OSCE parliamentarians explore ways to increase young people’s participation in politics at virtual event

COPENHAGEN, 28 September 2021 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held a virtual event today on empowering young political actors in policymaking to address current and future challenges. Introduced by OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt (Sweden) and High-Level Expert Lamberto Zannier, the meeting followed up on an event held last spring as part of the OSCE PA’s Call for Action – Helsinki+50 initiative, aimed at revitalizing dialogue and the spirit of multilateralism ahead of the OSCE’s 50th anniversary.

The goal of today’s event was to operationalize ideas put forward last spring, and one of the top issues discussed was the formation of a forum of young parliamentarians within the OSCE PA in order to help develop the capacity of younger generations in tackling regional and global challenges.

In her opening remarks, President Cederfelt recalled that in the earlier meeting, OSCE parliamentarians exchanged views on how young leaders can be involved in decision-making to tackle challenges affecting the OSCE area in a more efficient way. “While it is important that we discuss these issues,” Cederfelt said, “it is even more important that we follow up on the ideas that have been expressed.” Toward this end, she said that after her election as President of the OSCE PA, she appointed Farah Karimi (The Netherlands) as Special Representative on Youth Engagement.

280921 FK youth eventFarah KarimiIn her keynote address, Special Representative Karimi noted that never before have younger generations been facing such an insecure future, and regretted that youth seem to believe that they are not being heard by those in power. “We are failing our children if they feel not heard, not seen and not taken care of by us,” Karimi said. “As parliamentarians, we are part of political power structures in our countries and we must act now. There is no time to lose.”

She noted that the threat of climate change is driving young people into the streets, but pointed out that the climate crisis is not the only challenge of our time. With its comprehensive view of security, the OSCE is well positioned to deal with the many social, political and security crises seen today, but this can only be achieved with youth engagement, Karimi said.

Roger Padreny, Member of the Andorran Delegation to the OSCE PA, said that youth need a real voice in actual decision-making and in order to make this a reality, capacity building is needed to ensure that young people are heard. Matters of responsibility should be given to young people, he argued, sharing relevant experiences from the Andorran parliament, which has worked to institutionalize youth participation in decision-making.

Shannon Simrell, United States Helsinki Commission Representative to the OSCE, emphasized the need for adequate funding to make youth advocacy and participation a sustainable reality. She also urged connecting the Youth, Peace and Security agenda with the Women, Peace and Security agenda, noting that there is no issue that doesn’t affect youth in some way.

280921 AF youth eventAugusta FeatherstonAugusta Featherston, Associate Democratic Governance Officer at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, shared lessons drawn from various ODIHR initiatives, stressing the importance of supporting democratic institutions with youth-focused research. She highlighted practical tools like ODIHR handbooks on youth participation and training programs for young parliamentarians, noting that ODIHR works to support inclusiveness in political parties and ensure the independence of youth organizations. Featherston also emphasized the importance of non-traditional methods of engagement with youth, including updated modes of communication such as social media platforms.

In the discussion, Daniel Gratzer from the civil society organization Fridays for Future stressed the importance of enhancing what he called social information structures, to ensure that these structures include the perspective of young people.

Parliamentarians took the floor to discuss goals for enhancing youth participation in the short term, medium and long term. It was stressed that approaches to this topic should be pursued at the OSCE level, including by incorporating youth in the executive structures and in the Helsinki +50 process, as well as on the national level and with civil society.

On a concrete basis, discussion focused on the founding of a network of young parliamentarians within the OSCE PA to participate in a structure to prioritize youth issues. This forum, members stressed, must be done in co-ordination with the OSCE and include the participation of civil society with a goal of making politics more accessible to young people.

OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella noted that the International Secretariat can assist in building this informal network, which he stressed should plug into existing OSCE efforts and avoid duplication. Additional focus must also be placed on involving younger members of parliament in the OSCE PA, he said, including by encouraging them to run for leadership positions.

Ambassador Zannier emphasized the importance of mainstreaming a youth perspective in the OSCE’s work and the need for youth representation in the OSCE PA Bureau. He stressed the need to ensure that there is a path towards realizing the goals of youth empowerment in the organization and called attention to the vast regional differences throughout the OSCE area spanning three continents. In this respect, he highlighted the need for establishing contacts throughout the OSCE area to ensure broad-based inclusion.

The event livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, and video is available here.

For more on the OSCE PA's Call for Action – Helsinki+50 initiative, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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