UNDEF and its partners in the United Nations Working Group on Democracy held an event at the International Peace Institute in New York on the theme of the democratic engagement of young people.
Panel speakers were Hafsa Afailal of Morocco, Programme Officer with Médiateur pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme and coordinator of an UNDEF Morocco youth project; Gustavo Arturo Martínez Rodríguez of El Salvador, Youth Volunteer with Coordinadora Intersectorial Pro Juventudes de El Salvador; and Farkhunda Zahra Naderi of Afghanistan, Member of Parliament in the Lower House.
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, made opening remarks.
The event, which is available as a webcast here, addressed questions such as do young people find politics irrelevant and dull? Have young people discovered more powerful tools for democratic change than any generation before them?
People between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five constitute one-fifth of the world’s population, and in many developing countries the proportion is even higher. However, numerous studies show decreasing levels of youth participating in elections, political parties, and traditional social organizations. At the same time, informal, youth-led movements for democratic change are on the rise. Using new communication tools, young people are making their mark on democracy-building in untraditional ways.
The United Nations, several other international organizations, and a range of civil society groups have set out to facilitate and support the participation of young people in democracy worldwide. But what is the reality on the ground? How do young people engage in politics and policymaking? How can they contribute to creating more inclusive and participatory democracies? What challenges are they encountering? How do they perceive the role of the international community in strengthening young people’s engagement with democracy? How do they view the changes brought about by young people in the Arab Spring and elsewhere, and what are the lessons learned?
The event was held in cooperation with the Community of Democracies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.