Enhancing Youth Political Participation Throughout the Electoral Cycle – A Good Practice Guide

Authors

Anna Lührmann

Abstract

Even though people below age 25 constitute more than half the population in many developing countries, young people participate less than older citizens in most formal political processes, such as elections. This challenges the representativeness of the political system and leads to the disenfranchisement of young citizens. It can also reinforce stereotypes that treat young people as disinterested in political issues, as objects of social policy or as troublemakers. Debates about youth political participation have therefore centered mainly on motivating youth to vote and preventing youth groups from resorting to political violence.

As an active member of the inter-agency network on Youth and Development, UNDP is currently drafting its first-ever UNDP corporate Youth Strategy, which should be finalized at the end of 2012, under the leadership of the UNDP focal point on youth and Director of the Democratic governance group of the BDP.

This guide marks UNDP’s first comprehensive review of programming strategies for youth political empowerment. It attempts to identify examples of good practices and entry points to enhance youth political participation across the electoral cycle, focusing on innovative instruments with the potential to provide fresh inputs for UNDP programmes and initiatives by other electoral stakeholders.

The guide is based on an extensive desk review of academic and practice-oriented reports, articles and websites on youth political participation from an array of countries. Documents from providers of electoral assistance, including UNDP, IFES and NDI, were consulted, along with knowledge-sharing platforms such as iKNOW Politics, Agora and ACE. Interviews with resource persons helped to shed light on specific good practices. Original calculations and tabulations were made related to voting and eligibility age. A UNDP regional working meeting in Cairo in February 2012 provided valuable input, as did focus group discussions and interviews with Egyptian youth activists and development practitioners. The UNDP/UN-HABITAT Youth 21 global stakeholder meeting in Nairobi in March 2012 helped identify additional good practices, strategies and examples.