More than half of young people (56%) rarely or never follow and are not interested in political events and developments in the country, while 83.9% of young people believe that they cannot influence what and how the authorities work.
According to the research ‘Socio-political participation of young people in North Macedonia: Inequality, uncertainty and different expectations’ carried out by the Youth Education Forum (MOF) and the Foundation for Democracy of Westminster, two thirds of young people (64.8%) are dissatisfied with their place in society. And how could they not be, when they are faced with a low quality of education, bad economic conditions – low wages and unattractive jobs, a country in which corruption reigns and, above all, a country that values and mentions them very little, except, of course, in pre-election campaigns.
In 2020, the Law on Youth Participation and Youth Policies was passed in the country. That law should provide young people with a legal guarantee for their participation in decision-making processes, at the national and local level. However, as every law school freshman in the country knows – our country has great laws, but unfortunately, they are not enforced. The same situation is with the Youth Law.
A series of bodies, mechanisms and chances for the inclusion of young people at the table with ‘adults’ have been foreseen, but very little of it has been implemented and young people are still excluded from important processes. It inevitably reflects on this population in terms of how they see the political processes and what they expect from the state. So, more than half of young people (56%) rarely or never follow and are not interested in political events and developments in the country, while 83.9% of young people believe that they cannot influence what and how the authorities work. And how would you believe when so rarely, if at all, were consulted about any political process, or get a chance to see their peers in the parliament or the government – the two most important bodies for state power.
However, not everything is as black as it seems, at least not that much. Fortunately, there is a Youth Issues and Youth Policies Club operating within the parliament, which, despite not being a formal committee within the assembly, is still active and is the only formation in the parliament that advocates for young people. Even more important, in conditions of enormous political polarization in the country, this club unites young MPs from different parties, left and right, government and opposition, and they are open to cooperation, especially with youth organizations, and try, as much as they can, to strengthen the participation of young people and to improve the youth standard.
It is important to note the role of youth organizations in the country, which are one of the most active organizations and supporters of youth participation. Thanks to these organizations, we can see the establishment of local youth councils in local government units where young people are slowly becoming decision makers in their communities.
However, there is still a long way to go. First of all, it is important that young people are recognized as equal partners in decision-making processes and are truly involved in decision-making, instead of just serving as decor. It is important for the authorities to recognize the role and importance of the contribution of young people, and furthermore, why it is important for young people to know that they themselves can participate in the running of the country, instead of leaving the rule to a club of white-haired adults, mostly men.
And, most important, we have to get rid of the harmful narrative that there is no need for young people to ask for a place at the table, or that young people are inexperienced and therefore their opinion should not be taken into account. Young people may not have a lot of experience, but they do have knowledge about what they need and what needs to be done to improve their position. Finally, it is their right to be consulted and to be involved in matters concerning their future; it is the only way to ensure that 77.3% of them no longer feel that the authorities care partially, or not at all, about them and their needs: every politician should be thinking really hard about this fact.
Petar Barlakovski, President of the Youth Education Forum