What evidence is there on the development outcomes of the political and social inclusion of young people? Review the evidence in lower and middle income countries for including young people (10-25 years) in political processes, formal institutions and governance structures (political inclusion) and informal institutions such as household and community structures (social inclusion). What development outcomes (positive and negative / costs and benefits) are associated with these forms of inclusion, both for the youth cohort as well as wider society?
Qualitative case studies provide evidence – albeit limited, mixed and context-specific – of a wide range of development outcomes from the political and social inclusion of young people.
The key findings are:
- Some development actors see youth participation as an end in itself – children and young people’s enjoyment of meaningful participation is an intrinsic human right.
- Historical events show young people can be a positive force for transformative social change, such as in the transition to democracy and economic openness in Latin American countries, the political reforms in Eastern and Central Europe, and the adoption of new information technologies everywhere .
- In addition, case study evidence shows how, under the right conditions, inclusive social initiatives – such as peer groups and peer educators – can help change harmful practices such as child marriage.
- Young people report the benefits from greater civic engagement of increased social capital through enhanced skills, confidence and self-esteem, and greater awareness of their rights. In turn parents report improved capacities and the positive benefits to local communities.
- The literature highlights the potential costs for social stability of not involving young people in political and social processes. There is a small literature on the positive contribution of children and young people to peacebuilding, although findings tend to be mixed and context specific.
- The literature links child and youth participation, and development and aid effectiveness. There are success stories of participation leading to better informed and more effective policy and planning, budgeting and programme management. There is also evidence from cases where young people’s political and social inclusion has improved the quality of education and health services.
- The literature reviewed consistently highlights that the desired impacts of youth inclusion are not automatic. There are significant barriers to meaningful participation. Outcomes can be negatively affected in particular if support for inclusive initiatives do not actively seek and support the participation of marginalised and excluded young people.
Carter, B. Development outcomes of the political and social inclusion of young people (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1237). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2015) 11 pp.