Youth Creating Non-Traditional Platforms of Power to Influence City Policies

Last month in Toluca, Mexico, World Vision joined the final regional debate on the key urban issues, priorities and policy considerations to be addressed in the New Urban Agenda, which will be launched at the United Nations Habitat III Conference this October.

The Habitat III Latin America and Caribbean Regional Meeting brought together UN member states, local governments and major stakeholders, including Joyati Das, Senior Director of World Vision International’s Urban Programmes and Dov Rosenmann, World Vision Brazil’s Urban Technical Specialist. The event covered the issues of urban and territorial planning, urban governance, decentralisation and social inclusion, adequate housing, water and sanitation, sustainable mobility, land and environmental management, and resilience. 

In Mexico, almost one in every three indigenous persons live in a city, which placed the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights to the city as a predominant discussion point throughout the conference. During a side event on urban indigenous communities, World Vision raised the issue of the depletion of traditional norms, values, language, and customs of ancient indigenous cultures due to integration and assimilation issues in urban centres. 

“As a result, youth groups from indigenous backgrounds feel alienated and powerless and are forced to take up new identities. This identity crisis often unintentionally leads them to join negative forces such as gangs, which promotes aggressive behaviour and violence to claim power in city” said Joyati Das.

“World Vision’s programs in Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil focus on the creation of youth networks, representation and inclusion of their voices in community and local governance structures.  This is instrumental in youth empowerment, voice participation and youth claiming space in the city.” 

The importance of young people’s participation in local, national and regional decision-making processes for sustainable growth and equity was reaffirmed during two other side events led by the UN Major Group for Children and Youth and The General Assembly of Partners. 

“Children and youth voices need to be understood under power structures – they are a substantial power in society. Young people are creating opportunities and non-traditional platforms for influencing policy, which is key to creating sustainable and liveable cities.”

“For example, Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world, where youth are often victims of excessive violence by police. To address this problem, a youth movement called the Young Public Policy Monitoring Group, MJPOP, mobilised thousands of youth towards collective action to change local frameworks. Their campaign resulted in the introduction of new national legislation aimed at protecting youth against police violence,” stated Dov Rosenmann.

“As agents of change, young people are able to build collective agreement and move towards action to address critical issues. The role of civil society is to support youth when required.”