugal is not supported by the available data”, the participatory reality is still not sufficient to have a positive impact on the creation of policies that affect the present and future of the new generations.

Many young Europeans, including Portuguese, are already involved in civic and political activities, through conventional methods such as voting and participating in party activities, and through “unconventional” methods such as volunteering, debates, and demonstrations. However, there is still a distance from national and European politics. The mobilisation of these young people varies according to factors such as access to information, level of education, socio-economic status, and geographical location.

The data report on the European Parliament Youth Survey, carried out by Ipsos European Public Affairs at the request of the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Communication, highlights that only 63% of Portuguese young people voted in the last local, national, or European elections, and only 25% volunteered in a charity/campaigning organisation. Furthermore, only 8% have contacted politicians to discuss issues that concern them. The picture is similar in Spain and Italy. In Spain, only 56% of young people voted, 23% took part in a voluntary activity and 10% contacted politicians about current issues. In Italy, 50% voted, 23% volunteered and 9% contacted politicians.

Many young people are disinterested in politics, which is reflected in low voter turnout, abstention from youth elections and other forms of civic engagement. This is partly because young people do not identify with the current mobilisation and communication strategies of government bodies and political parties.

Moreover, young people feel that there is an inability to give this generation prominent positions in internal structures, which is seen as a sign of an unwillingness to include young people’s views, as concluded in the synthesis report of the study “The Political Participation of Young People in Portugal”, promoted by the Gulbenkian Forum for the Future. Not seeing themselves reflected in mainstream politics, young people are creating alternatives for political and civic expression and participation.

Group of multiethnic creative entrepreneurs working on a project and having a brainstorming meeting. Teamwork and brainstorming concept.

Young people’s voice as part of the solution  

Young people’s participation in national and European politics is essential to ensure that their concerns, needs, and perspectives are properly represented.

A democratic society requires the representation of all its citizens. It is therefore essential that young people have an active voice in debates that directly affect them and that their views are considered in government decision-making, especially as they represent a significant proportion of the population.

We therefore see a need for new approaches that encourage young people’s political participation in order to prepare them in the present for leadership in the future.

We need to ensure that young people are active and informed on political and environmental issues, and that they are able to make a difference in their daily lives, both individually and collectively, and that they are real agents of change and innovation.

We need to involve young people in policymaking and involve them in all areas of intervention, through effective mechanisms that take their opinions and contributions seriously, creating initiatives and policies with, for and by young people.

Opening channels of participation for young people

Digital platforms play a crucial role in the active participation of young people. The use of online spaces such as social networks, forums and other interactive platforms allows for the creation of direct channels of communication between young people and policy and decision makers. These tools allow the younger generations not only to express their views, but also to engage in constructive debate. In addition, the strategic use of digital platforms can transform political processes into more accessible experiences for young people, who are closely linked to the digital world, and can be used to disseminate information, educate young people about political processes, and encourage their participation in online debates.

Creating open channels of dialogue, such as public forums, roundtables, and debates, allows young people to voice their concerns and propose solutions, ensuring that their voices are considered in policy making. As well as promoting transparency, they build trust between young people and national and European policymakers.

The direct involvement of this generation in decision-making processes, through their integration into organisational structures, councils, and assemblies, allows young people to influence decisions from the outset and to contribute their vision to shaping the future. This kind of active participation contributes to the development of young leaders and promotes a culture of inclusion in governance structures.

Ultimately, promoting the meaningful participation of young people at all levels of society is essential to building a future that is inclusive, environmentally responsible and meets the aspirations of the younger generation.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

  • World Youth Report (2020)
  • Summary report “A Participação Cívica dos jovens em Portugal” Fundação Gulbenkian
  • European Parliament Youth Survey
  • Conclusions adopted by the Council (Education, Youth, Culture and Sport) and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting on the social dimension of a sustainable Europe for youth, at their meeting on 15 and 16 May 2006.
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Documents available at: https://essenciacompleta-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/teresajuncalpires_essenciacompleta_pt/EsJLYzpmo2lFn34hf2GJhSoBG_5PUyXubuMkRDDTyeNRZg?e=uRER3x

Video Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals.
Vídeo “Do you know all 17 SDGs”
Set of videos about each of the 17 SDGs

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