Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) is a pan African youth organization based in Abuja, Nigeria, marks the International day of democracy with special focus on “Engaging Youth in Democracy”.
In a statement issued by the Executive Director, Samson Itodo, engaging Youth in democracy breaks down the concept of popular participation by distinctly assessing the level of political participation of young people and the opportunities accessible to Youth in Africa.
Itodo stated that inline with resolution by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate democracy, countries of the world are reminded of a system that focuses on the people as there is no single model for democracy in the world.
“Democracy is universal and has its foundation in the collective will of the people. With the youth at the heart of this year’s commemoration, the emphasis on democracy is expanded beyond promoting democratic government to actualizing the institutionalization of democracy in countries. This presupposes identifying country specific democratic deficits and challenges especially in realizing popular participation through active citizens’ engagement, political, socio-economic and cultural development and credible, free and fair elections.
Read statement below…
Democracy as Political Culture
Culture reflects the way of living of a group of people as dictated by their environment and common practices. Several instruments on democracy and elections reaffirm the people as the bedrock of the governmental power and authority, and extracts countries commitment to the realization of democratic principles. The principle of justice and equity presupposes that a democratic government will provide a system were all citizens have equitable access to governance and their voices reflected in political decisions. Political culture is largely built on common practices. In other words, engaging youth in democracy becomes a political culture where legal frameworks and governmental decisions promote youth political participation. It is no longer an issue of deficit in instruments and laws but cohesive national and regional efforts to build a legal structure that does not enable socio-political inequalities. Youth issues will remain comatose and just bare words on paper if state institutions resist the need for conscious efforts targeted at promoting youth participation. A culture where political appointments in successive governments lack significant youth representation and a party system that shuts young people from emerging as party candidates is not only antithetical to democratic ethos but unsustainable.
Young people, by all means constitute a ‘non-negligible’ social category with the power to provoke a democratic culture that ensures intergenerational equity. Undoubtedly, the youth voice is an authority capable of influencing political decisions in all level of democratic governance. THIS VOICE NEEDS TO BE HEARD.
Democracy as political participation
In simple terms, political participation summarizes the concept of democracy. A culture of a retarded system of master-slave emerges where the effort to promote participation is played to the whims and caprices of a few political elite. This is evidently exemplified by political parties who would rather engage the youth as ‘chorus singers’ than as policy makers or decision takers or party candidates. No doubt this breeds a sense of entitlement in young people who tend to believe that being mercenaries for the political class is a sacrifice in so doing shift loyalty to individuals rather than the State.
The vacuum created by the absence of adequate youth representation in government is an easy trigger for conflict and violence. The Nigerian Youth Agenda on Political Participation highlights key areas of focus to guarantee the right of the youth to political participation. Some include; The issues of the existing legal framework and Youth Affirmative Action in political parties an elective position. The launch of the Youth agenda has without doubt an affirmation of the theme of the 2014 International Democracy Day commemoration.
As the world celebrates the International Democracy Day;
- We call on young people to improve their capacity in engaging democratic governance issues and institutions through robust civic education, social networking and pro-democracy extracurricular activities;
- Young people SHOULD make effort to join political parties of their choice. Whilst we encourage political party membership we also reiterate the need for such decision to be based on ideological proclivity;
- We are concerned with the growing level of armed conflicts, violence and insurgency in Nigeria and by extension the African continent. We reckon that Youth alienation is one major trigger of political instability that’s why we call on all actors to make conscious efforts to mainstream young people in decision making process. ENGAGE YOUTH, ENTRENCH DEMOCRACY, REDUCE POLITICAL INSTABILITY
- We urge all critical stakeholders (state and non state actor) in the democratic process to move beyond policies and laws to the defense and promotion of inclusion as a democratic principle;
- We call on all governments to respect the rule of law and the principles of constitutionalism. Emphatically, we urge governments to defend the normative frameworks contained in regional instruments that promote democracy and governance e.g. African Youth Charter, African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
- We urge international development partners to support more democracy programs that enhance the capacity of young people to engage democratic processes and institutions. Such support should also focus on building the core institutional capacities of youth-led organizations.
YIAGA focuses on promoting democratic governance, human rights and youth political participation through public policy advocacy, research and capacity development. For more info: [email protected], Tel: +234 8060763786, 8169401359, Twitter @YIAGA Website: www.yiaga.org