Public Dialogue on Youth and Citizenship
The world has changed and so have the ways in which citizens pursue and express their involvement in the public sphere. Likewise, the social parameters of what constitutes a “good” citizen are changing over time. Historically, citizens have not shared a common set of rights; on the contrary, citizenship has varied within states by fractured entitlements and identities (Cohen, 2009; Turner, 1993). Globally, people’s lives are marked by structural and age-based inequalities that prevent them from attaining full civil, political, and social citizenship rights. Contemporarily, the realities of an increasingly interconnected world with linked problems have resulted in global attention given to the citizenship rights of children and young people (Earls & Carlson, 2002; Helve & Wallace, 2001; Tyyskä, 1998; Bynner et al., 1997; Jones & Wallace, 1992).
Citizenship is a concept that relates to an individual’s direct relationship with the state, and also to a wide range of voluntary bodies, independent associations, and other individual citizens of all ages. “Active” citizenship contributions are most often thought to include the ability to vote, entitlement to a passport, demonstrating respect for the law, and paying taxes. This kind of citizenship is seen as connected to civil society through a tradition of formal and non-formal political education. However, for some decades now, Uganda has seen a decline in the political participation of young people, both in terms of voting and membership in political parties, as well as participation in decision making and other governance related processes. Young people have often been under represented in these processes, and they seem to have been reduced to mere servants rather than active citizens. The participation of young people in representative institutions points to the fact that relatively few of them join political parties. Whereas youth membership in political parties is weak compared to older people, it may not be a symptom of lack of interest but of a preference for other forms of participation.
According to the most recent statistics from the 2014 National population census, young people constitute more than 75% of the total population and thus, the future of society and perhaps democracy as well. They possess the potential to challenge non-democratic practices and institutions, or, help consolidate democratic governance in their communities, as well as good service delivery. This potential will remain unrealized should the youth be distracted by--or attracted to non-democratic practices, or if they lack the capacity to contribute to democratic citizenship.
The Youth dialogue on Youth and Citizenship will target youth leaders from a wider political, social and economic spectrum, civil society organizations, academic institutions, and the clergy. It is aimed at assessing the position of young people and the level to which they are citizens or servants in their own country and possibly find alternative means to foster democratic and civil inclusion as well as dispensation. All these shall be laid down in a nationwide action plan on the role of young citizens in nation building amidst the limited youth citizen involvement.
Goal and Objective:
The Public Dialogue on Youth and Citizenship seeks to build a common understanding, among public policy makers, experts from across the board, about the status of youth involvement as citizens and approaches that are needed to ensure that the youth are appropriately and effectively playing the role of an active citizen in Uganda.
The objective of the public dialogue on Youth and Citizenship is to provide a platform for the youth to understand the history of youth involvement in democratic processes, focusing on the post-independence youth efforts to champion social and political inclusion in Uganda and the need for the youth to demand space to play their role as responsible citizens as well as create awareness on the civil rights and obligations of the young citizens
Clearing the air on the confusion surrounding the youth question in Uganda’s governance situation is certainly the best alternative to enhancing meaningful democratic citizenship and dispensation in the country. The current “youth bulge” by any means poses a big challenge to the smooth running of the governance processes as well as challenges to national development. The prevailing level of youth involvement needs to be improved for proper democratic dispensation and good governance. The proposed public dialogue is based on view that political participation and good governance necessitates that citizens, especially the youth, meaningfully get involved in governance processes in an effort to contribute to nation building and good governance. Also, understanding the diverse cleavages in a society underscores the capacity to suggest sustainable alternatives for better youth involvement and good governance. Truly, one of the underpinning challenges in Uganda is the personification of efforts that are meant to contribute to national political development and the ignorance of the populace especially the young citizens who are vulnerable to political malnutrition and less involvement. By creating a platform for these realities to be appreciated, the Youth Aid Africa engagement promises to ensure a meaningful interaction for the youth and the general public.
First, the dialogue is expected to broaden understanding of the citizenship concept and whether the youth are Citizens or just servants as in the case of Uganda. The content discussed and the views shared in this dialogue will therefore be shared widely for both the local and international beneficiaries. Secondly, the engagement is expected to reach out to various key political, social and civic players in this country for possible benchmarking and policy decisions at all levels. Business leaders, Political Authorities, and the general public is expected to draw a great deal of information from this engagement for proper socio – economic and political interaction going forward.
The Format & Guest Speakers:
To address these themes, YAA proposes a public engagement on the aforementioned theme with academics, activists, young political and civil leaders and citizens. The agenda of the dialogue and the guest list will be worked out by Youth Aid Africa. The organizing committee has already set eyes on Prof. Ahikire Josephine (Dean, School of Gender and Women Studies Makerere University), Prof. Ndebesa Mwambusya (Political Economy), Hon. Richard Todwong (Politician & Dep. SG, NRM), Dr. Batte Charles (Young Social Entrepreneur), Ms. Adeke Anna (National Female Youth MP ) and Mr. Mwine Mpaka (Youth MP Western Uganda). All these have been approached and the team will continue to confirm with them concerning their availability.
The dialogue will include an online engagement which will officially start two weeks before the physical dialogue. The purpose is to involve a wider populace to share a common fact base about Youth and Citizenship. The idea will be to get both local and international participants to contribute their knowledge and experience to a general discussion of the theme, and for the outsiders to share what they know about other contexts where the same status quo exists.