The Gibraltar Commonwealth Youth Association Highlights The Importance Of Youth Participation In Politics
By Kyle Bautista and Chris Cardona of the Gibraltar Commonwealth Youth Association:
The youth are a creative and dynamic source for innovative change, who throughout history have participated, contributed and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities.
This social group is the driving force for development, they challenge the status quo and aid in modernizing outdated systems. They provide a breath of fresh air and are therefore imperative in ensuring societal development. From a political standpoint, the future generations are not only important in challenging governments and institutions to re-think existing practices and policies, but they are also the ones most affected, as it is their future at stake.
For political systems to be representative, all parts of the community must be included. When young people are disenfranchised or disengaged from political processes, a significant portion of the population has little to no voice, or influence in decisions that affect group members’ lives.
Globally, youth participation in politics is certainly on the rise, yet, there is still a long way to go. For example, young people account for 60% of the Commonwealth’s population, however, parliamentarians and legislatures in the Commonwealth have an average age of 50. Furthermore, in the United Kingdom, the average age for Members of Parliament is also 50. The youth and young people, although politically active by constituting part of the electorate, are isolated from the decision-making forums and processes. This is understandable due to the fact that the minimum age requirement to become a Member of Parliament in a third of countries is 25.
In order to respond to the needs of young people, and to guarantee their voices are being heard and recognised, young people’s active and meaningful participation in their societies and in political practices and processes is of crucial importance. Not only do the youth help to promote civic action, having a strong youth participation in politics helps to bridge the gap between generations and thus cultivate a unified society. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai as well as groups such as Extinction Rebellion are all perfect examples that demonstrate the success and impact young individuals can have.
The Commonwealth, through its various forums and organisations, helps to provide the youth with a platform and aid them to develop skills which they can then apply in their own societies. In Gibraltar, the youth are extremely lucky to be represented by various groups and organizations who allow for their concerns to be heard. Indeed, these should be considered with the utmost importance and used, amongst other reasons, to help
channel the youth’s concerns and ensure they are at the heart of policymaking. Nevertheless, these should not impact the need for continuous youth participation and instead motivate young people to utilise these platforms to ensure that they are able to contribute and help formulate legislation and policies which will affect them. The Gibraltar Commonwealth Youth Association provides this very platform and will work closely with the existing groups already in place
Young people are the driving force for progressive change and development in society, they question social norms, challenge the status quo and provide a new train of thought. Their participation in politics is imperative and should not be undermined. They are a strong force, one which can help to bring a society together and develop it to new heights.