Democracies rely on the active engagement of all of their citizens. A healthy democracy enables and encourages all citizens to have their voices heard and contribute to democratic life. Youth participation activities can support this by helping increase the numbers of young people participating in democratic life and making sure that no one is excluded.
Participation for all is about outreach, to encourage young people who have not been engaged in democratic life before to get involved. Participation for all is also about inclusive participation, and to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have the equal opportunity to participate.
Some groups of young people may have fewer opportunities to participate in democratic life, when compared to other young people. This may be because of discrimination or inequality linked to:
Effective youth participation initiatives need to avoid perpetuating inequality and should seek to challenge it whenever possible. Challenging unequal access to decision making and democracy is a fundamental part of youth participation. Youth Goal #3 ‘Inclusive Societies’ includes the target ‘Ensure that marginalized young people are participating in all decision-making processes and are key players, particularly in processes concerning their own rights, wellbeing, and interests’.
There are two approaches to challenging inequality in youth participation, which can be combined:
Participation for all requires the effective use of outreach activities. It is crucial to actively contact young people who are not already involved in youth participation and make sure they have access to the information they need to become more involved. Being informed is the first step to active participation.
Information and outreach work could mean sharing information about upcoming participation projects and opportunities a young person could join, such as the Erasmus+ Programme or European Solidarity Corps. It could also mean making sure young people have good access to information about democratic life, as well as the media and information literacy skills to engage with this.