Richard Dzikunu is an Accountability Advocate at Restless Development, based in Ghana. Fiammetta Wegner is the Networks and Capacity Building Officer at Restless Development, based in London. In this post, they make the case for young people leading the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
We are very inspired by the ambitious goals of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Among other things, they pledge to ensure that more governments become transparent, accountable, and responsive to their citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance and the quality of services that citizens receive. According to OGP, this will require a shift in norms and culture to ensure genuine dialogue and collaboration between governments and civil society.
How can we make sure that these goals are actually achieved? One way is to ensure the active participation of young people.
Despite the fact that there are 1.8 billion young people in the world right now, we are often poorly represented and not included in global decision-making processes. Lack of youth participation should not be mistaken for apathy. There is great enthusiasm among our peers both at the national and global levels who are seeking innovative, practical and sustainable solutions to the world’s’ most pressing issues.
This year we had the chance to participate in the Open Government Partnership summit in Mexico and meet a small, but rather passionate, number of those young advocates who are running some amazing projects that contribute greatly to the objectives of OGP. In our session on youth-led accountability for instance, we discussed initiatives that are tracking environmental issues and service delivery, the use of alternative media, such as comics, to reach and inform people in remote communities and projects aimed at building the capacity of young people to hold their governments accountable.
To us, this enthusiasm shows that young people are ready to take up a leadership role and be partners with OGP in the creation of a more sustainable, transparent, accountable and responsive society.
However, the spaces available for young people to speak up and participate in decision-making, from local to global levels, are very restricted and in some countries they are shrinking. At the same time, when young people are engaged there is often too much space for manipulation and tokenism. That’s why following the Summit, Restless Development is collaborating with the OGP to mainstream youth inclusion in their work.
Our attendance at the Global Summit in Mexico was an example of how this could work in practice and we are excited to build on this at the next meeting spaces and make our impact is even larger.
In the next couple of months, we are also developing an Open Gov Guide to highlight practical, measurable, specific and actionable steps that governments and Civil Society Organisations can take to engage young people meaningfully. We will develop this guide in collaboration with the advocates we met at the OGP Summit as well as the young people in our networks.
With more young people we can make more impact in the OGP and we are eager to keep pushing for this. Collaborating with the OGP to ensure that youth voices are included in governance processes, we believe, will help us achieve the ambitious goal of inclusive and transparent governance for all.