*By Gerardo Berthin & Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts: Pleased to have Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert Roberts as a co-author blogger in this issue. This article is a summary of the full article published by Olhares Amazônicos: Revista do Núcleo de Pesquisas Eleitorais e Políticas da Amazônia/Universidade Federal de Roraima – v. 6, n. 2 (2018) in December 2018. The full journal and the article can be found in this link.
Empowering and enabling youth to play an active role in policy-decision making processes is considered critical for democratic governance in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). One of four people in LAC is young (under 30 years of age), and yet they have low levels of representation in national bodies, and far less in local levels. Moreover, today’s youth in LAC are relatively better educated and more urbanized than previous generations. As such, they have the potential to be a creative force and a dynamic source of innovation. Yet, emerging evidence shows young people are often excluded and/or exclude themselves from policy processes. Similarly, they have low levels of trust in the formal democratic institutions. This limits potential political support for democratic governance systems, curtails their enthusiasm for participation in policy-making processes and adversely affects their levels of tolerance for transparent government and for constructive policy dialogue. Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts and I recently wrote an article where we explored youth participation policy issues through the use of evidence from twelve social audit workshops, conducted from 2011-2015, in which nearly 300 young leaders from 20 countries in LAC engaged in capacity building and policy dialogue. Social audit was used as a tool to empower youth, promote their participation in policy-making processes, and to analyze the degree of transparency and accountability of public policies. The workshop methodology offered several means for observation and interaction with youth (surveys, case studies, and policy discussions). We systematically analyzed the barriers and enabling factors for empowerment and policy participation highlighted by young leaders and explored useful lessons and recommendations. What did we find?