Children and young people: ‘Let us participate in the issues which affect us’
Participation in decision-making processes, quality education, internet access and climate change make up the chief concerns for children and young people throughout Africa and Europe.
Those are the views of young people revealed in a major study put together by children’s charity UNICEF, the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU)
Almost half of all young people polled feel excluded from political decision-making processes that affect their lives, the poll findings show. While an overwhelming majority of the polled young people (91 per cent) would like to have more say in the political decisions that shape their lives, 48 per cent feel completely left out. The main obstacle they cite (59 per cent) is lack of access to policymakers.
The findings are included in the report #YourVoiceYourFuture, a joint effort between the AU, EU and UNICEF that brings together results and recommendations from four U-Report polls across Africa and Europe. Altogether, 450,000 young people between 14 and 35 years old voiced their views on key topics that affect their future and are relevant to the partnership between Africa and Europe.
‘We must engage and empower youth to be involved’
“Young people have a rightful seat at the decision-making table. They are the agents of change who with us build today a better tomorrow. We need to hear from them, but that is not all we must do. We must engage and empower youth to be involved in decisions affecting their lives,” said Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships.
Young people may feel let down by traditional politics, but they are finding alternative ways to engage with and mobilise their peers. A large majority (88 per cent) say they feel responsible for tackling climate change, while 71 per cent actually want to play a role in the green transition. Some 65 per cent of respondents say they are active within a youth network or organisation in their community.
The #YourVoiceYourFuture report covers U-Report poll results and recommendations on the topics of climate change and the green transition; digital transformation and social infrastructure; education, skills and decent jobs, and; governance, peace and security.
Key findings include:
- 59 per cent of the young people polled identified a lack of access to policymakers as the biggest barrier to their involvement in decision making, with some (17 per cent) citing a lack of support for those in power.
- Young people find inadequate funding for education (43 per cent) and its poor quality (17 per cent) to be big barriers to reimagining a better future for them.
- 75 per cent of young people face barriers to accessing the internet. The main limiting factors are the high cost of data (38 per cent), inability to afford internet devices (29 per cent), and the lack of electricity (40 per cent).
- The biggest climate change related change that young people have observed in their surroundings was identified by 48 per cent as reduced food production or availability.
“In the midst of all the challenges being faced in the advent of the ‘new normal’, few things have remained constant – the unwavering resilience, energy and ingenuity of young people across the world. Now more than ever, it is clear that young people are integral to the recovery, progress and sustainability of this world,” said Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Sciences and Technology.
‘When children and young people speak, the world should listen’
Children and young people have a right to be heard on the issues that affect their lives, whether education or climate change. With the #YourVoiceYourFuture campaign and the four U-Report polls, the European Union and the African Union joined forces to explore new ways to engage with young people, to inform policy making, create interest around youth issues, and bring young people and decision makers closer together on both continents.
“When children and young people speak, the world should listen,” added Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Whether their countries are rich or poor, at war or in peace, their demands are the same: A better say in decisions affecting them, a heathier planet, and better opportunities. At a time when so many hopes have been dashed due to a raging pandemic and rising poverty, this is not too much to ask.”
The results of the campaign will inform the agenda of the Africa-Europe Youth Summit 2021, and ultimately feed into the next AU-EU Summit of Heads of States and Governments.