Political leaders worldwide are paying greater attention to young people and their role in the decision-making process. Most young people actively participate in social-economic development.
In contrast, others involved ongoing violence, and with unemployment records remaining extremely high, frustrated young people represent a ticking time bomb in the developing world. Young generations who live in conflict zones are the agents of violence similarly to its victims – when conflict breaks out, they become exposed and at risk of armed or political recruitment and exploitation. Somalia is a country that can be considered young and dynamic. Of the approximately 11 million people living within its borders, 52% of roughly 7 million people fall in the age bracket of 1 -24 years old.
That makes the youth a significant variable in the country’s demographics. However, over the years, this large population bracket has had a minimal role in decision-making at the national level. If the age bracket is expanded to 35 years old, the youth population will increase to over 60%. It is only just that this critical group is involved in matters of nation-building; thus, involvement in decision-making will be crucial. More importantly, the young people continue to experience the pain of conflict and civil war, famine, unemployment, viol, and internal and external displacement. Given that these challenges make youth more vulnerable and at risk.
The grievances young people have can hardly reach the decision-making table due to a lack of representation by individuals of their same age group and set. That is why it calls for expanding the political space to allow competent and well-qualified young Somalis to not only participate in political processes such as voting but also engage in direct representation or participating, appointing cabinet ministers, or enabling other government agencies.
That is founded on the idea that effective youth involvement in various political, economic, and social processes is not just about creating opportunities for young people to be involved in shaping, influencing, contributing, and designing policy but also allowing them to apply them in various development and services delivery programs. These opportunities need to be created by adopting several informal and formal mechanisms for young people to participate. For example, the establishment of youth advisory groups or focus groups as well as government departments being involved in supporting youth-led initiatives and projects will indeed go a long way.
The question of youth involvement in decision-making is not only relevant but also timely. The country is on the path of post-war recovery, and youths are expected to be more passionate about the state-building process than any other group in the country. Therefore, they need to be part of, or at least their opinion must be sought, especially in the government decision-making process. Interestingly, there seems to be a narrative that young people do not possess the necessary skills and capacity to participate in essential functions such as making new policies.
It should be recognized that in the last two decades, many Somalis have been privileged to study in some of the top universities in the world and have lots of experience living abroad. That makes them capable and keen on seeing their country become a better place. Their participation nonetheless continues to be hindered by numerous obstacles. One is the elitist political system that allows only a few people to participate in choosing leaders and access the decision-making table. That is a big obstacle for young people who lack fair competition with older people. Secondly is corruption and nepotism, which deny hardworking Somalis from not very prominent families and clans an opportunity to rise to key decision-making roles. That discourages many forms from even trying to participate as they believe their voices will not count.
The third is the lack of gender-sensitive policies, specifically affecting girls. Young women in Somalia face even more significant challenges than their male counterparts. However, it has been proved repeatedly that Somali women are competent to take any task assigned to them and do it well. The benefits of including more young people in Somalia cannot be emphasized enough. For example, involving young people in decision-making forums will help policymakers gain a better understanding of young people; giving them a fresh perspective of the Somali youths; providing a bridge to other youth, thus becoming a united force towards nation-building; tapping on the enthusiasm of young people, their creativity, flexibility, and most importantly pro-activeness.
That will also pave the way for youths to be seen as competent and productive citizens, thus ending the stereotype that youths are destructive and unable to contribute to the country. In a period when youths have indeed been involved in various social evils such as corruption, entrusting them with responsibilities such as decision-making will increase security and youth’s confidence and self-belief, developing positive career choices and having greater responsibility and involvement in the future. Young people’s prospects must be incorporated into decision-making on peace and peace-building processes.
The inclusion and political participation of youth improve their competence and allow them the opportunity to build their lives and their communities. Evidence shows that programs and policies designed and implemented after consultation with those who will affect are highly likely effective. Using youth participation, they are more likely to get it right the first time and avoid wasting time and money on services young people do not want to use. Policymakers should show more trust in the potential of the many young Somalis to take the country to the next level.
Dr. Mohamed BINCOF is a Ph.D. in Political Science and Public Administration, a university lecturer, and a Specialist in governance, strategy, and politics. you can reach him at email:firstname.lastname@example.org