Promoting civic engagement for young people
Published: 12 Aug 2015
Today is International Youth Day (IYD), a day to draw attention to the valuable contribution young people make in communities around the world. This year’s IYD specifically seeks to promote young people’s effective inclusive civic engagement in social, economic and political life.
Under the theme ‘Youth Civic Engagement’, the United Nations (UN) is calling upon governments and organisations to increase opportunities for young people to be a part of decision making processes, particularly around youth policy and programming. Increased participation in civic life is one of the areas The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation (the Foundation) uses to measure the impact of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (the Award).
Developing leadership skills
The Award encourages young people to get involved with their communities; participants are required to complete a set number of Service hours, as part of their Award. Many continue their involvement long after they have achieved their Award, by serving on the boards of their national Award programme, contributing to decision making processes and helping to extend the programme to other young people.
At the International Gold Event (IGE) in South Korea in November 2014, more than 70 Award holders from 34 countries came together to take part in the global leadership programme for the future generation of decision-makers and influencers.
Secretary General of the Foundation, John May, says forums like the IGE provide a platform for young people to develop leadership skills vital to serving their communities.
“At the IGE, Award holders learnt what it means to be a leader in the 21st century. They examined their own individual leadership qualities and compared their own leadership styles with others. These young people will help to shape the delivery of the Award worldwide and so it’s essential that they are given opportunities to engage in decision making processes and that they have the skills and the confidence to do so.”
Canadian Gold Award holder Jessica Silva attended the event and was elected as one of eight new Emerging Leaders to sit on the International Council (IC); every three years, Award holders are elected by their peers to act on behalf of members of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association.
Jessica (pictured right) says the Award has given her many skills, useful to her personal and professional development, and the opportunity to help develop the Award in the Americas Region.
“When I started the Award at 14, it was just another activity to be a part of. Now an Emerging Leader representing young people internationally, I can see just how much the Award has had an impact on my life and those around me. In completing my Award, I have been able to strengthen my interpersonal, communication and leadership skills.
“Being elected as an Emerging Leader was such a proud moment and proves to me how engaging young people in civic activities provide benefits to individuals and communities. I am extremely grateful to both my fellow Award holders and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation for giving me the opportunity to influence change at the policy and programming levels. The skills I am gaining will be extremely useful with my future career goals and aspirations and in helping to grow the Award to give more young people the opportunity to take part.”
Heads of Governments
As well as effecting change within the Award, Award holders have been elected to sit on international panels to input into global youth development policies.
Gold Award holder and now National Director of The Head of State Award Scheme – Ghana (as the Award is known in Ghana), Peter Akai Anum was elected to sit on the international youth planning team as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Youth Forum in Australia in 2011. He says programmes like the Award are essential to ensuring young people continue to engage in civic duties and are given the chance to get involved in decisions that affect them.
"Having had the opportunity as an Award holder to lead and be involved in the decision making process at many regional, national and global meetings, influencing youth policy on education, environment, health and youth development, I can say that the processes of civic engagement have shaped my own transition to adulthood. I encourage all young people to see civic engagement as an opportunity to prepare themselves for adult life as well as becoming an agent of change in their communities.
"The Award serves as a vehicle to enable young people to engage in civic processes and programmes that are key and relevant to their future. It also creates meaningful opportunities for governments and organisations to work with young people and policymakers to impact issues of importance. These are key principles for all civic engagement models."
By raising awareness of the benefits and importance of youth civic engagement, the UN hopes that more young people will be empowered to make a positive contribution to their own communities. Find out more about International Youth Day 2015.
Young people will be taking over the The United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) social media networks tomorrow. If you're a keen environmentalist and or have any stories to share about your work with the environment, get involved. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.