Today, our world is home to the largest generation of young people in history. But what kind of world will these young people inherit? It’s time for all generations to come together–and together tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the world. And the first step is to ensure that young people are meaningfully included in decision-making spaces around the world.
Trying to fix the world’s issues alone, with the same people in the same rooms, using the same solutions doesn’t work. We need to look at systemic change to allow new perspectives and perspectives to be heard. We must embrace intergenerational collaboration.
Young people have already shown that they have the ideas, spirit, and commitment to bring about the positive changes we collectively need, yet their voices are still not represented in parliaments around the world.
Despite the fact that half of the world’s population is under 30, only 2.6% of parliamentarians worldwide are within this age group.
If this proportion is seen in a year, the views of those under the age of 30 cease to be represented after nine days of the year.
On January 9, we celebrated “Untold Day” in solidarity with the millions of young people around the world who continue to be excluded from political decision-making spaces at a time when the world is facing serious systemic challenges.
Last week, world leaders gathered for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Along with other famous global conventions that are often criticized for being out of touch, Davos is another clear reminder of the need for stronger and more prominent inclusion of young people in spaces. to make a decision.
The age balance in politics is wrong
We know that the public is broadly in favor of more equal political representation for young people. According to joint research, conducted by the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Envoy on Youth and The Body Shoptwo thirds of the people agreed the age balance in politics is wrong.
Many barriers prevent young people from speaking up in their public lives, with our research findings showing that 72% of all people of all ages believe that politicians do not have listen to the youth.
Despite these challenging environments, young people are eager to create lasting change at all levels. Most young people feel positive about the future and are determined to increase their involvement in public life. A third of those under 30 surveyed would consider running for office, compared to only a fifth of those over 30.
People of all age groups tell us that political systems can be improved by giving youth a say in policy. 70% agree that the younger generation will change things for the better–but while young people have the potential, they don’t have the power yet. Change can only happen through generations working together.
New perspectives for radical change
We need to change the way we make decisions. It is important that the decisions we make today are shaped by the people whose lives are most affected by them. This means engaging young people in conversations and political processes–and allowing them to challenge our current systems to create a society fit for the future.
We need to dispel the myths surrounding young people–that they are irresponsible, aloof, troublemakers, or lack the experience to make a real impact.
Even in the most dire of circumstances, from humanitarian crises to the response to COVID-19, we have seen young people rise to the challenge and lead the way. There is no doubt that we need youthful innovation, drive, creativity, and—above all—unwavering optimism that a better world is possible for all.
That’s why we launched Seen, Heard, a campaign to raise the voice of young people in public life around the world. We know it won’t happen overnight, but together, and over time, we can raise awareness, mobilize action and work with governments and young people to promote change.
We’re already seeing the campaign have an impact around the world–and that momentum is growing. Last year, the campaign resulted in 37,000 new young voters registering for the US midterms, and a letter urging amendments to the UK Public Order Bill was recently cited in the House of Lords . Malaysia’s voting age was lowered last year and the right to vote at age 16 is set to be debated in the New Zealand Parliament after support from outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
And we’re just getting started. The purpose of the campaign is to change a legislation or policy, or support programs to improve the participation of young people in public life, in more than 75 countries.
From climate change to economic instability, the world’s problems are too big to keep returning to old solutions. Young people are energetic, thoughtful, and positive about the future–and the broader public clearly trusts their views on today’s big issues.
When generations of all ages come together, we can reach more youth voices in politics around the world, every day.
David Boynton is the CEO of The Body Shop. Marija Vasileva-Blazev is the special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General’s envoy on youth..
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