17 Oct 2013
A GROUP OF YOUNG UN VOLUNTEERS IN PERU. (PHOTO: WIN BOUDEN/UNDP PERU)
Latin America and the Caribbean has around 156 million people between the ages of 15 to 29, which means that 26 percent of its population is young. However, only 1.63 percent of deputies and senators in 25 parliaments in the region are 30 years old or younger, according to a recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) assessment. More worrying still is the fact that women still lag behind: among the few young parliamentarians just 32 percent are women.
Having so many young people is an opportunity for any region. But in the case of Latin America, this demographic advantage coexists with unequal opportunities for its youth, which is reflected in low voter turnout among young people and a political representation crisis that feeds the recent social mobilizations. This confirms the need to boost efforts to meet young Latin Americans' demands and needs, and to recognize their capabilities and roles in promoting democratic change.
In this context, more than 22 young parliamentarians from 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean signed a pact to expand political participation of the youth of the region during a recent meeting in Brasilia, organized by UNDP, Brazil’s National Youth Secretary and the Ibero-American Youth Organization, with the support of the Spanish Cooperation Agency. These leaders pledged to create a regional network of young parliamentarians to promote youth political participation, including youth quotas and public policies targeting young Latin Americans, among other measures.
Brasilia’s "Youth and political participation in public decision making" forum, along with several other events that have taken place this year, are part of the process to build a "Development and Social Investment Agenda for Youth in Latin America", which will be consolidated into a policy-guidance document to be presented at the XXIII Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held this week in Panama City between 18 and 19 October.
These are important steps to forge urgent social and political transformations, which can only be achieved with the active and determined participation of young people in the region’s democratic life.
Talk to us: What steps can be taken to boost young people’s participation in politics?