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Policy paper on improving youth political participation

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This is the English version of the policy paper of Mr. Fares Ben Terzi on how to improve the political participation of young people.

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Policy paper on improving youth political participation

  1. 1. 1 IMPROVING THE POLITICAL PARTICIPATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE THROUGH BETTER REPRESENTATION WITHIN THE CENTRAL STRUCTURES OF POLITICAL PARTIES August 2015 Policy Paper Written by Fares Ben Terzi Project Coordinator and Youth Engagement Officer at the “Pole Network for Development and Human Rights” Alumnus of “Tunisia Policy Shapers” (Jasmine Foundation)
  2. 2. 2 Table of Contents Table of Contents............................................................................................................................ 2 Executive Summary........................................................................................................................ 3 Chapter One: importance of the issue............................................................................................. 4 1. Description of the problem:..................................................................................................... 4 1.1- weak political participation of young people:.................................................................. 4 1.2- weak legislation regarding the political participation of young people: .......................... 5 2. Some statistical data:............................................................................................................... 5 3. Why should we act now? ........................................................................................................ 6 Chapter Two: current legal framework pertaining to youth political participation in Tunisia....... 7 1. International treaties:............................................................................................................... 7 2. Tunisian legal texts: ................................................................................................................ 9 2.1. Constitution of 27 January 2014:...................................................................................... 9 2.2. Electoral laws: .................................................................................................................. 9 Chapter Three: main shortcomings of the current legal framework for youth political participation in Tunisia ................................................................................................................. 10 Chapter Four: Comparative study regarding the improvement of youth political participation... 11 1. Voting age:............................................................................................................................ 11 2. Representation in national and local elections: reserved political positions......................... 11 3. Representation within the central structures of political parties: .......................................... 12 Chapter Five: Recommendations.................................................................................................. 12 1. Suggested amendments:........................................................................................................ 12 2. Implementation strategy:....................................................................................................... 13 3. Further Measures:.................................................................................................................. 13
  3. 3. 3 Executive Summary One of the most important elements of democracy is political participation, especially that of youth. The involvement of young people in the political process is of great importance, as demonstrated by the deep political developments in Tunisia after the revolution to which the youth have contributed a great deal. And after leading the march of change in the revolution of 17 December 2010 - 14 January 2011, the youth found themselves aside the circle of political action in the absence of legislation that encourages their involvement in public affairs and their participation in the political life. This caused a lot of frustration and disappointment amongst them and they set out to find other outlets to bring about change. Unfortunately, some of them ended up embracing extremism to destabilize the process of democracy that –as far as they’re concerned- has contributed to their alienation and their exclusion from political action and decision-making. And while the Tunisian Constitution has stressed in the eighth chapter that “young people are a powerful force in building the country” and stated that “the electoral law guarantees the representation of young people in local councils” in chapter 133, there is still a dire need to support that by the revision of the political parties’ law in order to achieve two major goals: firstly, to improve the presence of youth within the central structures of political parties through a gradual implementation process; secondly, to get the political parties to dedicate a share of their capacity building budgets to train the youth and the young recruits within the parties. It is in this context that we launch the initiative of “improving the political participation of youth through better representation within the central structures of political parties”.
  4. 4. 4 Chapter One: importance of the issue If the Tunisian Revolution has taught us anything it must be that the participation of young people in formal political processes is of great importance. If the youth are not involved in decision-making in any given country, there will inevitably be demonstrations led by young people to overthrow authoritarian regimes. Moreover, if the new status quo still fails to get the youth significantly involved, it will very likely cause growing frustration amongst them which could destabilize the burgeoning democracy in the country and speed up the reemergence of conflicts and unrest. And where democracy fails is where extremism prospers, that’s exactly why many youth in Tunisia are turning to extremist groups to answer their needs for being heard, respected and involved in decision-making. When it comes to political participation of youth, statistics show that there is a real problem, making this category feel utterly marginalized. Hence, there is a real need for serious thinking to find realistic and practical solutions to effectively tackle this issue. 1. Description of the problem: The poor involvement of young people in the political sphere originates from an overall low percentage of political participation of youth (1.1) and a weak legislation that doesn’t really help to overcome this problem (1.2). 1.1- weak political participation of young people: • Young people unfortunately remain amongst the marginalized groups that do not get enough attention from the authorities and the legislator. And while young people get usually involved in various non-formal political activities such as organized protests and civic events, they still do not get adequate representation in formal political institutions such as the parliament, its various committees and within the political parties’ commanding structures. And “depriving young citizens from proper representation leads to reducing the quality of democratic governance” (Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle, a UNDP Good Practice Guide, 2013). • The political participation of young people after the revolution has actually diminished gradually as a result of the economic, social and political difficulties faced by Tunisia at a national level in the recent period.
