The United Nations defines youth as those in the 15-24 age group. This age group makes up about one-fifth -- approximately 1 billion -- of the world population (World Population Prospects, 2006). Almost 85 percent of youth is concentrated in developing countries. Around 60 percent of them live in Asia.
The percentage of the youth population differs from country to country. For example, according to the “Overview: Youth in East Asia and Pacific”, in Cambodia and Laos around 63 percent of the population is under the age of 24, in the Philippines around 30%, to Singapore where it is around 19%.
Critical for developing countries is tapping the large numbers of young people for development as human capital. Recognizing the same, international development partners, like the World Bank, have issued a call to invest more on young people, to ensure the realization of their potentials, and their participation in governance.
Participation of young people in developing their countries is recognized by public international law, i.e. the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its value is well established. For example in “Youth Participation: Toolkit- Get Youth on Board” by GTZ (2008), “youth participation presents the opportunity of appreciating democracy, responsibility and ownership.” Specifically:
- Political participation in adulthood is largely determined by participation in youth. Young people who learn early to deal with democratic values later, as active citizens, contribute in building more stable and peaceful countries.
- Young people also provide fresh ideas and enthusiasm, providing critique for conventional ways of thinking and creating new perspectives on decision making.
- Youth participation on issues concerning them improves the effectiveness and sustainability of development program.
- Young people develop ownership of programs and take responsibility.
While the youth or the young citizens have high stakes in the development concerns of their country, their “participation in the life of society and in decision making remains low” as identified by both reports of the World Bank and UNDP. Youth participation at most is tokenism (see Levels of Participation, adapted from Hart, R.A.).
Furthermore, according to the World Bank Report, most policymakers know that their young people will greatly influence their national social and economic fortunes, but nonetheless face acute dilemmas in how to invest more effectively in their youth.
As a consequence of the apparent failure of governments, young people share “a strong perception that the public system is not fair and fails to address their concerns” (The World Bank in East Asia and Pacific Report 2007), leading to young people’s low-to-zero interest on and detachment from politics and governance.
It is in the understanding of this context that the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) develops and integrates youth program in its overall strategy to link citizens, young people, and their governments through social accountability.
ANSA EAP is giving a special attention to the youth as the main source of future leaders, advocates and reform workers for SAc. ANSA-EAP finds it most strategic to work with youth and draw them into SAc practices.
As it is, the window of opportunity to inculcate in the young the value of participation, transparency, active engagement and other good governance ways of thinking and doing is short. ANSA-EAP is investing in the younger generation with hopes of strengthening the probability of sustaining the immediacy and relevance as well as the mainstreaming of social accountability.
Social Accountability Framing for Youth Engagement
Social Accountability provides a frame, space, and opportunity for young people to constructively engage their governments and reach out to and network with their fellow youth and more seasoned SAc practitioners.
Emphasizing the value of youth participation on young people, governments, and older generation of development workers is the first order of business. For young people, bringing government closer and making governance more interesting, real, relevant are primal considerations.
For governments, providing a frame where they can constructively engage with young people is the value-added of social accountability. For more senior development workers, ensuring the sustainability and growth of development initiatives through knowledge transfer and capacity building to young people is a moral and developmental obligation.
The ANSA-EAP Youth Program aspires to tickle the imagination of young people and generate attention and interest for social accountability among governments by building knowledge and a case for government and youth engagement in SAc.
ANSA-EAP Youth will provide the necessary capability, tools, and techniques for interested young people and governments to engage each other using social accountability; a facility to learn together and learn more.
Geographic and Thematic Focus
The ANSA-EAP Youth program operates within the geographic and thematic focus of ANSA-EAP.
To maximize the established network and to ensure support and sustainability, the youth program will focus in the 4 priority countries of ANSA-EAP: Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Mongolia. The ANSA-EAP Strategy Paper sets out the criteria used in choosing and the characteristics of the 4 priority countries.
ANSA-EAP has 4 thematic focuses. The youth may be directly or indirectly involved in all of these. Service delivery, particularly in the field of education, which is the top concern of young people, is the primary strategic focus.
Way of Working
ANSA-EAP Youth’s way of working is driven by ANSA-EAP’s: (1) Networking of Network; (2) Learning-in-action; and (3) knowledge generation and distillation. Furthermore, the youth program’s way of working is considerate of the characteristics of young people (adventurous, social, innovative, technology-savvy, pre-occupied). Thus, youthful flavour is added in our way of working.
Youth Social Networking Portal
www.ansa-eapyouth.ning.com is an online social networking platform and sharing of ideas of the Youth Program. It is a gathering of young learners, promoters and partners of social accountability. It facilitates sharing of ideas, stories, tools, and other resources to make young citizens a vital contributor to good governance.
Get updated with youth activities and available youth resources on social accountability by visiting the youth social networking portal.
Photo courtesy of J. Ibarra Angeles (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License)