The Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi, said it is prudent, timely and worthy for all parliaments to look at strengthening legal instruments through which to rejuvenate the participation of young people in the democratic process.
Katjavivi was speaking at the 177-member Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) 134th Assembly in Lusaka, Zambia recently.
The meeting also expressed deep concern at the shrinking space for political expression across the world, while deploring widespread silencing of political opposition.
The IPU fosters contacts, coordination and the exchange of experience among parliaments and parliamentarians of all member countries.
During his address at the meeting held under the theme, “Rejuvenating Democracy, Giving the Voice to Youth,” Katjavivi maintained that the IPU could create a platform for sharing experiences on how to revive the participation of the international youth in political discourse.
“Youth in general are considered as key in society in the sense that they are energetic and viewed as future leaders in a contemporary society,” said Katjavivi.
“They are said to be increasingly disengaging from politics and feel alienated from political institutions and leaders by turning out in low numbers at elections,” further stated the Namibian Speaker.
According to him, in doing so, the youth may fail to participate directly or indirectly in politics, particularly party politics that establishes the government of the day.
“A question therefore arises – how can we as parliaments empower our youth? What should our initiatives be that would contribute towards a stronger movement of youth that would realise their role and potential in our society?” queried Katjavivi.
The politician added that the theme of the meeting falls within the realm of the participation of youth in civic and political matters and therefore speaks to the aspirations of IPU parliamentarians.
He noted that Namibia has progressed in this effort by, amongst other initiatives, implementing the resolutions adopted at the 2010 IPU Assembly, including to invite parliaments to set up specialised bodies entrusted with the mainstreaming of youth issues in parliaments’ work.
“For instance by establishing a Children’s Parliament in the National Assembly and a Youth Parliament in the National Council, with the hope of cultivating a democratic culture amongst the youth.”
He said the other resolution is for parliaments to monitor the fulfilment of their respective governments’ obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This, Katjavivi stressed, is to ensure respect for children’s rights to be heard and for children to express their views freely without any form of discrimination.
According to him, one example of this fulfilment is the creation of the position of Children’s Advocate in the Office of the Ombudsman, the establishment of the Office of the Children Commissioner in Katutura Magistrate’s Court, as well as the establishment of the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, plus the National Youth Council.
“The National Assembly of Namibia attaches great importance to the conservation and sustainable management of our natural resources,” he pointed out.
He added: “Equally important here, the youth can be very instrumental in preserving this natural heritage for the present and future generations.”