Only together can the power of parliaments and the power of young people build a more just and sustainable world for all generations, says Francis Ametepey.
For as long as I can remember I have been interested in politics and I always wanted to understand how policies were being developed in my home country of Ghana – and crucially, I wanted to know who had the power to be making these policy decisions! I remember feeling frustrated by the world around me and wanting to know why my school had a shortage of books, or why some families had food to eat and others didn’t, or why there was so much rubbish left uncollected on the streets in my community.
Globally today, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up about 1.2 billion of the population. However, many young people are continuously sidelined in decision making processes at national and sub-national levels. In fact, less than 2% of parliamentarians worldwide are under 30.
In 2012, when world leaders were battling with what steps to take after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), I had the opportunity to champion and lead the consultation process feeding into the African Common position paper and the formation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This kickstarted my work championing youth inclusion and engagement in different political and development spaces. It was a turning point for me, from being passionate about politics to actively participating and contributing towards a process that would have the power to change the course of my future, and the future of other young people in Ghana and globally.
The OpenGov Youth Collective, in partnership with the Open Government Partnership, Restless Development and Accountability Lab, released a survey in July this year with the intention to explore how young people perceive parliament and youth participation in parliamentary activities. 385 young people from 50 countries shared their views. Drawing on the results of the survey, I worked with a small drafting team from the Collective to draw out a series of recommendations for strengthening the engagement of young people in parliaments.
These recommendations are a call to action directed at parliaments to collaborate more effectively and openly to ensure policies and political decisions are developed in partnership with youth. Fundamentally, democracy can only be achieved if we ensure the voices of young people – in all our diversity – are represented in institutions that have the power to implement policies and laws affecting our lives. Transparent and inclusive systems that enable young people to participate in decision making should become the norm for parliaments, as we can help to ensure better and stronger policies that will have more sustainable results for communities.
My childhood passion and interest in politics has never left me. I now see it is my role to encourage other young people to care about how political decisions are made and who makes these decisions – to get involved in influencing these decisions and to challenge holders of political power!
You can catch Francis at the OpenGov #DigtialYouthSummit. He will be speaking at the “Pathways to Parliament in Africa” session on October 28th.
Francis is the Youth Speaker of Parliament at Nsawam Adoagyiri Municipality, Ghana. He is a member of the OpenGov Youth Collective of Open Government Partnership. He serves as the Social Media & Communication officer at Youth Advocates Ghana and a member of African Youth SDGs Summit Secretariat. Currently, he is the President of Ghana Students Accountability Network, a student’s movement championing Youth Inclusion and Accountability in sustainable development in Ghana.