By 2030, young people will constitute up to one-fourth of the global population. Yet, their engagement in governance and decision-making faces significant challenges – threatening the future of healthy democracies. Youth political participation and leadership are critical to a functioning democracy. Strong and inclusive democracies need youth participation, and political leaders must involve youth in democratic decision-making and build partnerships with them.
There exists a crisis of confidence in the governments globally, where young people feel underrepresented and disconnected from policy-making decisions. In Colombia, for instance, 6 out of 10 young people believe that politicians don’t care for their opinions or needs, and 4 out of 10 young people do not vote.
The country is taking steps to empower young citizens by involving their opinions. 12 million young citizens in Colombia can now be part of the system and vote for youth representatives who, like themselves, have different needs under the new post-conflict reality and will continue to be directly affected by a peace-building process that will shape their future.
In March 2018, the Colombian government approved Law 1885, which reformed the Statute of Youth Citizenship. The law creates a political electoral system allowing youth between fourteen and twenty-eight years old to elect members of and be elected to Municipal Youth Councils at various levels of government, a National Youth Council and a structure to elect youth representatives to each council. Although previous youth legislation allowed young people to organise, it did not contemplate any advocacy mechanisms. This reform provides new opportunities for more organised youth participation through government-endorsed Youth Platforms and Councils with democratically- elected representatives. These councils have generated mass interest because they require candidates to represent diverse political parties, independent candidates, youth organisations and ethnic minorities and enforce gender parity and secret ballots in council candidates lists.
These youth councils will allow nearly 12 million Colombians in the age group 14 to 28 to vote for youth representatives in governments all across the country and invite youth ages 14 to 17 for their first voting experience. This generates an opening for Colombian youth and marginalised groups to participate in the political system. The new law also mandates the Youth Council to meet regularly with their local, departmental, or national counterparts to discuss youth opinions and needs in Colombia’s peace accord implementation and policymaking processes. Finally, it also allows youth representatives to meet twice a year with the Colombian Congress, thus granting youth a direct voice in policymaking that they did not have before. Using this new platform, youth councillors will take the lead in designing, driving, and overseeing local-level social initiatives for the benefit of their peers and communities.
On January 17, 2022, 21 young people from Envigado, Colombia, took office as Municipal Youth Councilors. They will represent the youth processes of the municipality for 4 years till 2025. The 21 young people elected acquired in this position the responsibility of proposing and evaluating actions in education, health, recreation, culture, and work, among others that concern this population. They will also fulfil the vital function of promoting the participation and organisation of young people, as well as exercising their rights and duties.
The S²Cities Programme takes pride in its efforts to enable young people to participate in democratic processes. It plays a crucial role in bringing about significant changes to create just and inclusive urban environments! Our young participants intensively engage with the local governments in ideating and implementing solutions to address urban safety and inclusivity challenges. Some of our youth fellows in Envigado are part of the youth council:
- Camilo Restrepo
- Juliana Torres
- Pablo Andres Prieto
- Christian Mora
- Sara Sierra
- Santiago Franco
- María Camila Mena
- Isabella Higuita
- Juan José blandón
- María Paulina Castrillon
The creation of these Youth Councils allows young Colombians to take an active role in building and shaping their country’s future. It should serve as a model for neighbouring countries to open spaces for youth where they can genuinely participate.
New Youth Councils in Colombia Encourage Political Participation | International Republican Institute
Colombian Youth Leaders Hit the Ground Running in 2022 with Youth Resilience Activity’s Support – ACDI/VOCA
Colombia’s new youth councils encourage political participation – YouTube
Survey Shows Young Adults Feel Lack of Trust in Government | The Takeaway | WNYC Studios
21 jóvenes envigadeños tomaron posesión como Consejeros Municipales de Juventud – Envigado Informa
¡Histórico! Colombia vivió las primeras elecciones de los Consejos Municipales y Locales de Juventud- Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil
Colombia: President Promulgates Reform of Youth Citizenship Statute