Two smiling women holding folders outside a building.
Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan - women made up 69 of the 249 candidates elected to the Afghan parliament in 2010.
Photo:UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Why is youth participation so important?

With future generations destined to live with the political choices made now, it is only right that they have a seat at the decision-making table. Yet young people are underrepresented in parliaments all across the world.

Their perspectives, ideas, talents and energy are vital to addressing many of the biggest challenges facing the international community.

Now is the time to ensure that parliaments welcome the younger generation.

In 2021, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and its Member Parliaments will mark the International Day of Parliamentarism with a number of events focusing on youth empowerment following the recent launch of the IPU campaign I Say Yes to Youth in Parliament!

Background

The International Day of Parliamentarism is celebrated every year on 30 June, the date in 1889 on which the IPU was founded. The Day was established in 2018 through a United Nations General Assembly Resolution.

Instituting an international day for parliaments is particularly important at this critical time for parliamentary democracy, when people are losing trust in political institutions and democracy itself is facing challenges from populist and nationalist movements. If democracy is to thrive, then parliaments, as the cornerstone of functioning democracies, need to be strong, transparent, accountable and representative.

The International Day of Parliamentarism is a time to review the progress that parliaments have made in achieving some key goals to be more representative and move with the times, including carrying out self-assessments, working to include more women and young MPs, and adapting to new technologies.

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/72/278, recognized the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels.

What parliaments do

Strong parliaments are a cornerstone of democracy. They represent the voice of the people, pass laws, allocate funds to implement laws and policies, and hold governments to account. They work to make sure that policies benefit all people, especially the most vulnerable.

Parliaments also link international and national agendas, ensuring that governments implement international treaties and agreements that they sign up to. They play a vital role in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has been working closely with them to help build their capacity in doing so.

In countries emerging from conflict, robust parliaments can help make possible a peaceful transition to a functioning democracy by healing divisions in society through dialogue and cooperation.

Parliaments and the United Nations

Member States have encouraged the growing involvement of parliamentarians and parliamentary organizations in the work of the United Nations. Parliamentary organizations play a leading role in promoting the engagement of parliaments in United Nations processes and activities. Indeed, there is a recognition that when parliamentarians communicate their concerns and aspirations to the United Nations, the Organization is empowered to workd more closely with the people of the world.

The IPU, as the world organization of parliaments, connects national parliaments in order to promote greater transparency, accountability and participation at the global level. Along with other parliamentary organizations, IPU engages with the United Nations on activities that cover a broad range of issues, including peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

Parliaments and the SDGs

Parliaments and parliamentary organizations played an active role throughout the negotiations on the post-2015 development framework, advocating strongly, for instance, for the inclusion of goals related to democratic governance. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Following the finalization of the 2030 Agenda, the focus of cooperation between the United Nations, national parliaments and parliamentary organizations has now firmly shifted towards implementation.

Did you know?

Watch

logo for UN Chamber Music Society

Empowering youth in a time of pandemic
UN Chamber Music Society Virtual Concert

Wednesday, 30 June 2021
9:00am EDT
UN WebTV

Watch the online concert in celebration and recognition of the role of parliaments in national plans in empowering youth who have been coping during the pandemic – ensuring access to education, addressing reduced employment prospects, social isolation, and the surge in mental health issues.

Resources

Close-up of two young girls against older women in the background

Half the world’s population is under 30 and yet only 2.6% of MPs globally represent this age group. The IPU has identified the six ways below to change this. Please take two minutes to pick one or more pledge(s) to make your parliament younger!

Shapes in different colours of five different women

Young women are the least represented amongst political leadership. IPU data on youth participation in parliaments show that only 2.2 per cent of parliamentarians are under 30, and less than 1 per cent are young women.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.