The Promise of Youth Democracy: a Structure for Self-Organization

In Action and Advocacy by H.D. Wright

The Promise of Youth Democracy: a Structure for Self-Organization

July 7th, 2024 | Action Alert | H.D. Wright


Since the appointment of the United Nations Special Envoy on Youth in 2017, young people have departed from old modes of youth engagement, and organized to construct a modern mechanism for transnational dialogue. 

In 2021, youth-led NGOs from across Africa formed the first democratic youth constituency in the humanitarian sector. Accredited to the Executive Committee and High-Level Steering Group of Education Cannot Wait, the constituency elected a representative and established a seat alongside humanitarian funds, United Nations agencies, and donor governments. 

  • Samuel Sasu Adonteng of Ghana, a representative of the All-Africa Students Union, argues that democracy “ensures that youth representation is not tokenistic, but representative of the views of young people everywhere.”
  • Stephen Wandu Bimo, a South Sudanese refugee living in Uganda and the Executive Director of ICanSouthSudan, adds that democracy “creates space for voices like mine.”
  • And Kennedy Monari, a teacher in Kenya and a specialist at the Nairobi-based Youth Council on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, concludes that democracy is a “fundamental component for creating equitable change.”

While the individual activist symbolizes a progressive ideal or identifiable endpoint, the promise of youth democracy is boundless and responsive to diverse situations. In accordance with democratic principles, youth-led NGOs integrate local experiences into a global dialogue structure, synthesize perspectives on protracted crises, and put forth proposals for refinement.

Who should be included in democratic youth communities?

  • Ibrahim Ishaku Balami, Executive Director of Nigeria’s Future Resilience and Development Foundation, shares, “For nearly a decade, I have been part of the response to the insurgency of Boko Haram in Northeastern Nigeria. I have seen how resources are allocated, and I know where they should go. But if voices like mine are not included—the most affected—humanitarian funds will miss out.”
  • Nwanze Anthony, the Founder of the Empowered African Child Initiatives goes further, recounting, “I traveled to a local community in Nasarawa, Nigeria, to engage in service. Most of the people there had been displaced by terror attacks close to the capital. As a student of economics, I had always thought that only the like minded would be interested in policy. But they were not only interested—they showed me details I had missed.”
  • Rachael Vichei, a teacher from Kenya who spent two years teaching students in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Nairobi, concludes that “both young boys and girls should be included, for they understand the unique challenges that affect them.”

All stakeholders—refugees, internally displaced youth, women, and girls—engage the elected representative. Authorized by the legitimacy of democracy, the representative liaises with humanitarian workers, United Nations officials, and donor representatives, bridging the gap between global governance and the global youth. 

About The Author

Henry Davidkhanian Wright is chair of the Youth Democracy Movement (YDM). From 2021-2023 he served as youth representative at Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations fund for education in emergencies. As the first young person democratically elected to the governing body of a global humanitarian fund, he represented more than 100 youth-led NGOs from 40 crisis-affected countries on the High-Level Steering Group chaired by the U.N. Special Envoy for Education. On International Youth Day 2022, he announced the YDM from the Palais des Nations.