The literature argues that empowering, organising, capacity-building and partnering with young people can contribute to good governance and improved accountability of governments (DANIDA, 2007; UNDP, 2006; Walton, 2010). To this end, governments, donors and NGOs have supported a variety of interventions that encourage youth participation both formally and informally. The extent to which these interventions have improved the outcomes of young people, or of government accountability, is however open to question.
Despite this uncertainty a consensus has emerged that increasing youth participation in government accountability mechanisms has both instrumental and intrinsic value and can result in positive outcomes for young people and society in general.
Key findings from this report include:
- Evidence gleaned from qualitative case studies suggests a wide range of development outcomes stem from the participation of youth in accountability mechanisms. These can include benefits for the young people, for their communities and for society. It is a common refrain that youth participation is a necessity for many development outcomes and that societal change, including behavioural change, is often driven by young people. Youth participation is seen to encourage greater respect for youth rights in relation to early marriage, access to education, ending discriminatory practices and exploitative conditions of work (UNICEF, 2004).
- Young people cite that participation in a broad sense (including accountability mechanisms) can lead to the development of social capital (the acquisition of enhanced skills, confidence and self-esteem and greater awareness of their rights) (CSO Youth Working Group, 2010: 19).
- Case studies suggest that youth participation can lead to better informed and more effective policy and planning, budgeting and programme management. IDS et al (2011) report better results and greater awareness of young people’s needs, capacities and aspirations stemming from greater participation.
- The literature reviewed suggests that the benefits of youth participation are mixed and context specific, dependent on a range of factors and are difficult to verify. Outcomes can also be negatively affected if support for participation ignores or perpetuates the marginalisation of the young (both as a group and a collection of subgroups). The inclusion of girls and young women, ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, youth affected by HIV/AIDS, slum dwellers, and other excluded groups are considered particularly important.
- Supporting the development of an enabling environment is of pivotal importance to ensuring effective participation of young people in accountability mechanisms. This includes both formal and informal interventions to facilitate engagement with young people and to encourage greater receptiveness within government.