  5. 5. 5 • The lack of proper preparation of youth to leadership positions and poor capacity buildings programs caused young people to be either fearful or indifferent to getting involved to improve their political participation. 1.2- weak legislation regarding the political participation of young people: The legislation on political participation of young people is very poor. Indeed, there is no dedicated legislative framework on this issue, only pieces and some legal texts here and there. The most important ones were brought by the Constitution of 2014: Chapter 8 / Chapter 53 / Chapter 74 / Chapter 133. 2. Some statistical data: • According to statistics of the National Observatory for Youth (governmental organization) made in 2013, only 6 percent of Tunisian youth are involved in public affairs split upon those who are active in political parties (2%) and those active in civil society (4%). • 3S surveys and statistics company (private) made a survey to gauge young people's participation in the second round of the presidential elections in December 21st, 2014 and found that only 2 percent of all young people had participated in the elections. • The study made by the World Bank in partnership with the National Observatory for Youth under the title “Tunisia: removing barriers to the involvement of young people”:
  6. 6. 6 The figure above shows that the trust of youth in political institutions is weak and differs greatly between youth in rural areas (8.8%) and youth in urban areas (31.1%). The study was conducted upon youth aged between 15 and 29. The study also showed that “Youth feel that their voices were not being heard at the local level”: when asked whether the mayor of the municipality listens to the needs of locals, only 12% and 38% of rural and urban youth respectively said he did. Consequently, and not so surprisingly, the contribution of young people to the local development has left much to be desired (see Fig. 2). 3. Why should we act now? There has been a momentum going on for a while to improve youth participation and representativeness, so it fits to capitalize on it as quickly as possible. Indeed, a group of civil society organizations and Youth coalitions have previously proposed to the National Constituent Assembly to create a constitutional youth body called “Supreme Council for Youth” as an advisory council for MPs (Members of Parliament) that aims to promote the culture of proactive participation amongst youth so that they can get more involved in public affairs and participate in decision-making, at least through initiatives and proposals. In fact, many of the elected members of parliament stated before and after the elections that they would work to strengthen youth participation in political life. It’s noteworthy that the electoral programs of most political parties, especially those who made it to the parliament, talked about
  7. 7. 7 the importance of youth involvement and set out to bring about change and find ways to enhance its participation in public life. Moreover, many international institutes, such as the International Republican Institute, have expressed their concern about the lack of youth participation during the last elections. Commenting the second round of the presidential elections held back in December 2014, IRI's delegation said “While the election was a success, the lack of youth participation continues to be a cause for concern as Tunisia moves forward.” Finally, one of the most important current challenges for the ARP (Assembly of Representatives of the People, i.e. parliament) for the upcoming months is to formulate and approve laws on local governance including an electoral law for municipalities and local authorities. This raises again the issue of youth participation and representation as the new constitution puts a lot of emphasis on that “The electoral law shall guarantee the representation of youth in local authority councils” (Chapter Seven – Local Government; Article 133). Chapter Two: current legal framework pertaining to youth political participation in Tunisia 1. International treaties: The international community has recognized the importance of youth participation in political life through international agreements and resolutions issued by the United Nations.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to participate in the management of public affairs of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives (Article 21).  In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and beyond, which is still considered as an international reference document with respect to youth. The priority area n°10 (J) is called: “Full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision-making” and it puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of getting youth involved in the social and political life.
