15 September 2014 – New York – On the occasion of the upcoming International Day of Democracy themed: Engaging Young People on Democracy, on 15 September 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, said, “Democracy today is being challenged and needs involvement of young people. In recent years, young people all over the world have raised their voices demanding to be heard –youth exclusion has proven to be costly and creates instability.”

“Youth are active advocates on the issues that determine their present and their future. We must work together to further empower and make politics more accessible to them” stressed Alhendawi.

People between the ages of 15 and 25 constitute a fifth of the world’s population. In a recent My World 2015 global survey for citizens – launched in January 2013 by the United Nations and its partners to engage public opinion in informing setting priorities and views in defining the new development agenda – many of the over 3.4 million young people (out of 4.6 million who voted) indicated that “an honest and responsive government” was a major development priority for them.

“Young people are not strangers to sharing and discussing the issues that are important to them; we know that they are eager to participate and share their opinions in various traditional and non-traditional outlets” says Mr. Alhendawi. Increasingly youth are using social media to organize themselves and make their mark on democracy-building. Mr. Alhendawi advises that “We must update our existing political processes to better engage youth voices, rather than having them run in parallel.”

In recent global engagements of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, youth have made it clear that to them, democracy is not only about voting every four years. Youth globally believe that true democracy is inclusive of all people, including youth, and requires direct and daily engagement in all issues. In an effort to empower youth engagement in the political process, Mr. Alhendawi stresses that “We need to not only support youth in political processes, but also to support youth-led organizations on a grassroots level—it is there that democracy is practiced and the seeds are planted for a politically engaged generation.”

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the International Day of Democracy that youth must “lead a major push for inclusive democracy around the world.”

More and more young leaders are stepping up to say “nothing about us without us.”

“We live in a digital era” says Alhendawi, “ –politics must not remain analog, and this must be a priority going forward. We need democracy 2.0.”

UN News Centre Press Release