Youth Civic Engagement: Discussed on International Youth Day

How can political education, and education provided by religious/ local communities foster civic engagement?

On Friday (August 14, 2015) evening Youth UPF hosted an event to mark International Youth Day wherein audience members joined the panel in a lively discussion regarding how political education and education provided by religious local communities can be used to foster civic engagement amongst young people. The main panel consisted of Bogdan Pammer (Director of Youth UPF EU), Dr Asma Soliman (specialist in interfaith and ), Matteo Bergamini (Founder of Shout Out UK) and Burphy Zumu (Senior researcher at ClearView Research Ltd), with fantastic audience participation facilitated by Keldon Alleyne.

On this Youth Day Youth UPF’s brought two of its initiatives the Europe-wide “Youth and Religion in Contemporary Society” event series and the UK chapters “Youth Engagement in Politics” together to explore the issue from two different angles.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made the following statement on this year’s Youth Day:

As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions. Youth movements and student groups are challenging traditional power structures and advocating a new social contract between States and societies. Young leaders have contributed fresh ideas, taken proactive measures, and mobilized through social media as never before. (…)

Volunteerism is an ideal way to improve society – and it is open to virtually everyone. Youth can also join forces with the United Nations as we move from forging the new sustainable development goals to implementing them. That spirit of action is embodied in the theme of this International Day: “Youth and Civic Engagement.”

But what is Civic engagement? Civic engagement is often described as the way in which individuals participate in their community and ultimately shape its future. However, it can be argued that without a primary stimulus, like political or religious education the involvement of young people in their local communities decreases.

With a panel specialising in both religious and political engagement, the discussion went into these issues further, highlighting a) that individuals in religious communities feel more of a motivation and duty towards being involved in their communities than those without, and b) if young people were given the tools to be able to understand the political landscape that they would be more inclined to get involved.

One of the most interesting discussions that came out of this was upon what meaningful youth civic engagement actually looks like. It was pointed out that young people are often involved in creating change. They bring ideas and energy and often do show this. However, getting involved via protesting or social media within today’s society does not equal change. This linked back to getting young people to interact with issues within the system by helping them to understand it, and by encouraging them to have these ideas and create positive social change instead of creating an environment wherein the very people that have the power to create something positive feel hopeless.

As the formal discussions came to a close, the idea that initiatives need to be more consultative with young people, and that educating young people using the formats that they already use (like social media) with regards to how they can actually make a difference in their communities was prevalent. Even after the event had ended, people were standing in small groups discussing how these communities can involve young people, concluding with a hopeful buzz.

Reported by Lauren T.

Related: Bogdan’s Speech, Invitation, International Youth Day

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