Creating a Sustainable Future

Youth Policy Participation in Latin America and the Caribbean

Creating a sustainable future depends on a variety of crucial factors, including the need to actively engage youth in pivotal policy-making processes. How do young people today view the government? Do they feel disconnected? Do they feel empowered? A recent article that appears in Olhares Amazonas Magazine tackles this subject. Dr. Gerardo Berthin and Dr. Terri Ann Gilbert-Roberts –U4C Advisor and Board Member respectively- co-authored the piece that looks at youth, those under age 30, living in Latin America and the Caribbean, commonly referred to as LAC.

As in most countries across the globe, empowering youth to play an active role in policy-decision making is considered critical in the LAC. It’s of particular importance in this geographic area of the world because one out of four people in this region is under the age of 30.  While they are better educated and more urbanized than previous generations, they have low levels of representation when it comes to government. Why? Simply put, they are disinterested and have low levels of trust in their government leaders.

So, Gerardo and Terri wanted to find answers. They explored youth participation through the use of evidence from twelve social audit workshops conducted between 2011 and 2015. What is a social audit? It’s an accountability tool that enables citizens to organize and mobilize to evaluate and audit their government’s performance and policy decisions. Using a series of mechanisms, including surveys, case studies, and policy discussion, they systematically analyzed the barriers and enabling factors for empowerment and policy participation.

What did they find? Overall, youth between the ages of 16-30 have a severe mistrust of their governmental leaders and go as far as defining them as corrupt. They express dissatisfaction with progress in key public policy areas, such as the economy, quality of roads, schools, and access to public health services. The findings show “that youth have great potential to be engines of change and innovation, yet for these transformations to occur, the local environment must also offer incentives, means, and opportunities for young people to influence public policy cycles.”

For the most part, youth in the LAC region of the world uphold the ideals of democratic governance but are disheartened and indifferent about politics. To create a sustainable, peaceful world, these patterns need to shift. There are several things that can be done to reverse this trend, according to Gerardo and Terri.

On the supply side:

Politicians and policymakers can actively reach out to young leaders and actively engage them in meaningful dialogue;

Adopting integrated youth participation strategies that specific youth roles in policy process; and further the use of social auditing as an engagement policy tool.

On the demand side:

Building youth capacities for policy participation and promoting a broader culture of policy participation may help.

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s future. That is why U4C’s new initiatives focus on developing young leaders. Getting them involved is essential in order to build sustainable peace. To learn more about this publication please go to:  

Magazine Olhares Amazônicos,  under Volume 6, No. 2  Ingles

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