Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 | emazursky
By 2011, the world population will reach 7 billion, one billion of which will be teenagers. With this “youth bulge” comes great opportunity to seize upon the optimism and natural innovation of youth, aptly situated to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Yet, without proper channels for meaningful engagement in society, we face a higher risk of conflict and instability – locally and subsequently globally. Youth have notoriously been the driving force behind social change, but they are also amongst the first to take up arms or join populist movements.
In today’s world, we face what democracy scholar Larry Diamond poses as a “democratic recession,” with a rise in the number of failed states around the world and a degeneration of democratic systems that support free and open societies. These threats of conflict call for fresh strategies both for democracy promotion and for youth empowerment.
Through the use of new technologies, youth have been able to open up political space in nearly every society around the world, no matter how closed. From Moldova’s Twitter Revolution, where they brought down the ruling Communist Party after years of terror and corruption to Iran’s Green Revolution to the ‘No Mas FARC’ movement that mobilized 12 million people around the world onto the streets in 200 cities using Facebook. Technology is being used to create a broader platform for the citizens to see themselves as part of the political process and thus changing the way we perhaps define the democracy-promotion process. In essence, technology is democratizing democracy building, helping it shift from a traditionally top-down focus on institution building and elections to empowering local citizens to have a platform and an active role. What’s more, it’s the younger generation who are at the forefront of using these technologies in groundbreaking ways and embracing these platforms, leaving us with a whole generation of newly engaged citizens situated to change the way we think about government. With these platforms and the ability of the individual to express oneself in ways never before possible, it is hoped, that we can create the much needed avenues for youth to engage with society rather than add to its instability.