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Children, Youth, and Sustainable Political Systems

Civic participation, responsible governance, and respect for human rights are critical to the livelihoods and futures of young people. We work with governments to build societies that work better for young people, while expanding civic participation of children and youth, empowering youth as advocates for better-governed societies, and giving children & youth the foundation to lead.

Engaged, educated, and empowered young people are the foundation of sustainable political systems

Children’s rights – including fundamental rights of education, opportunity, participation, and expression – are fundamental to human rights. Political systems and governing bodies must take always take into account the interests of young people, and make decisions with their voices and futures in mind. Likewise, political instability, the suppression of rights, and ineffective governance pose immense challenges for children and youth today.  The consequences of weak civic and political systems – which can lead to higher rates of crime, corruption, violence, and even armed conflict – bear heavily on children & youth, whose futures depend on working political systems that deliver opportunity and protect the marginalized. 

The IAYG family works with governments to ensure that children’s rights are respected in the public sector and that decision-making processes in governments and political systems fully consider the interests and livelihoods of young people. We provide technical and programmatic support to governments to improve public-sector decision-making around the interests of young people and ensure that youth are prioritized in policy on education, environmental, health, and poverty alleviation.

However, even more critically, children and youth are agents of change in their own right: principal guarantors of sustainable political systems and catalysts of effective governance. The world is young: more than forty percent of the world’s people are under the age of 25. As nearly half of the world’s population – and even more in newly independent and least developed states, which are most susceptible to serious political instability – young people are the most enduring citizens, voters, and political participants in any country. They have an immense and lasting role as active partners in advancing democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law, and the future of their own generation within their societies, and will be tasked with upholding effective governance for decades to come. Realizing the full potential of children & youth as actors in sustainable political systems requires supporting their right to participate, instilling national and democratic values, and educating and equipping them to engage in the societies they are destined to lead. Yet, in many parts of the world, civic education is nearly nonexistent – giving young people little preparation as citizens and participants. Meanwhile, all too often, children & youth have nearly no access to lawmakers and political institutions – even though the decisions they make acutely impact their futures – and few opportunities to make their voice heard. For far too long, children & youth have been treated as populations governed, rather than as part of decision-making processes, participants in civil society, and as actors for accountability and human rights – to the detriment of all people, young and old.

To change this narrative, transforming the role of children & youth in political systems and governance is at the centre of the IAYG family’s worldwide commitment as the champion of young people to participate and engage in a changing world. The IAYG family and its partners – including allied governments, civil society organizations, and other institutions in the humanitarian sectors – exercise expansive leadership in advancing this role, with work across education, organization, and direct mobilization, in programmes that target all ages, in every part of the world. Yet, it will take much more to fully unleash the potential of young people in building better and more sustainable societies – requiring concrete commitments from all parts of society, including governments from local levels up, community leaders, schools and youth-serving institutions, and community-based organizations. Engaging and mobilizing more of these stakeholders, and in more communities, as part of a landmark push to change societal attitudes, expand youth engagement, and redefine the impact of young people in sustainable governance and the rule of law is among the IAYG family’s top priorities in this sector through 2019 and beyond. 

The IAYG family’s leadership in advancing the rights and role of young people in governance and sustainable political systems is based on the Biennial Report on Children & Youth in Governance and Sustainable Political Systems (commonly known as the Youth and Governance White Paper). This document is available to IAYG family affiliates, partners, and practitioners in this field, and is available at no charge upon request. To request a copy, please contact the Office of Transparency and Open Data.

Our Focus

The IAYG family works extensively with national and local governments to expand opportunities for civic engagement for children & youth and build societies that better respect children’s rights. We provide technical and programmatic support to governments in policy sectors related to opportunity and fundamental rights for children & youth.

Furthermore, as delineated in the 2018 Youth and Governance White Paper, the IAYG family’s work advancing the role of young people in governance and sustainable political systems is focused on the following areas:

  • Education for civic engagement: the IAYG family works with governments and public-sector actors to design and implement education strategies that instill understanding of civic processes, rights of participation, and respect for the rule of law based on each national setting – education that provides young people with the critical foundation to engage in their political system.
  • Creating direct pathways for engagement: The IAYG family and civil society partners build avenues for engagement in public policy and governance – especially in areas closest to children’s lives – where there are none, from the community level up. Furthermore, expanding political engagement is the primary mandate for IAYG family organizations like the National Campaign for Youth in Education Policy, a joint-venture with the Global Campaign for Education-United States.
  • Changing societal attitudes: IAYG family organizations and local affiliates work on the ground worldwide to engage societal leaders, community-based organizations, and local governments to educate young people on the importance of societal engagement and directly open opportunities.
  • Mobilizing young people on youth-centred issues: Every day, young people are faced with issues in their society that matter deeply to them. From the work of CYCLE initiatives, to Juvenext-launched programmes, to GIYS-engaged youth, we mobilize movements of young people to engage in these issues and make their voices heard.

Discover some of the IAYG family’s work in children, youth, and governance:

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