Launching Global Campaign Promoting Right of Young People To Run for Public Office

Today the global campaign Not Too Young To Run was launched at the first United Nations Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law taking place at United Nations Geneva.

The campaign, launched by a partnership consisting of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the European Youth Forum (EYF) and the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), aims to elevate the promotion of young people’s right to run for public office and address the wide-spread issue of age discrimination.

“Young people have every right to be active participants in civic and public life and it is time to ensure they no longer face arbitrary barriers to run for public office – whether at the local, regional or national level,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi. “Through the Not Too Young To Run campaign, my office will work with partners around the world to raise awareness about the issue of age discrimination and promote and expand the rights of young people to run for public office.”

In a rapidly changing world where more than 50 percent of the population is under 30, but less than 2 percent of elected legislators are, the campaign highlights that the active participation of young people in electoral politics is essential to thriving and representative democracies worldwide. The campaign emphasizes young people’s rights to engage fully in the democratic process, including the right of young people to run for office themselves.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said: “Younger generations are not adequately represented in formal political institutions such as Parliaments, political parties and public administrations. This leads many to feel leadership and policymaking are reserved for an élite. A society that does not fully respect everyone’s equal right to participate is fundamentally unsound. The right to express opinions – including criticism – and to participate in public affairs are essential to ensuring state institutions are accountable, grounded in service to the people.”

“If young people are not too young to get married, to serve in the military or to choose the parliamentarians who will represent them, they are Not Too Young To Run,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. “IPU calls for the age at which people may run for political office to be aligned with the legally permitted voting age. IPU Member Parliaments agreed to this in 2010 when they adopted a resolution on youth participation in the democratic process. If more young MPs were elected, there would be more role models from whom young people could take their lead and engage in politics. The time has come to increase youth representation in politics and we are happy to join forces with the United Nations Envoy on Youth in this endeavor,” he added.

The campaign brings to scale the movement of the same name that was started by YIAGA in Nigeria. The campaign will showcase young leaders in elected positions and inspire young people to run for office themselves.

Over its course, the campaign will gather inputs and ideas from young people around the world through a series of online activities and engagements, while providing a platform and resources for national campaigns to flourish.

Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, said: “We’re delighted to support the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth’s in the Not Too Young To Run campaign. Young people bring the fresh ideas and innovation to politics that are sorely needed! In an era when young people are turning away from traditional politics, we must all work together to increase youth participation in politics and to encourage political parties to welcome younger candidates and young people to run for political office. If the last few months of global political upheaval have taught us anything, it should be that politics needs young people more than ever and that young people do care passionately about the decisions made about their future.”

Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of YIAGA, said: “Any country guided by the principles of inclusion, freedom, equality and justice must ensure the full participation of young people in the electoral process. The passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill in Nigeria is the first step towards ensuring democratic consolidation and sustainable development.”

The campaign kicked off at a side event at United Nations Geneva during the first Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, which this year focuses on the theme of “Widening the Democratic Space: The Role of Youth in Public Decision-making.”

Follow the conversation online with #NotTooYoungToRun!

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Source: UN Youth Envoy