As a new generation of ‘digital natives’ – 15 to 24 year olds with five or more years of experience of using the Internet – emerges, and we advance further into the 21st century, new and invigorated ways of thinking about leadership and youth are necessary to tackle the full spectrum of global social, political, and economic issues.
Today, youth play a crucial and active role in building local and international communities, promoting accountability, and developing new visions for policy making at both the national and international level. Building the capacity for involvement in international decision making for this generation is perhaps one of the greatest challenges, but also one of the most important.
Youth Engagement: Challenges and opportunities
There is an increasing acknowledgement of the multidimensional nature of both the problems faced by, and solutions available to, to young leaders’ participation in international policy making. A significant part of cultivating youth leadership is coming to terms with the multifaceted processes of investing in young people as part of economic, political and social strategies.
There are various opportunities to be harnessed in supporting renewed visions for youth participation in international policy making. Youth participation in decision making is vital if young leaders are to be actively involved in shaping the worlds future. The question remains though; do young people have access to the required support and technology in order to take full advantage of these opportunities?
A Platform for Youth to have their say
There are divergent opinions regarding young people’s place within international policy making. While critics have often delineated the youth as ‘all talk and no action’ in their endeavors to participate in decision making, others share a more optimistic view asserting that today’s young activists are more committed than ever to engage in a crucial role both inside and outside of formal politics.
ITU is committed to ensuring that global youth participate in decisions that affect their lives. How? By inviting young people from around the world to contribute to drafting a youth policy document that will be presented to Member States at the upcoming ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-14), which will take place from 20 October to 07 November in Busan.
Under the banner #PP14Youth the global online consultation invites young people to crowdsource ideas on how ICTs can be used as a tool for empowerment and what ITU can do to make this a reality. As a space for international collaboration, the initiative enables global youth to participate in policy drafting and formulation by commenting on and editing the document on a specialized interactive online platform. It presents an opportunity for open dialogue on governance processes, allowing the online community to see the evolution and process of writing a policy document. Most importantly, it acts as an international online podium where youth can voice their opinions to government leaders.
It is important to understand how youth can positively affect the political process and how this involvement can be supported by a variety of stakeholders. In both developed and developing countries, the needs and aspirations of young people are still largely neglected. Through ICTs, ITU is encouraging young people to innovate, create and participate on the international stage.
To learn more about this and other ITU work for the youth see: www.itu.int/youth
Sharon Anderes is part of the moderation team of the #PP14Youth initiative. She is currently completing a MA in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Geneva and holds a B.Soc.Sci in Journalism and Media Studies as well as Political Science and International Relations from Rhodes University. She is originally from South Africa and has worked as a journalist in the USA and Argentina.