In spite of their high preparedness and growing consciousness and activism and their indisputable right to decide upon their present and future, today’s youth voice is still far from being heard. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS
By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Aug 18 2022 (IPS)
A couple of decades ago in Athens, a conversation over a ‘souvlaki’ and wine dinner with a young Greek economist led to talking about democracy. Asked for his opinion, he said “By then, when philosophers like Aristotle formulated their theories about democracy, the society was dominated by the rich.”
When asked “what about the people?,” the young Greek economist took a long sip of wine and answered with a visibly sarcastic smile “The people were their servants.”
Whether this young man’s interpretation of democracy was wrong or right, accurate or not, more controversial or less, is something too long to explain and anyway it is up to you to judge.
The poisoned inheritance
Anyway, the pressing question now is if today’s 1.5 billion youth can bear the baleful load that they inherit from the previous generations.
A swift answer would be “yes.” After all, previous and current generations coped with two European-manufactured Great Wars which soon attracted their descendents–the United States, and other military powers like the –also European– Soviet Union, among others.
Not only, these generations had also to confront dictatorial regimes, civil wars, poverty, hunger, destruction, and a long list of hardships.
Another question would be if the current and future generations will be able to fix up the so many horrifying wrongs made by the previous ones, such as the looming threat of a nuclear war, the voracious depletion of natural resources, the dominance of private corporations, the supplantation of human beings by robots…
… Let alone the never-ending game of the world’s top guns –the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, precisely those who hold the unexplainable and unjustifiable power to annulate, through their veto, the decisions made by the world’s over 190 countries. They exercise such a power in their ironically called “Security Council.”
Whatever the future will be, reality shows that the world’s youth now receive a very heavy inheritance, in a scenario already shaped by two George Orwell’s masterpieces: “1984” and “Animal Farm.”
See this dozen facts, selected among so many others, which have been provided on the occasion of this year’s International Youth Day, marked 12 August.
Half of the people on Planet Earth are 30 or younger, and this is expected to reach 57% by the end of 2030.
While you read this, 1.8 billion young people, the largest generation of youth in history, are transitioning to adulthood.
Today, there are 1.2 billion youth aged 15 to 24, accounting for 16% of the global population. By 2030 their number is projected to have grown by 7%, to nearly 1.3 billion. These two figures, combined with the previous one, make an average of 1.5 billion youth.
In spite of their high preparedness and growing consciousness and activism and their indisputable right to decide upon their present and future, today’s youth voice is still far from being heard, let alone listened to.
A UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs research shows that there are about 1.2 billion youth aged 15 to 24 in the world today. “This is a huge percentage of the global population whose interests and voices have traditionally been overlooked.”
In fact, today’s youth has practically nul participation in national legislative bodies. Globally, only 2.6% of parliamentarians are under 30 years old, and less than 1% of them are women.
On this issue, a survey on the occasion of this year’s International Youth Day, the United Nations specialised bodies revealed that:
76% of those under 30 years old think politicians don’t listen to young people
8 in 10 people think that current political systems need drastic reforms to be fit for the future
69% of people think that more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development would make political systems better.
Meanwhile, the average age of those who decide upon the present and future of the world’s youth is as high as 64 years.
The Global Employment Trends for Youth 2022 reveals that those aged between 15 and 24 years have experienced a much higher percentage loss in employment than adults since early 2020.
Also that the total global number of unemployed youths is estimated to reach 73 million in 2022, six million above the pre-pandemic level of 2019.
At the same time, 60 million jobs that will be created by the green economy in 30 years do not even exist yet.
“Unless we take action, the share of children leaving school in developing countries who are unable to read could increase from 53 to 70 percent,” warned UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in his message on the 2022 International Day of Education on 24 January.
In fact, some 1.6 billion school and college students had their studies interrupted at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — and it’s not over yet, said Guterres.
Today, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, “exacerbating a global learning crisis.” See: Up to 70% of Children in Developing Countries to Be Left Unable to Read.
The climate crunch
Young people bear a disproportionate burden of the environmental crises the world faces today, which will impact their future, reminds the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Research shows that many young people feel frustrated and unheard, creating a sense of unfairness that has, in recent years, fueled a surge of climate activism led by youth.”
According to a recent study, children born in 2020 will experience a “two to seven-fold increase in extreme climate events,” particularly heatwaves, compared to people born in 1960.
The “Rule of the People”
Meanwhile, another question raises here: has the concept of democracy as the rule of people ever been really practised?
Before you judge, please be reminded of the findings released by the Oxfam International in its May 2022 report Profiting from Pain.
“Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as they did in 23 years.”
“Those in the food and energy sectors have seen their fortunes increase by a billion dollars every two days,” adds the research carried out by this global movement of people working together with more than 4,100 partner organisations and communities in over 90 countries.
Furthermore, “food and energy prices have increased to their highest levels in decades. And 62 new food billionaires have been created.”
In the meantime, there are up to one billion hungry humans.
IPS article: Inequality Kills One Person Every Four Seconds explains how deadly inequality is and how it contributes to the deaths of at least 21,300 people each day—or one person every four seconds.
Today’s youth are an unpowered witness to numerous unprecedented crises, which they did not create but are expected to overcome… and hopefully leave a much less baleful inheritance.