Youth-led Solutions for Open Government: An Intergenerational Dialogue

The OGP Asia-Pacific meeting from the 5-6th of November 2018 in Seoul, South Korea gave prominence in bringing in new frontiers to open government, most notably the voice of the youth in the region. The same sentiment was also expressed earlier in 2018 during the OGP Global Summit in July in the Republic of Georgia.

The need for the youth voice was evident in Seoul, during the opening plenary session, when I was given the opportunity to share my personal experiences as a youth representative from Papua New Guinea, and later, while co-facilitating the discussions on the topic of bringing in a new voice.

In 2012 whilst still in high school, I started an anti-corruption student’s group called the Youth Against Corruption Association (YACA). This was a program under Transparency International - Papua New Guinea (TIPNG). The YACA is a membership-based youth organization, managed by young people who are interested in and committed to fighting corruption. That set my pathway and passion to see good governance and transparency in my country.

I also have co-chaired a university student association in my province, the Jiwaka Students and Graduates, since 2013. The purpose of the association is to raise awareness on various concerns, such as the effects of corruption, and host an annual conference for students to empower young people to be agents of change.

After I was accepted to study at Papua New Guinea’s national university, I was actively involved in a series of student-led protests. These student demonstrations have opened my eyes to various issues of government corruption and the mismanagement of social, economic, political and social welfare.

At one point, I almost met my fate at the hands of a brutal police shooting. I was terminated from my studies and the academic year was suspended following a police shootout on students' demonstrations in June 2016. Following that particular demonstration, students from all 22 provinces in PNG regrouped to conduct awareness of corrupt practices by the PNG government within their home provinces. This movement highlighted the urgency for young people to hold the government accountable for misleading the people.

I now work with the Consultative Implementation Monitoring Council (CIMC), a CSO that was set up by the government to be a policy platform dialogue for CSOs, the private sector and citizens to impact government policies. After being part of the PNG Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee and after the OGP Youth Workshop in Georgia, it is evident that there is a huge gap – the engagement of young people in government.

Youths make up 70% of PNG’s population. The challenge is, how do we engage them to actively participate in the consultative and implementation process to hold the  government accountable?

The challenge motivated me to join the technical working group the Youth Coalition, which includes passionate individuals in 20 different local NGOs that work directly or indirectly with young people. The focus of the Coalition is to empower and amplify the voices of young people to influence government policy. A month ago we did a survey questionnaire to collect the voices of young people for consultation review regarding election laws and the penalties around the abuse of drugs and alcohol. The results were not surprising, as only 10% of the population surveyed expressed that their voice were being heard in the parliament.

OGP is built upon the foundation of inclusive and public participation. But when we look at inclusive and public participation, we tend to turn a blind eye on the fact that more than 50% (700 million according to ILO) of the population in the region is made up of youths. People removed from the real needs of youth formulate government policies and governance strategies regarding the youth experience.

I’ll conclude by quoting the former Secretary General of the UN, the late Kofi Atta Annan:

“Normally when we need to know about something we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we want to know about youth and what they feel and what they want, that we should learn to talk to them.”

Young people have the power and the ability to change the world. We are not asking for special attention or special care – we want to partner with our government and contribute to bringing a better and more sustainable world. We want our views taken into consideration. Effective youth participation is all about creating opportunities for young people, to get them involved to influence, shape, design and contribute to policy making, the implementation of service delivery and development dialogue.

I hope my story inspires governments and CSOs to believe that young people are not just leaders of tomorrow but also leaders today. We, as youth, are the biggest asset that government and CSOs in the Asia-Pacific Region has at the moment. Get us involved and empower us – together we will bring about the change we all want to see in the future.

Authors: Hercules Jim
Filed Under: Champions