  8. 8. 8  In 2003, the General Assembly of the United Nations reaffirmed its commitment to the participation of young people by issuing Resolution No. 58/133 (Policies and programmes involving youth) which clearly “calls upon all Member States, United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, regional commissions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerned, in particular youth organizations, to make every possible effort to implement the World Programme of Action, aiming at cross- sectoral youth policies, by integrating a youth perspective into all planning and decision- making processes relevant to youth.” It also “recognizes the great importance of empowering young people by building their capacity to achieve greater independence, overcoming constraints to their participation and providing them with opportunities to make decisions that affect their lives and well-being”.  In 2006, the African Union approved the “African Youth Charter”. Article 11 was totally dedicated to the participation of young people stipulating that “every young person shall have the right to participate in all spheres of society”. It also states that the “States Parties shall take the following measures to promote active youth participation in society; they shall:  Guarantee the participation of youth in parliament and other decision-making bodies in accordance with the prescribed laws;  Facilitate the creation or strengthening of platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance;  Ensure equal access to young men and young women to participate in decision- making and in fulfilling civic duties;  Give priority to policies and programmes including youth advocacy and peer-to- peer programmes for marginalized youth, such as out-of-school and out-of-work youth, to offer them the opportunity and motivation to re-integrate into mainstream society;  Provide technical and financial support to build the institutional capacity of youth organizations.”  In 2010, the UNDP issued the Strategic Action Plan on Young People in the MENA region. In the updated version (April 2011), the plan calls for “full and meaningful
  9. 9. 9 participation of young people in the development, implementation and evaluation of relevant national policies, legislation and programs”.  In 2010, the 122nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union adopted by consensus a resolution on “Youth Participation in the Democratic Process” composed of 39 sub- resolutions. Among other request, the Assembly:  Calls on parliaments to develop practical measures (such as the possible introduction of quotas for young people) to increase the participation of young people in parliament and other representative bodies, while respecting the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy and equality;  Recommends that parliaments align the minimum voting age with the minimum age of eligibility to run for office in order to ensure greater participation by youth in parliaments;  Requests parliaments to provide political and financial support, notably adequate operating budgets, to form strong youth parliaments, youth councils or equivalent bodies and to strengthen existing ones, thus providing further opportunities for more young people to become active in decision-making and in shaping their societies; 2. Tunisian legal texts: 2.1. Constitution of 27 January 2014: Article 8 of the constitution states: “Youth are an active force in building the nation. The state seeks to provide the necessary conditions for developing the capacities of youth and realizing their potential, supports them to assume responsibility, and strives to extend and generalize their participation in social, economic, cultural and political development.” Moreover, Article 133 states: “The electoral law shall guarantee the representation of youth in local authority councils.” 2.2. Electoral laws: The Electoral Law for the 2014 legislative and presidential elections:
  10. 10. 10 Article 5: “Is a voter: every Tunisian man and woman who is registered at the voters’ central registry, reached the age of eighteen before the day of voting, enjoying all his/her civil and political rights and is not covered by any form of deprivation mentioned in this law”. Article 19: “candidacy for membership of the parliament is the right for every:  Voter with a Tunisian nationality for at least ten years,  Adult who reached 23 years at the moment of candidacy,  Not covered by any form of legal deprivation.” Article 25: “Each running list in an electoral district where the number of seats is equal to or exceeds four should include amongst the top four candidates at least one candidate aged of no more than thirty-five years. Failure to observe this condition deprives the running list from half of the public funding grant.” Article 40: “Every Tunisian voter, man or woman, of Tunisian nationality since birth, which religion is Islam, has the right to run for President. The candidate is required to be at least 35- year old when submitting his candidacy”. Chapter Three: main shortcomings of the current legal framework for youth political participation in Tunisia As elucidated in the last part, the Tunisian legislation does address the issue of youth participation in few occasions, but it leaves something to be desired and there’s certainly room for improvement. The following are the main shortcomings of the current legal framework: First: The absence of a youth-oriented legal text exclusively dedicated to the issue of their participation in decision-making. Second: Instead, there are scattered and dispersed bits and pieces of legislation at different chapters mainly addressing voting and election age and youth presence at lists running for the legislative elections.
