Recently, I had the pleasure to represent the World YMCA in the SAP Purpose Network Live event, which was organized with the purpose of discussing the future of youth after the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with Basima Abdulrahman, Founder & CEO at KESK, WEF Foundation Board Member & Cultural Leader and Nancy Sumari, Managing Director of Bongo5 Media Group| Founder of Jenga Hub we delved into subjects related to the UN75 initiative. Among the questions that have been raised by the moderator, Idilia Seixas, Senior Regional Manager within SAP, one was focused on youth participation in decision-making.
In this sense, I have argued that we have seen good examples of meaningful youth participation, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. A positive example is that of the young people voting in high numbers at the European elections from 2019. Back then, the European institutions put a strong emphasis on motivating young people to cast a vote, given the rise of Euroscepticism and the considerable risk to have more political candidates with populist agenda willing to weaken the European project, if elected. Given that the turnout was one of the highest in decades, I think is fair to admit the considerable role of young people in safeguarding European democracy.
On the other hand, I emphasized there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to young people being more involved in various political processes, not just elections. Two steps that could change this status quo:
- Formal and non-formal civic education for children and young people so that there is a better understanding of the political processes and the role of citizens in shaping the society; Many young people use to say that „Ugh, politics! I do not want to be a part of that”, but once we start to debate who is responsible for improving the community the answer always comes down to it should start with me/us.
- Next, we should call for strengthening the civic spaces, so that youth and civil society organizations have the means and the ways to express their opinions and be listened for their solutions; Unfortunately, we have seen a shrinking of the civic space, pointed out both by various international organizations, e.g. the European Youth Forum has released a study where it is mentioned that 1 in 3 organizations across Europe faces difficulties when trying to participate in policy deliberation and decision-making processes.
Other issues that have been debated were focused on racial injustice and racism, youth as drivers for international cooperation and global trends that might affect our future. In this sense, we have stressed the importance of responsible political leadership that can lead to global solutions for global problems and the need to see multilateralism as a value for our society. The most stringent problems we are facing are not border-framed ones, but rather issues that know no physical limits and can be dealt with if we work together as countries, as organizations, and as citizens.
The event represented an excellent opportunity to debate on the status of youth in the pandemic context, but also to reflect on what we can do more in order to support our communities to become better prepared for a somehow unpredictable future. I would like to express my gratitude for the World YMCA and its continuous efforts to give young people a voice and to make them feel that they are listened to.
Youth Policy Group Member, YMCA Europe
Policy & Strategy Director, Young Initiative Association