May 15, 2022 News
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) have partnered with local agencies and stakeholders in a three-year project to develop the capacity of young Guyanese in the areas of democracy, elections participation, problem-solving and their overall role within the system.
The launch of the Youth Advocacy, Linkages and Leadership in Elections and Society (Youth ALLIES) in Guyana programme took place on Friday last at the Marriott Hotel. The event was attended by United States Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch, IFES in-country Director Meredith Applegate, British High Commissioner Jane Miller, Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud, Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities Cecil Morris, Youth Challenge Guyana’s Executive Director, Dmitri Nicholson and President of the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC), Dr. Quacy Grant, among other stakeholders.
The IFES Director explained that the programme seeks to foster an understanding of democracy and government, facilitate opportunities for problem solving and allowing for the building of skills that would promote inclusion within the democratic system. Applegate told the attendees that over the next three years, the Youth Allies programme will work with a wide range of stakeholders and partners to not only understand democracies, but government and how that leadership should function in Guyana.
Through training and public awareness programmes, participants are expected to develop critical skills and foundational knowledge on democracy, local government and elections. This will allow them, “…to have the knowledge and skills to be positively involved in their own democracy particularly local government,” Applegate highlighted. She said that the programme would facilitate opportunities for collaborative problem solving; that it would also help in developing innovative ideas on how young people can act together to address problems in their communities. At the same time, the young people would learn ways to build skills to use research and evidence-based measures for responsive and responsible results that promote their inclusion.
Ambassador Lynch in her address noted that the Youth ALLIES programme is a commitment to supporting youth participation in local government and local elections. “It was designed with young people in mind, it was planned with the input of young people and the outcomes will benefit young people,” she said. “They play an important role in successful democracies around the world, and in Guyana it is not different.” Lynch explained that United Nation estimation states that 70 percent of the country’s population is currently under the age of 35 years and that young people make up a significant portion of the electorate. “To the youth of Guyana, we recognise that you have a vested interest in contributing to decision-making that shapes your lives and shapes your futures.” The Ambassador submitted that when young people are disenfranchised or disengaged from political processes, the political system as a whole is undermined. She said inclusive political participation is a fundamental political and democratic right and is essential to building stable and peaceful societies.
“For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes and decision-making and, in particular in elections, they must know their rights and given the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate in a meaningful way at all levels. When there are obstacles in participating in formal institutionalised political processes, young people can rapidly feel disempowered and tend to feel that their voices are not going to be heard or that they would not be taken seriously…”
This problem can then become circular, Lynch said, as politicians can lose interest in responding to the aspiration of young people if they think that they cannot win their votes. “This in turn often leads to young people often being increasingly excluded from taking part in decision-making or taking part in debates about key socioeconomic and political issues.
Lynch charged that “Young people’s active contribution give life to democratic values and the United States is committed to supporting that wherever and whenever we can. This programme will engage young people with diverse identity, including those with disabilities and indigenous young people.” The success of the programme, Lynch opined, depends on the strength of partnerships forged. It is hoped that the programme strengthens Guyana’s resolve to have a stronger, more resilient democracy, she said.
The GNYC’s President expressed joy that the international bodies were working with Guyana’s young to develop their leadership skills in the particular areas. Dr. Grant said that leadership skills are needed among young people. A pilot training exercise has already proven that there is need for continued work to build their leadership skills. He said if young people are at the centre of what is being done, then they would be able to contribute to national development.
According to Youth Challenge Guyana, through the initiative, young people will be given training and the tools to become better leaders and demonstrate appreciation for their differences. “They will have an opportunity to network and increase their cultural understanding of each other while breaking down some invisible barriers that affect their collaborative efforts,” the Executive Director said as he expressed gratitude to the US government for helping youths to take responsibility for their spaces and work together towards their own prosperity.
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