  11. 11. 11 Third: The absence of a legal text o about the presence of youth at the central structures of political parties. Fourth: The most important legal text in this regard remains the Constitution of 2014 that, most spectacularly, stressed the participation of youth in the municipal (local) elections. However, the Constitution remained silent as per the proportions of youth representation, as opposed to women quota and the “parity” principle mentioned in Article 46 “The state works to attain parity between women and men in elected assemblies”. Chapter Four: Comparative study regarding the improvement of youth political participation Many countries, especially those with expansive population pyramids (youth bulge), recognized the importance of involving youth in political participation to avoid social and political unrest and had acted accordingly. 1. Voting age: To foster youth voter turnout, many governments extended voting rights to people aged 16 for national, regional or local elections. The rationale behind it is that youngsters “could then learn to vote in the context of a civic class project where they were graded on their ability to discover relevant information and assess party and candidates’ promises in the light of that information” (Mark Franklin, Voter Turnout and the Dynamics of Electoral Competition in Established Democracies Since 1945, 2004). This is the case in Austria (the first EU country to lower the voting age in 2007), Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and several federal states in Germany (Lower Saxony, Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia). 2. Representation in national and local elections: reserved political positions Many countries resort to some sort of “fixed quota” in order to either guarantee a minimum representation of minorities at elected bodies or foster the participation of women or youth. Few examples:
  12. 12. 12  In Kenya, the National Assembly dedicates 12 seats reserved for representatives nominated by the political parties to represent and defend the interests of youth, workers, and persons with disabilities.  In Morocco, the new electoral law stipulates the allocation of thirty seats for candidates under the age of forty.  In Peru, 10 per cent of the local government representatives must be of the local youth.  In Sri Lanka, 40 percent of the political parties’ candidates for the local government must be aged between 18 and 35 years. 3. Representation within the central structures of political parties: Similar brave measures have been taken by some political parties that understood the importance of rejuvenating its structures for sustainability, popularity, and to remain relevant.  In Nicaragua, the Liberal Constitutional Party dedicated a common quota for youth and women of 40%.  In Hungary, the Hungarian Socialist Party applied a 20% quota for young people.  In Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada ensures high presence of young people within the delegations participating in the party congresses: 4 out of every 12 representatives. As a result of this policy, young members (less than 26 years old) represent now 40% of delegates who have the right to vote in all party assemblies. Chapter Five: Recommendations 1. Suggested amendments: We suggest reviewing the Tunisian decree of 2011 that governs the creation and conduct of political parties by adding two articles to its second chapter “the establishment and administration of political parties”: [Suggested] Article One: “The statute of the Party must dictate a 30% share of reserved positions to youth below the age of 35 within the central structures of the party.” [Suggested] Article Two:
  13. 13. 13 “The statute of the Party must dedicate no less than 30% of the total training budget to youth capacity building programs and initiatives within the party.” If implemented, such measures will oblige the recruitment committees within the political parties to go the extra mile in mobilizing and engaging young people which would ultimately get more and more youth interested in politics in general. Yet, it would be naïve to believe that the political parties could embrace and implement such measures overnight. 2. Implementation strategy: We will adopt a gradual approach to reach the 30% quota of youth at the central structures of political parties. This gradual process will indeed be implemented upon three phases spanning three years, from October 2015 to October 2018. Gradient progress in access to representative provided for the separation lasts 3 years from September 2015 to September 2018. (A) First phase: The representation of young people within the central structures of political parties should reach 10% by the end of October 2016. (B) Second phase: The representation of young people within the central structures of political parties should reach 20% by the end of October 2017. (C) Third phase: The representation of young people within the central structures of political parties should reach 30% by the end of October 2018. To oblige the political parties to take these measures seriously, we add a third article to the above-mentioned law stipulating: “Failure to observe these measures will expose the political parties to various financial sanctions, not the least of which is cutting the elections’ public grant.” 3. Further Measures: These measures alone will not be successful in drawing youth to getting more politically involved if not coupled with a nationwide awareness campaign. Most youth won’t even learn about the new legal improvements if the government doesn’t take it upon itself to responsibly invest in an all-out campaign informing young people of the law amendments. Yet, the government on its own will not be able to reach out to everybody. That’s where the political
  14. 14. 14 parties and the civil society organizations shall contribute in a sensitization campaign that will both inform and engage youth to take action and profit from the new legislation. This is a typical case of three-partite partnership. Additionally, the educational programs should also be reformed to raise youngsters’ awareness at a very early age of the importance of civic engagement. Practical classes, case studies and field assignments should all become constant parts of the civic education curriculum. Combined together, I believe all these measures will help improve youth turnouts at the next various elections (local, legislative and presidential) and rejuvenate the political elected structures in the country.

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