Does youth matter?

Author : Olena Lukaniuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Absenteeism as a global trend among youth in Ukraine
16:45, 25 September 2015

112 Agency

States, which do not pay enough attention to the issues of youth policy, lose. What are the reasons? Response - in this essay. And yet in the figures. As of 2015 persons aged 18-28 years make up a fifth of the global population. For any state 20% makes the essential and influential audience, doesn`t it?


Political parties in Ukraine emerged massively during the 90-s of the last century. Keening on the Soviet era tradition to have a youth wing for the every self-respecting party, which main purpose was to carry out field work and to participate in public events. With show-business terminology, youth parties always play the role of "backing vocals" or "dancers". 

It happened that during the 90-s the leaders of the influential youth movements, as a rule, were elected to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and later made a good political career. These examples are O. Doniy - leader of the "revolution on granite 'in 1991 and the first leader of the" Young Rukh" V.Kyrylenko and others less known to the public. Also, the fact is that these leaders, in their turn, could not or did not want to contribute to the development of youth policy in Ukraine, and as a consequence, no youth policy became a priority of public policy.

In the 2000s, youth movement arise at the international arena. Youth wings of the parties entering into international structures: the Union of Young Socialists (O.Moroz) to IUSY, "Young Motherland" (Y.Tymoshenko) - to the Young European Christian Democrats. Widely known platform YES opens its youth dimension. Foreign non-governmental donors are beginning to work with an emphasis on youth focusing on leadership programs.

The phenomenon of the significant political influence by the youth organization, without the "mother party" has not been observed yet in Ukraine.

Being somewhat second-ranked public policy, youth dimension tends to be a hostage of other policies. Yes, legislative definition of "youth" varies depending on the demographic situation in the state with an upper limit from 28 to 35-year-old. Funding the youth policy is inversely proportional to the needs of sports with which these two spheres merged into one ministry in the Olympic season. The Presidential initiative in 2015, "On the Concept of National-Patriotic Education of Youth" is very controversial as it eliminates political pluralism among young people.

Regarding legislative support of youth participation in elections, there is a constitutional provision on the balloting candidates starting from 21 years of age for the national parliament.

Ukrainian youth in the voting in the election supports the global trend of absenteeism - ignoring the elections - and more susceptible to populist promises than peers in the countries of developed democracies.

According to studies, 67% of young people aged 18 to 29 years participated in the elections in 1998, these people were 61% in 1999, and in 2002 - 59%. A specific surge of activity was observed during the elections in 2004, during the "orange" revolution. Then 71% of young people have taken part in the elections. But then it began to decline, and the last presidential election in 2014 the level of activity was reached the level of 44%. The parliamentary elections of 2014 received the company of only 35% of young people.

It is clear that young people have high hopes for social activities, not electoral ones. This is evidenced by participation in community organizations, volunteer activities.


Comparing to Ukraine, the developed democratic countries pay considerable attention to the youth participation in elections, political education / involvement, development of civic engagemant.

Active outflow of young people from the ranks of the traditional political parties is observed from the 90s of the last century. Since that time, this trend only intensified in the developed democracies.

Therefore, the youth of Europe in the 90s felt detached from the political processes in their countries, except the certain areas such as inclusion, education and employment. In the 2000s, priorities have changed somewhat, mainly due to the development of information technologies, namely the Internet, social media and blogs. These communication platforms allow young people not only to express their opinion, but also to strengthen their capacity for self-organization, public protests and alternative activities. All these ways of unity (flash mobs, online games, etc.) are beyond the control of the state and other institutions. The study also notes the fact that the political sphere is never ranked first in popularity among such methods of rallying. Thus, states should make even greater efforts to encourage the responsible citizenship. According to the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime".

Youth participation in elections is low, always traditionally lower than performed by older voters. For example, in Canada, only 22% of young people under 25 years old come to the polls. In EU member states, the gap between young and older voters in the turnout is 20% in average.

Among the EU member states there are two exceptions that break the general scenario - Poland (the turnout of young voters is more than 60%, with an average turnout a little over 40%) and Romania (70% vs. 55%, respectively). Regarding Poland this phenomenon happened due to the consolidated anti-communist campaign of many parties in 2006-2007. "Hide your grandma’s passport on the day of voting." In Romania this phenomenon is poorly understood and generally written off  the Euro-optimizm by youth after Romania joined the EU in 2007.


In 2012, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has developed global guidelines for states to improve young people's participation in political life. Let’s look closer to the interesting tips and criticism allocated as follows:

1. Youth parliaments, youth governments and other institutions formally delineated as "incubators" recognized ineffective or inefficient to attract young people to active political life.

2. The states can decrease the voting age to 16 years.That is considered as an effective measure. Austria, Lands of Germany have already done it.

3. States are recommended  at the legislative level to support the political parties and personal young candidates to participate in elections (mandatory quota). Besides, there is an alternative way to resolve this problem: Liquid Feedback. It is a software for political opinion formation and decision making tested in 2012 in Germany. The process is the following: each political party through open sources (Internet) shares important controversial issues to be discussed and the users have options to suggest their own solutions. Lately, this initiative has gained a global scale ( with more than 25 million active users worldwide.

4. The young NGO`s activists can be involved to political parties for  to program priorities formulation. For this purpose, a pilot project called G500 was conducted in the Netherlands. The essence of project was that 500 young representatives of non-governmental organizations were involved in the 3 major political parties (Christian Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party). G500 attended the parties meetings to persuade delegates to include 10 major youth problem issues to the agendas and programs of the relevant parties. 

5. Parliament Watch. The Internet Monitoring Initiative of German youth over elected local deputies, deputies of the Bundestag and the European Parliament from Germany ( was recognized as efficient. Every user can ask the question to the elected deputy, besides this resource allows to get to know how the MP voted, how the elected position influenced his / her income and expenses during the convication. Internet resource designed in modern style, comfortable for users. The aim of this project, in addition to increasing the level of accountability of deputies to their constituents, is also encouraging young people to become particularly interested in the political life.

It should be noted that similar initiative was launched in Ukraine with the support of foreign NGOs. The part of it is the TV program "Dear/Expensive Deputies"[In Ukrainian, words "dear" and "expensive" are written and pronounced alike], broadcasted over one of the national channels.

Throughout the world, there is a trend among the politicians striving for popularity to  use social media actively, even in between the election campaigns. A study conducted in 2011 in Sweden found, that 75% of the deputies have a page in "Facebook", 50% - are bloggers, 20% actively use "Twitter".

Drawing a general conclusion, we see that the state committed to democracy and prosperity should educate conscious and politically active young people at the governmental level and at the level of public initiatives. And we hope for the same to happen as soon as posible in Ukraine.

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