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Truly open government means handing over power – 1.8 billion young people are ready to take it

Maeve O’Reilly|

Truly open, accountable governance cannot be advanced from the top down. Nor can it come about without the leadership of half the world’s population – young people.

That’s why I’m excited to see a strong focus on youth in the upcoming Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Tbilisi. In my role at Restless Development, I have worked with amazing young people who are leading initiatives to make governments more accountable to their citizens. However, I have also seen how their participation in decision making is restricted, and how often they push back against tokenism. Young women and girls, trans and non-binary young people in particular face even greater barriers to participation and are disproportionately affected by a lack of accountability on development commitments.

A key ambition of OGP is to ensure that governments work not just for, but with citizens – placing them at the heart of government to help shape, deliver and follow up on policies and public services. To achieve this ambition and to truly challenge and change how governments interact with citizens, we must ensure that the world’s 1.8 billion young people are fully engaged in the process of participatory governance.

In recognition of this, OGP is hosting a Youth Workshop ahead of its 2018 Global Summit in Tbilisi. Fifteen passionate youth advocates, campaigners and accountability champions from Georgia and around the world will lead the session, sharing their experiences working on local government, gender, and public service delivery at local and national levels with a particular focus on the inclusion of vulnerable populations. Together, they will explore the challenges and opportunities they face and examine how OGP can work in partnership with them to create the enabling environment needed to overcome these challenges.

Among the participants are four Youth Power champions from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ghana, and the Philippines. Youth Power is the global campaign to hold decision makers to account for their promises to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Two hundred Youth Power partners in 45 countries are leading local and national campaigns, and collecting and generating their own data to hold leaders accountable for their commitments. The four Youth Power leaders who will participate in the OGP Summit have been driving forward the principles of open government at the local and national level, even in challenging contexts. From advocating for the rights of indigenous people in the Philippines, to organising the African Youth Sustainable Development Goals Summit in Ghana, to campaigning for the inclusion of youth in leadership and governance in Kenya, to advocating for the participation of young women in government policy in Sierra Leone, these young people clearly demonstrate that youth are already leading the way and are ready to partner with their governments and the OGP to create positive and lasting change.

If governments were fully inclusive of and responsive to this generation of young people, it would transform the world for the better. We’re excited to work together with OGP, our partners Accountability Lab and Fundación Multitudes, and youth advocates at the Summit and beyond to make this a reality. At this critical moment in which the world’s youth population is the largest in its history, we can’t allow traditional top-down initiatives which exclude the most marginalized to persist. It’s time to make young people and their communities central to decision-making processes to advance truly open, inclusive, and accountable government.

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