Politics needs to “Youth UP” in order the ensure the future of our democracies

European_Youth___ForumThe European Youth Forum and the League of Young Voters will today launch a new campaign, Youth UP, in order to help create a more inclusive politics and to combat the political inequality and marginalisation that young people face. 

To coincide with today’s launch Youth UP has published in-depth research, Young People and Democratic Life in Europe, which illustrates that young people – far from being “disengaged” with politics – do care deeply about politics, but that there is a need to look beyond elections and voter turnout when looking at youth participation. There is a problem with youth participation, the study reveals, but this problem is to do with outdated institutional politics.

There is a strong interest among young people in the politics of issues and causes. Whilst the report shows that they may not vote[1], they do however have a strong interest in the politics of organising, mobilising and contesting power from the outside; for example, they are more likely to sign an online petition or join protest movements.

The study also shows that young people are seriously underrepresented in the traditional structures of institutional politics (with only 0.5 per cent of parliamentarians in Europe are under the age of 30). Only 5 per cent of 18-30 year olds took part in activities of political parties in the last year. Only 14.5 per cent of young people (from the EU) believed that it likely that they would stand as a candidate in an election sometime in the future.

Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, comments:

“This new study totally debunks the myth of young people’s apathy when it comes to politics. We do care about politics, and this is evidenced by new emerging forms of political activism. This should be a wake-up call for our politicians. If a significant proportion of our young people are excluded from democracy, then we are not living in a true democracy, levels of distrust in the system will increase and traditional politics risks becoming increasingly anachronistic and illegitimate. Youth organisations are key to engaging young people in civic and political life, but they need to have stable, sufficient support in order to continue to do this.”

The study goes on to make a series of recommendations in order that traditional politics can respond to the changing face of young people’s participation, including:

  • Political literacy and critical thinking skills should be learnt through partnerships between schools and youth organisations, in joint programmes that are part of the curricula and that foster a democratic culture;
  • There should be more decision and policy making that truly involves young people and gives them equal decision making power;
  • The voting age should be lowered to 16 in all elections.

The new campaign, Youth UP, aims to open up a Europe-wide debate on the best ways to “youth UP” politics. Youth UP will also crowd-source examples of different forms of youth participation and civic engagement from across Europe, to truly empower young people and help spread successful grassroots movements that are already underway.

Today’s event, co-hosted by UK MEPs from across the political groups (Catherine Bearder (ALDE), Richard Corbett (S&D) and Jean Lambert (Greens)), will include a discussion on what can be done to re-engage young people in politics and how political institutions can regain the trust of young people. This will be followed by a debate on giving the vote to 16 year-olds in the United Kingdom’s referendum on EU membership.

The Youth Forum is calling on young people and youth organisations to submit their ideas, campaigns, and events to co-create its crowd-sourced campaign, Youth UP, or to sign up for further information: http://www.youthup.eu/

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