Written by Anthony Davis, Children’s Rights Policy Advisor for Plan International.
An important and timely event was held last Monday, in the midst of continued mutterings and musings on the content and scope of post-2015 framework at the UN General Assembly. The event aimed to spark a discussion on the role of young people in strengthening accountability for the post-2015 agenda. It had a secondary purpose of launching two reports on the matter.
Both reports have the same starting point. Firstly, young people, including the marginalised living in poverty, conflict or post conflict situations, are the primary stakeholders of the post-2015 agenda. Surely, then, it is critical that they have their voices heard. Not only heard, but responded to and acted on.
Secondly, fulfilling young people’s right to participate is an end in-and-of-itself, but can also increase the relevance and effectiveness of the post-2015 agenda. This is because investment in the participation of young people at every level can lead to improved policy and programming, promote civic engagement, and encourage good governance.
Despite this, significant obstacles remain. Partners for change: Young people and governance in a post-2015 world sets out a range of factors that can inhibit or promote young people’s participation in influencing government. These include:
-Discriminatory social norms, including negative attitudes of adults towards young people (particularly girls and young women) and their perceived potential value added in participatory processes.
-The types of ‘invited space’ that young people can engage are limited and may need to be ‘created’.
-Young people can experience technical capacity and systemic constraints, including limited technical knowledge, self-confidence and mobility.
-Limited capacity of decision makers to effectively engage with young people and respond to their concerns and needs.
-The space and ability for girls and young women to participate can be constrained by time-poverty barriers at the household level, discriminatory social norms and a lack of supportive policies.
-The form and extent of decentralisation varies across contexts, offering specific opportunities and challenges to engage in governance and participatory monitoring at the local level.
As a result, these reports seek to address the current gap in the governance and accountability discourse, where there is little discussion about effectively engaging young people. We argue that significant effort is needed over the next 12 months to define how monitoring and accountability mechanisms should function. This is especially true at the local and national levels, where young people are most likely to access them, and from which the post-2015 agenda builds an effective ‘bottom up’ accountability framework.
As negotiations and discussions begin to gather momentum on this issue, we argue in Young people’s engagement in strengthening accountability for the post-2015 agenda that the litmus test for accountability processes at all levels is how and whether it reflects and builds in the following key principles:
-Meaningful participation: Young people are active participants and partners who are fully consulted and informed. Their voices are heard and respected equally to those of adults.
-Inclusive: All young people, including the most marginalised, can equally access them on an equal basis. This might mean working with existing community-based and youth-led civil society groups.
-Accessible: They are open, transparent and accessible to all young people. Information is provided in a language and format that is accessible and easy to understand
-Collaborative: Rights-holders engage with duty bearers in an informed, organised, constructive and collaborative manner. Mechanisms and processes encourage interaction and consensus building.
-Responsive: Duty bearers support attempts to improve accountability, are open to the influence of young people, and respond to their concerns. Young people’s voices are heard and acted upon.
In short, the success or failure of the post-2015 agenda could depend on how effectively the voices of individuals, including young people, particularly the most marginalised, are heard and responded to within local, national, regional and international formal and informal processes. An inclusive and participatory accountability framework will lead to more sustainable and effective results. It also has intrinsic values of realising civil and political rights and strengthening the capacity of young people as active citizens.