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Troy Prince in an Oct. 1, 2022 photo.
Troy Prince in an Oct. 1, 2022 photo.
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By Troy Prince (Concerned Vincentian)

According to the United Nations, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16% of the global population. In a third of all countries, eligibility for national parliament starts at 25 years old. The latest Inter-Parliamentary Union report on Youth Participation in National Parliament shows that the global proportion of Members of Parliament under age 30 has edged up to 2.6%. According to the report, this represents an increase of 0.4 percentage in comparison to two years ago.

More questions than answers

In my opinion, facts like these are pointing increasingly towards the need for greater engagement of the younger generation in SVG. However, are the youth of SVG interested enough in politics, and are they being equipped sufficiently with the civic competence to benefit from political participation?

The gap between youth and politics

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In SVG the gap between youth and politics is evident. Such a gap needs to be filled if the country is to experience favourable change in the next general elections. This is so because as the cliché goes, the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, it is imperative that the youth of today learn more about politics and get involved to channel their energies for positive changes, thus becoming protectors of democracy.

Too many of the youth in SVG are disinterested in politics. It is as if it is a taboo for them to sit, talk and participate critically in political discourse and decision making. Every so often, youth proudly sing about not talking politics or being involved in politics. Such utterances convince me that too many of the youth of SVG are uneducated on the concepts of politics, civic responsibility and competence.

Leaders must be held responsible

Youth engagement is one of the buzzwords in the youth development field. Similar trending concerns include youth voice, youth involvement, youth participation, and youth in governance. Such issues are rarely being championed by any of the two leading political parties in SVG, even more so the ruling party ULP.

Instead, what we see before our eyes is the stigma that politics is partisan as opposed to bipartisan. In other words, you are either ULP (red) or NDP (yellow). This practice of politicking became even more profound under the ULP since they took office in 2001, and it continues to grow into an even more frightening monster each passing day the administration remains in power.

In my opinion, partisan politics has caused a large percentage of the youth in SVG to opt out of meaningfully engaged in political discussions. It has caused too many of the youth to be reluctant to positively participate in positive political movements. Consequently, partisan politics has left a bad taste in the mouths of too many of our youth, and thus caused them to shy away from or get involved in the “game” of “dirty politics”.

Leaders, we need better examples for the youth to have politicians as role models.

Partisan vs bipartisan politics

As a youth myself, and having gone about the task of speaking to youth about political participation, one conclusion that is popular amongst the youth is that “politics is a bad and dirty game”. From the outside looking in, and based on the evidence of things seen, I agree that in the game of politics there is a lot of bad. It is bad politics whenever it is partisan. Partisan politics, according to Dictionary.com, is the biased support of a person, group, party or cause. In other words, being partisan is to be inclined to favour one side (ULP or NDP) over another no matter what bad or good is done by that side in comparison to the other side.

In contrast, bipartisanship offers a better outlook on politicking. To be bipartisan is to represent or include in your political reasoning and judgement the plans and policies of all parties involved. This approach to politics allows one to be independent and critical in one’s reasoning, judgement and decision making. Chris Patten (2009) posits that “civility in politics is not simply political confectionery. A leader who respects his or her opponent is more likely to earn respect himself than one who doubts their patriotism and resents their criticism”. In essence, Patten is saying that bipartisanship is more appealing to the citizens who are more civic competent.

Benefits of youth involvement in politics

Youths being involved in politics offers up the following benefits:

  • Allows them to be more civically engaged. This goes beyond political commitment, as it can involve serving the community through health, education and charitable work.
  • Provides the basis for strong political engagement in the future. In essence, it offers a greater stake in regards to what their future will look like.
  • Shape them to become a creative force and a source of dynamic innovations.
  • Helps them to become better citizens. The experience will enhance their understanding of how things work in the country. This in return would be used to their advantage in the future when they are called upon to lead.
  • Youth for the youth. Young people better understand young people and their plethora of problems that are often times not heard by adults.
  • Young people can influence the election result. The youths should be consulted in the development of party platforms, and politicians could be advised by these youths on strategies to reach their huge colleagues- Youth Government TT (2019).

In summary, youth involvement and participation in politics in SVG is a complex story to tell. The gap that exists between youth and politics needs to be filled, and the leaders, schools and communities have fundamental roles to play in ensuring that the nation’s youths understand political education and bipartisan involvement. The beast of partisanship that was given birth to by the ULP needs to be tamed and eventually put to rest. The narrative needs to be one of working together to achieve a common goal: a better SVG for all Vincentians.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].