How UNDP involves the youth in decision-making processes and policy making in the country?
Hey youngster! Wanna be a change-maker? Go for it!
April 12, 2023
Imagine that you are a young man or woman in your 20s and you live in one of the less developed municipalities in the country. What would be the reason that would encourage you to stay and build the future in your hometown instead of moving to Skopje or to one of the Western European countries?
There is probably no single and simple answer to this question, but one of the possible ones is certainly the feeling of belonging to the community, which depends on whether you actively participate in finding solutions that affect your everyday life or on the future and the development of your community. According to the latest Youth Trends Survey, conducted by the Agency for Youth and Sports in 2022, as many as 77.5 percent of young people believe that they are not properly involved in decision-making processes at the local and national level. But this is probably not the biggest problem. The same survey shows that every third young person in the country has no interest in engaging in the public debate about the social contract. For 37.2 percent of young people, apathy and lack of interest are the main reason for non-involvement in youth organizations and social processes, because they feel that their voice will be lost in the social noise.
These numbers may seem overwhelming, but they certainly don't mean we should "start waving the white flag." On the contrary, this call for help is an incentive for all social factors to include young people, but not only as a statistically necessary quota and not only like-minded people from whom they will receive applause. An open approach is needed that will send sincere welcome greet to the youth originality, rebelliousness, innovativeness, creativity, knowledge and enthusiasm.
There are positive examples, but they should be recognized and replicated. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) works on several processes that include young people, their ideas and visions as an integral part. We are not referring to their involvement solely in youth-related projects but in designing the future in all activities, from local policies and democratic governance to environment and employment.
Damjan Zlatanovski is a young European ambassador whose main interests are the environment, culture and art. One of his favorite topics for discussion with his peers, but also with the adults, is how to achieve greater involvement of young people in society. Damjan is among the hundreds of young people who are directly involved in the creation of the new National Youth Strategy 2023-2027, a process led by the Agency for Youth and Sports while UNDP is among the supporters.
"Giving young people the compass to create their own future provides precise and valuable insights into the challenges we face, brings a fresh perspective in step with the times and effectiveness of the conclusions reached, but also has the function of stimulating self-awareness that as individuals we possess the ability to influence change, inspire and create policy. Participation in the process of creating the National Strategy for Youth, besides sowing a promising future, will also bring fruit by giving a sense of belonging, respect, improving personal development and skills and empowering us, the youth."
Diturim Xheladini is a young man who wants to contribute to improving the quality of life in his hometown. He is the president of the Youth Council in Bogovinje, a municipality in the Polog region with about 23,000 inhabitants. This is one of the ten local governments in the country where Community Forums are taking place these months with a main goal to encourage greater citizen involvement in the decision-making processes at the local level. The forums are part of the "Empowering Municipal Councils" project that UNDP implements with the support of the Swiss government and the Ministry of Local Self-Government. Diturim conveys his impressions from participating in the forum sessions.
"Young people are a numerous advocacy group with great ambitions, with different culture, tradition and different experiences. This has an impact on the discussion, as they can share their unique viewpoints and perspectives, thus helping to achieve the best and most appropriate long-term solutions for the various problems in Bogovinje municipality, especially the problems young people are facing with."
Young people are also involved in the process of creating the National Development Strategy, a comprehensive document that will determine the country's development path in the next 20 years. More than 2,000 citizens participated in the 30 Dream labs organized so far, including a large number of university students, high school students, young entrepreneurs, representatives of associations of persons with disabilities.
We asked Marija Savevska, a person with cerebral palsy and a member of the civic organization "Sozvezdie" and Andrej Mitic, a student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at UKIM, to share their experience from this process.
"As a young woman, I want to invest my potential in my country, instead of trying to find a possibility and conditions to go abroad. A large number of stakeholders are involved in shaping the National Development Strategy, and this gives me hope that our challenges and suggestions will be heard. We need better healthcare, more effective methods and therapies, better understanding of the needs persons with disabilities needs. The Dream labs are a step forward, and we need to achieve the goal together."
"Young people feel marginalized in the development of social life, so these meetings provide an ideal opportunity for their encouragement. Our faculty participated in several Dream labs, presenting proposals and ideas that will further be incorporated into the National Development Strategy. The green agenda must be established as one of the priority goals, because it will influence on our future. It is necessary to increase the use of renewable energy sources and include them in the country’s overall energy production on a much larger scale."
The problem of insufficient youth involvement is not unique to North Macedonia or only to developing countries. Global indicators are not the numbers to aim for. Young people between the ages of 15 and 25 make up a fifth of the world's population, but only 1.65 percent of parliamentarians globally are in their 20s, and 11.87 percent are in their 30s. The age gap is more obvious today than ever before, and technology and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic have only further alienated young people from the system.
Therefore, to address this issue, local action rather than global observation is required. Not just words, but a substantial, effective action that without any prejudice will "shout" the message: Hey youngster! Wanna be a change-maker? Go for it!
This text is published within the framework of the project “Youth 4 Inclusion, Equality and Trust”, implemented by UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO and UN Women and financed by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.