Youth inclusion is indispensable for peace and global governance

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By Tere Lanzagorta

Global governance is a pilar of a democratic society, where every person is free and able to exercise citizenship and has access to adequate and responsive means and ways to engage in public decisions and benefit from the common good. Global governance is only possible through strong and vibrant democratic institutions.

Democracy requires that fundamental rights of every person are guaranteed, including economic and social rights. Therefore, everyone should have a way to achieve decent living conditions. Peace and global governance are only possible in inclusive societies.

In Mexico, many young people cannot exercise their rights. Poverty and violence affect millions of youth, creating disadvantage and vulnerability, that affect their present and future life and excludes them from the benefits of development and democracy.

Institutions and government policies have not been enough and lack effectiveness to revert this situation. This explains, for example, the increase of conflicts and tensions, within and between nations, in relation with youth migration from poor countries to developed economies, as in Mexico and Central America to the USA or from Africa to Europe.

We work directly with youth with disadvantages in Mexico. Most of them are young men and women with great potential, that are facing barriers and lack of opportunities in their transitions to adulthood, citizenship and productive life.

Our work is aimed at promoting the social and economic inclusion of youth with disadvantages. This is our contribution to global governance.

Youth with disadvantages accumulate obstacles in their yet short life cycle:

· Born and raised in families living in poverty: between 45–60% income poverty rate during the last 30 years.

· Chronic malnutrition during early childhood, associated to poverty: 40% of infants 0–4 in the bottom quintile of lower socioeconomic conditions in 1999. These children now are 21–25 years old.

· Low quality education in rural and marginal urban zones. Even lower than the poor average performance of Mexico in PISA and other education evaluations.

· Early dropout without completing secondary education: 11 million youth age 18–29, almost half of the age cohort.

· Higher unemployment rate (18%), lower wages and income (60% earn less than the cost of two basic goods baskets), less access to social security and to jobs with long term contracts (more than half of young workers).

Jovenes con Rumbo (JcR), the YouthBuild program in Mexico, is designed to tackle these disadvantages and provide youth with a second opportunity for economic inclusion and meaningful learning experience.

Our JcR program, provides youth with mental toughness, tools and motivation to design a realistic “life plan”, opportunities to experience and realize their leadership capacities and practical ways to develop “employability skills”.

These dimensions -also known as “soft skills”- are combined and complemented with technical training courses and formal education advancement, and even reengagement in school when possible.

Training is directly linked to labor market opportunities in their cities. JcR also fosters youth to complete and advance formal education cycles. The program ends with job placement activities and some further follow up -when possible- to provide orientation and assistance after six months of their graduation from the program.

We are witness to the change of young people. They arrive with several issues like violent behavior or substance addictions. But when opportunities are available and barriers are removed, they bloom. Process always starts by youth gaining self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience through trust and fair attention from JcR educators and mentors.

Youth participation is indispensable for productivity and economic development and for democracy and governance. Especially now that Covid-19 has created the biggest economic crisis in our country since 1932.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

Tere Lanzagorta is currently the Executive Director at YouthBuild Mexico. With studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana, she has more than 30 years of experience working for youth and youth’s rights in Mexico, including the scaling up of at least three national programs. Ms. Lanzagorta is co-founder and member of multiple national and international civil society organizations and networks that work around issues of youth, including the Youth and Development Specialist Institutions Network, where she has been coordinator; the National Network for Inclusion and Quality of Education; the citizen coalition Muévete por la educación and the International Youth Foundation Network, and the organizations Servicios a la Juventud, A.C. (Seraj) and Jóvenes Constructores de la Comunidad, A.C. (JCC).

Tere Lanzagorta has been a consultant to the Kellogg Foundation and author of more than 15 publications and work models with youth in issues of violence prevention, leadership, citizen participation, youth and technology, and education, among others. She was responsible for the International Youth Conference program celebrated in León, Guanajuato in 2010.

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