Parliamentarians and youth leaders push for greater political participation by Latin American youth

08 Oct 2013

imageRebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator, together with youth participants at the forum

Brasilia – More than 22 parliamentarians from 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries met last week in Brasilia to step up efforts aimed at enhancing political participation by the region's youth. The forum, “Youth and political participation in decision-making” took place on 1-3 October in Brasilia and brought together political leaders and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica, to Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay, not to mention young men and women from the region.

One of the regional meeting’s main objectives was to promote the exchange of legislative initiatives and experiences that would serve to identify progress made in boosting youth political participation in Latin America.

“Political parties should be injected with fresh blood which would then lead to enhanced participation," said Rebeca Grynspan, Associate Administrator for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). "It is equally important to discuss how to finance various initiatives that would promote citizen's participation, and not simply participation by the political parties alone."

Both Gilberto Carvalho, Secretary-General of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil, and Grynspan participated in a panel discussion on "The current situation and development-related challenges vis-à-vis the youth”. Different opinions were expressed during the discussion, including those of two youth leaders, Igor Bonan (Brazil) and Nicol Garrido (Chile). This was held in collaboration with JuventudConVoz, an online portal fostering youth participation in politics in Latin America – a portal that is sponsored by UNDP and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.

Carvalho stressed that it was vital to create a favorable environment to boost youth participation whil, at the same time, doing away with "the current perverse system in this country, a system under which a young person can no longer be a parliamentarian if he or she does not have the ‘necessary’ financial resource - or a system where they require the financial support of the business community and will therefore feel indebted to it in the future. This is exactly what alienates the youth from politics – or forces them to adopt the system’s old, diehard practices”.

"The question of enhanced youth political participation is not the only issue at stake, but the type of development model to be embraced,” said Colombia's senator Camilo Romero, who shared experiences from his country with more than 20 young parliamentarians and youth leaders from the region.

According to the Ibero-American Youth Organisation (OIJ), who sponsored the event together with UNDP and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, 1.65% of all parliamentarians worldwide are around 20 years of age -11.87% of which are in their thirties.

The forum in Brasilia is just one of a series of similar meetings organized this year as part of a process to build an "Agenda for Development and Social Involvement to benefit Latin American youth.” This Agenda will serve as a point of reference for public policies, with an emphasis on social involvement and youth participation.

Following the meeting in Brasilia, the documents that were discussed will be presented at the XXIII Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Panama City on October 18th and 19th.

"Such debate is very important to the region, especially at this point in time where several countries are experiencing a significant increase in street protests,” stated Heraldo Muñoz from UN headquarters in New York - UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Such movements are telling us that the youth not only want to have their voice heard, but also take an active role in the development of our societies. Formal spaces must be provided so that demonstrations do not become the most effective means of making one’s voice heard." 

There are approximately 156 million people between 15 and 29 years of age who live in Latin America and the Caribbean - representing 26% of the region’s total population.