Geneva: On 30 June, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and its Member Parliaments will mark the International Day of Parliamentarism with a number of events focusing on youth empowerment following the recent launch of the IPU campaign
Although relatively untouched by the disease itself, young people have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in other ways, with limited access to education, reduced employment prospects and a surge in mental health problems. Measures put in place during the pandemic have not always been youth-friendly, leading to political disaffection or at best political apathy in some young people, which can weaken trust in democratic institutions.
Before the pandemic, the IPU regularly highlighted the shortfall in young people’s political representation, with only 2.6 per cent of MPs in the world under the age of 30 according to the latest IPU data. More than half the world’s population is estimated to be under the age of 30.
The IPU campaign is designed to help address this gap by mobilizing parliamentarians and leaders of all ages to take action to rejuvenate their parliaments.
The cornerstones of the I Say Yes to Youth in Parliament! campaign are six pledges identified by young MPs as the most effective ways of empowering aspiring young parliamentarians. The pledges include—
- Promoting youth quotas
- Aligning the eligibility age to run for office with the voting age
- Organizing mentorship programmes between less and more experienced politicians.
Just over ten years ago, the IPU’s Member Parliaments adopted a landmark resolution on youth participation in the democratic process. The resolution led to the creation of the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians, the premier global body for the world’s youngest MPs. It also marked the beginning of the IPU’s research drive to collect data and information on youth participation in parliaments to measure progress.
In 2018, the IPU became the first international organization to introduce incentives to encourage more young parliamentarians to attend its meetings. For example, parliamentary delegations who bring young MPs to IPU Assemblies receive extra speaking time.
The 2021 International Day of Parliamentarism is an opportunity to draw attention to this work and to reengage IPU Members and young people with politics through the I Say Yes to Youth in Parliament! campaign.
IPU Member Parliaments around the world will celebrate the day with a series of events and initiatives. Several Parliaments will be promoting youth empowerment and launching the campaign in their own country, including Austria, Ecuador, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
On the day itself, the UN Chamber Music Society will hold a virtual concert Empowering youth in a time of pandemic at 09:00 (EST), available on YouTube and UN Web TV.
The New Zealand Parliament also recently launched a new initiative for young people to become involved in politics. The Change Makers’ Prize is a competition to inspire young people across New Zealand to voice their opinion on an issue that affects them or their community.
The Parliament of Uzbekistan is promoting the IPU’s youth campaign following the visit last week of the IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong. The President of Uzbekistan is expected to take the youth campaign pledge and address the nation on 30 June, which also corresponds to Youth Day in the country.
The International Day of Parliamentarism also marks the anniversary of the foundation of the IPU in Paris on 30 June 1889. Since that first meeting of a small group of parliamentarians from just nine countries, the IPU has grown into the global organization of national parliaments.
Watch 7 things you might not know about parliaments
The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 179 national Member Parliaments and 13 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced and more diverse. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world.
Twice a year, the IPU convenes over 1,500 parliamentary delegates and partners in a world assembly, bringing a parliamentary dimension to global governance, including the work of the United Nations and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.