In August, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) celebrated International Youth Day (IYD) with young people from around the world. This year’s theme was “intergenerational solidarity,” and IFES’ events and social media campaign underscored the impact young people have in bringing generations together to solve global challenges. IFES continues to engage diverse populations of young advocates to advance their advocacy efforts, such as through the Inclusive Digital Advocacy Toolkit, which promotes inclusive and collaborative strategies for ensuring all voices are represented in advocacy efforts.
But as Melya Wardhani, IFES’ Indonesia Program Officer, said at the Indonesia Youth Foundation’s Bali International Student Festival, there is still work to be done! Melya shared that the key barriers to young people’s equal participation across decision-making processes include a lack of safe spaces, a lack of support, and limited funds to engage. She emphasized the importance of partnering with young people to ensure community initiatives are responsive and reflective of young people’s concerns and meaningfully engage them as drivers of change.
Youth-Led Intergenerational Advocacy
IFES is thrilled to be a core member of the Summit for Democracy Youth Political and Civic Engagement Cohort and proud to have Jean Costedoat-Misossec, European Commission Program Officer, involved in this year’s annual IYD event. Jean shared information about how young people could get involved in the Cohort and emphasized the importance of working with young people and allies across generations to advocate for new and effective implementation of existing commitments made by countries.
The event, emceed by IFES Guyana Senior Program Officer Danielle Anthony, provided a prominent stage on which to share stories of how young people have worked with allies to create change in their communities. Khimananda Devkota, General Secretary of Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON), shared that his organization advocated with the Election Commission of Nepal to operationalize the constitutional provision enabling Nepalis who are 18 years old prior to Election Day to vote. Previously, young people who turned 18 after the voter registration deadline were unable to vote in the elections. As a result of AYON’s advocacy, and with the introduction of this policy, over 200,000 young people will have the opportunity to register and vote in the 2022 elections.
Echoing the theme of the discussion, Brigitte Chelebian, Founder and Director of Justice Without Frontiers (JWF), explained that building intersectional coalitions has proved a useful and inclusive tool for action. “Being with different organizations and working on different issues was very important because each organization brings different experiences, targeted groups, and knowledge,” Chelebian said about her experience working with intersectional coalitions. Chelebian and Nadia Badran, Executive Director of Society for Inclusion and Development in Communities and Care for All (SIDC), spoke about how they organized a coalition with over 25 civil society organizations in Lebanon. The coalition drafted a joint policy platform advocating for inclusive governance, rights-based legal frameworks and reform, inclusive education, social justice for workers, and political rights. Badran explained that the coalition furthered its advocacy efforts in the priority areas identified in the policy platform while ensuring inclusivity and intersectionality remained central to their efforts.
In closing the event, IFES Youth Engagement Program Officer Sarah Timreck shared three ‘calls to action’ that young leaders can do right now: 1) to build an advocacy network, 2) to engage diverse groups of people in advocacy work, and 3) to determine the “why” and “how” when initiating advocacy efforts. She urged the audience to continue their advocacy through the global Year of Action, generating sustainable change and creating a world for all ages.
IFES recognizes and celebrates the work young advocates and leaders do to create sustainable, inclusive, and resilient democracies for all and the challenges young people often face. We encourage you to follow @IFESYouth on Twitter to learn more about IFES’ youth engagement programming and the young leaders with whom IFES partners.