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Ensure youth participation in political and governance processes

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By: Shariq Maqbool Dar

The people of all age groups serve their country in different ways. The kids go to school, while the young and middle-aged people perform jobs that are important for the smooth functioning of the country. They run schools, hospitals, factories, government offices, farms and so on and so forth. And in the middle of it all, the youth – who attend colleges, universities, and also perform the important role of social and political activists – are busy building their future, and they in turn build the future of their country. To put it another way, Franklin D Roosevelt once observed, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” In light of this famous observation, I strongly believe that the system needs the youth more than they need it. And, it goes without saying; the way to build a promising future for a country is by encouraging the participation and involvement of youth in politics. They have the potential and passion to shape the future of their country.

A number of United Nations (UN) resolutions recognize the need to view youth as change-makers. Through resolution 2419 (2018), the UN security council called on all relevant actors to consider ways to increase the representation of young people when negotiating and implementing peace agreements. Recognizing their marginalization is detrimental to building sustainable peace and countering violent extremism. UNSCR 2250 not only recognizes that today’s generation is the largest the world has ever known, but also that youth should actively be engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation and that a large youth population presents an opportunity contributing to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place.

The political participation of the youth should not be confined to electoral processes, but they deserve a fair chance to directly represent and lead the people through political means. Institute for the Future, a non-profit organization based in Palo Alto California conducted a major survey about future thinking in the USA. According to its results, the older you get, the less you think about the future. The survey makes it clear that it is the youth who can provide an ideal counter to the short-termism of old political leaders. The youngsters have a feel for the good and bad of the world, they do not want to hold on to the status quo and surely do not want to live in the past.

The Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi highlights the importance of youth action as he contends, “The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.”

The youth have left their mark in every professional and nonprofessional sphere around the world but, having said that, their political participation has remained constantly low. According to a recent Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) report, Youth and politics do not go well together: 1.9% of the world’s Members of Parliament (MPs) are aged under 30 (up from 1.6% in 2014). Furthermore, 14.2% of the world’s MPs are aged under 40 (up from 12.9% in 2014). According to the PRS Legislative Research, the average age of 17th Lok Sabha is noted to be 54 years, and just 12% of MPs are below the age of 40. Given these statistics, it seems reasonable to assume that the youth have been left behind and remain voiceless and powerless at the political level.

The policymakers need to restructure the political systems for ensuring full and equal participation of youth in political and governance processes.

The author can be reached at shariqmaqbooldar@gmail.com

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