Topic: Importance of active youth participation in democratic processes
Respondent: Liza Sopromadze – Expert on Local Self-Government; Invited lecturer at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA).
Author: Mariam Lomidze, Emerging Leaders School (#ELS2021) | Gori
Why do you think the active youth participation in democratic processes is important and what is the main objective of strengthening youth participation?
First and foremost, active youth participation in democratic processes is important as certain habits, values, and attitudes need to be formed in childhood and adolescence so that in the future citizens share fundamental values and take their share of responsibility for the development of the country. If participation is your way of life, then you do not ask “why do I need to engage”?!
What do you think are the major challenges to the active youth participation in democratic processes?
The main challenge is double standards – when we teach young people that active participation and sharing responsibilities is a good practice but at the same time, they see that the older generation does not do the same, naturally, they do not believe us anymore. Complex environment is an important challenge. Since the Soviet period, our generation does not firmly stand for their values, we miss the Soviet period but at the same time, we also enjoy what we have now, which is also very confusing for the youth. Moreover, young people see that there is a discrepancy between the politicians’ election promises and the actual facts, they see that our statehood is weakened, the base that is needed for a strong state is not firm enough. We destroy that base, that identity. Therefore, most importantly, we need to create a healthy environment for young people, but we do not do that.
Are there any statistics or analysis that showcase the state of youth participation in Georgia?
There are various studies. Our organization has conducted several focus groups as well. There is the Youth Agency that is supported by various international organizations. For example, UNICEF’s research in 2014 clearly shows that the level of youth participation in Georgia is very low. The importance of youth participation became a part of the political agenda thanks to the European Union as the Association Agreement included the focus on youth participation. The previous government established the Ministry of Youth Affairs but it failed to reach substantial outcomes. When there is no clear vision involved in policy making, we get what we have now.
“Complex environment is an important challenge. Since the Soviet period, our generation does not firmly stand for their values, we miss the Soviet period but at the same time, we also enjoy what we have now, which is also very confusing for the youth”.
Do you think that there is sufficient support and equal conditions in the country for Georgian youth to actively engage in the political processes?
If we look at the studies, we will see that the access to resources differs significantly in different regions of Georgia, meaning that the young people living in rural areas do not have access to high quality education and have limited access to internet and information sources. The school, extra-curricular activities, and the environment contribute to the development of young people. Some young people in the regions are also victims of human trafficking. For example, in Adjarian Highlands young people are often sent to work instead of going to school as the family needs labor force. Living conditions in various regions differ as well. However, if we compare Tbilisi and other regions in terms of civic activism, there are more activities in the regions. It seems like the youth in Tbilisi have everything provided but the reality is that they lack resources and opportunities as well. The aforementioned values are lacking everywhere in the country. Existing inequality between the youth in Tbilisi and in the regions is shown through the statistics as well, including access to social services and healthcare. If it is a common practice for young people in Tbilisi to consult with a psychologist if they are struggling, the same is not true for the regions and it is a challenge there.
“Our public policy lacks the assessment component – what have we achieved? How do we measure those achievements? What is the feedback from the youth? How do we collect that information?”.
What do you think are the most important instruments that can be used for increasing youth motivation and promoting active youth participation in the democratic processes of the country?
First and foremost, our politicians and civil society need to coordinate properly. The Georgian National Youth Policy Document was created and the action plan was approved, which indicates that youth policy is on the political agenda and political actors want to do something about it. However, there is no clear vision of specific objectives and ways to achieve them and that is the most important challenge. Those policy documents need to be relevant and take existing reality into account. Our public policy lacks the assessment component – what have we achieved? How do we measure those achievements? What is the feedback from the youth? How do we collect that information? Political instability and immaturity leads to the lack of responsibility and indecisiveness, which make young people anxious and consequently, they leave for the countries that are more stable. Therefore, does not matter how well-written all the aforementioned documents are, the fact is that those are the consequences we face.
Author: Mariam Lomidze
Emerging Leaders School (ELS) is an initiative, which is being implemented within the framework of the project “Promoting Youth Transformational Leaders in Georgia” by Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) with the financial support of USAID/Georgia.