At the beginning of the CEPPS Youth Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Cross-Sectoral Initiative in 2020, CEPPS engaged partners, including young leaders, donor representatives, and program practitioners to identify priority topic areas that impact youth political participation and youth engagement across sectors. CEPPS then used the survey results to guide the focus of subsequent meetings. The meetings, which focused on Youth, Peace, and Security; Health and Humanitarian Responses; and Engaging Families and Communities through social and behavior change (SBC), respectively, included diverse participants and speakers to present on topics, provide first-hand accounts, and discuss opportunities to engage young people as leaders through cross-sectoral programming. The following briefs, generated following each event, capture the key challenges and opportunities to increase youth participation across sectors and youth political participation.
Under the USAID Global Elections and Political Transitions (GEPT) award, CEPPS kicked off the Youth DRG CSI with a launch event bringing together practitioners, donors, and young leaders from across the world. This initiative is a forum and learning community for youth development practitioners to explore challenges and opportunities that foster meaningful political participation and leadership by young people.
Young people constitute the majority of the population in conflict-affected countries and are often excluded from peacebuilding efforts and underrepresented in formal political structures. In December 2015, the United Nations Secretary Council officially recognized the positive role of youth in peace and security (YPS) in Security Resolution 2250, which urge states to both consider young people’s political exclusion and increase the representation of youth in all levels of decision-making. This requires analyzing YPS efforts through a democracy, human rights and democracy lens with the understanding that establishing and maintaining peace is inherently political.
Young people are uniquely impacted by health inequities and related threats created by disaster, climate change, and disease outbreaks. The impact of health and humanitarian crises, particularly on young women and people with disabilities, is often overlooked, as is their power to make change and actively contribute to public health initiatives. Likewise, young people are often the target of public health policies and programs, however, they often have limited opportunities to shape these efforts or lack the political knowledge and organizing skills to help ensure successful delivery. Investing in the health and well-being of young people creates benefits across development sectors and enhances support for future generations. When young people are able to express their needs through democratic processes, collaborate with adult decision-makers, play leadership roles in response to humanitarian crises, and organize for just and equitable health sector reforms, sustainable development outcomes are more likely to be achieved.
Social and Behavior Change (SBC) interventions directly confront attitudes and beliefs and help shape social norms that can enhance young people’s participation in public life. For example, programs targeting the behavior of community members who influence youth actions can shift social norms to ensure more inclusive and equitable youth participation and leadership opportunities. A number of actors exert influence over a young person’s life choices, whether negatively or positively, intentionally or unintentionally. Community members, such as parents, peers, coaches, civic leaders, and teachers, can create safe spaces that foster young people’s positive, meaningful participation in public life. These actors can also support opportunities for young people to practice civic and political engagement and play leadership roles in achieving community change across development sectors.