The exclusion of young people from politics and decision-making based on age has resulted in a fractured relationship between political activists and politicians across generations. Age discrimination stigmatizes all young people, especially those of diverse identities and backgrounds, with negative stereotypes and facilitates their exclusion from both formal and informal political spaces. Additionally, decision-making power and leadership continue to be associated with older males. Young women and young people of diverse identities and backgrounds face additional barriers to participation and lack advocates and role models in leadership and decision-making positions. Under a recently launched youth campaign, NDI is taking a closer look at the importance of solidarity across generations.
In November 2021, NDI, in partnership with Disabled Peoples’ International and the Arab Forum for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, gathered a cross-generational group of civil society actors with disabilities to examine youth inclusion and participation within the global disability rights movement. During the event, Solidarity Across the Disability Rights Movement, participants discussed the history of youth activism for disability rights; and how to engender collaborative relationships between generations within the disability movement moving forward. The roundtable spotlighted the challenges young people with disabilities face when they try to exercise their agency and leadership, such as a lack of accessible information about decision-making or the direction of the movement and difficulty engaging with older, established DPO leaders. Participants highlighted the fact that full inclusion means recognizing and addressing these barriers and differences to ensure the disability movement moves forward without leaving anyone behind.
This roundtable is the first in a series of discussions that are part of NDI’s Speak Youth to Power campaign, which aims to put youth voices at the forefront and nurture intergenerational political collaboration. Through this campaign, NDI launched the Solidarity Across Generations initiative, which recognizes that intergenerational political collaboration is a key component of creating an inclusive, enabling environment for youth political participation.
Intergenerational political collaboration is an essential dimension of changing social norms and sharing decision-making power. Young people are coming of age in a very different world than older generations and intergenerational collaboration is a necessary part of meeting the world’s most intractable challenges, such as economic inequality, environmental degradation, and polarization. When young people are included, their ideas, imagination, and lived experiences can be valuable resources to achieving sustainable development solutions. As a result, collaboration across generations can yield positive-sum outcomes for the young and old alike. Older, more established and influential political leaders have a responsibility to create spaces that are intergenerational and sustainable beyond the career of a single person or a single initiative. They control access to decision-making spaces, political institutions, and historical knowledge; and they play an important role in supporting the activism of more marginalized young people who have less access to these resources. Thus, NDI is asking older, established leaders to act in solidarity with young people and pledge to foster intergenerational collaboration through four key commitments.
The commitments stem from a global dialogue celebrating Youth Day 2021 that NDI hosted featuring two young leaders, Rye Manuzon from the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders and Lourdes “Lu” Argueta from the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, as well as two older, established leaders, Ambassador Maria Leissner, a former party leader and Member of Parliament for the Swedish Liberal Party, and the Honorable Alexander Cummings, leader of Liberia’s Alternative National Congress. The four panelists discussed how to engender partnerships across generations and generated recommendations on key aspects of forming intergenerational partnerships. As the dialogue wrapped up, the focus shifted towards answering the question “what now?”. The panelists encouraged older political leaders to make specific commitments that support intergenerational collaboration and stand in solidarity with young people. NDI also hosted country-level dialogues in Nepal, Taiwan, Guinea, Ukraine, Nigeria, Ecuador, Malawi, and Albania. The recommendations that came out of the global and in-country dialogues, as well as the first youth in-focus roundtable, largely fit into four commitments that young people want to see from older generations:
- I commit to listening to and learning from young people, particularly young women and young people of diverse identities and backgrounds, to better understand their needs, interests, and values.
- I commit to acknowledging and addressing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that exclude young people, particularly young women and young people of diverse identities and backgrounds, from participating in politics.
- I commit to fostering decision-making spaces that are intergenerational, gender-balanced, and inclusive of diverse voices and perspectives.
- I commit to prioritizing the involvement of young people, particularly young women and young people of diverse identities and backgrounds, in decisions affecting their political, economic and social welfare.
Solidarity Across Generations is the beginning of a global conversation around the importance of bolstering intergenerational communication and collaboration as part of efforts to secure young people’s right to leadership and participation in decision-making that impacts their lives.
Author: Donovan Bendana, Citizen Participation & Inclusion Program Associate
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.