September 15, 2014 marked the 7th International Day of Democracy. This years’ theme, Engaging Young People on Democracy, focuses on the challenges and opportunities young people face in engaging in democratic processes. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called young people to contribute to building stronger democratic societies. He stated “I call on members of the largest generation of youth in history to confront challenges and consider what you can do to resolve them. To take control of your destiny and translate your dreams into a better future for all.”
Youth, ages 15-24, make up 20% of the world’s population and thus have immense power to positively affect democracy both locally and globally. Recognizing the difference that young people can make for the realization of participatory local democracy, The Hunger Project has made youth empowerment one of its 2014 advocacy initiatives. THP works in low and middle-income countries where there is a large concentration of young people. In particular, our Epicenter strategy plays a major role in educating, empowering and providing resources for women and young people to overcome poverty and become active citizens in local democracy and decision-making.
Findings from THP’s 2014 State of Participatory Democracy Report, which will be launched on September 23, 2014, reflect the assertion that local democracy must include a youth voice. Democratic countries which have an inclusive system for women and young people to take part in local decision-making rank higher in the Participatory Local Democracy Index (PLDI).
It is imperative that all nations and development actors consider the role of young people in the democracy process. For example, increased attention should be given to informal, youth-led movements for democratic change, as many – like Arab Spring – have proven to be effective. To echo the UN Secretary General, we call for “young people everywhere to lead a major push for inclusive democracy around the world.”