Campaigners have launched six ‘youth pledges’ they want political parties in Wales to back, ahead of the Welsh Assembly election in just four weeks.
‘Youth Promise: Getting Young People Involved in Democracy’ is Electoral Reform Society Cymru’s call to action for Welsh political parties in the run-up to May 5th.
ERS Cymru are calling for parties to get behind a six key changes AMs can make over the next five years.
The calls are being supported by a range of youth organisations including Youth Cymru and NUS Wales, the two main youth organisations in Wales, as well as Llais Ifanc, Youth Cymru’s Young Leadership Panel, and major UK-wide groups British Youth Council and Bite The Ballot.
The six ‘manifesto asks’ are for parties to commit to:
- An independent National Youth Assembly for Wales
- Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for local and Assembly elections
- The creation of statutory Youth Mayors and Youth Councils for every local authority in Wales
- Placing the roles and responsibilities of school councils on a statutory footing
- Requiring local authorities and educational bodies to work together on voter registration drives
- Implementing the Donaldson Review’s recommendations for better Citizenship Education
ERS Cymru will be writing to the six main party leaders this week to ask them to back the recommendations.
Steve Brooks, Director of ERS Cymru, said:
“Wales is at risk of a turnout time-bomb if young people continue to be turned away from formal politics. Just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last Westminster election: the gap between engagement in politics between young people and old people is growing, and will only get worse if urgent action isn’t taken.
“These six policies, if implemented, could make a huge difference to youth engagement in politics here in Wales. There is so much that needs to be done, but these would be an incredible start early on in the next Assembly, sending a strong message to young people that their voices matter and will be heard.
“Wales has long needed a proper Youth Assembly like the other nations of the UK, and the creation of youth mayors would go a long way to improving the visibility of young people in politics here.
“The Assembly will soon have the power to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote – something Scotland did last year after the incredible levels of engagement of young people the Scottish referendum. Alongside decent citizenship education, votes at 16 would be a massive boost to young people’s power over their own lives and futures.
“Strengthening school councils would go a long way to giving students across the country experience of how politics works at a really local level. And there needs to be an enormous cross-organisational effort to get young people on the electoral register here in Wales – so many will be left voiceless if urgent action isn’t taken. Finally, parties need to fully commit to implementing the recent Donaldson review recommendations to give young people in Wales the citizenship education they deserve.
“Taken together, these policies are a recipe for a revolution in youth politics here in Wales, and we hope parties back our calls.”
Ebbi Ferguson, Deputy President NUS Wales said:
“NUS Wales has been campaigning for better representation of young people through political structures. It is not acceptable to say that young people are not engaged in politics, when they don’t have routes through which they can get involved.
“We welcome these asks; they would see young people educated on the role of politics in their lives but of equal importance give them opportunities to participate. Politics needs modernisation if we want to address the apathy that exists towards it.”
Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of the British Youth Council, said:
“Young people care about the world around them and want to be able to shape both their present and future. The British Youth Council believes that every young person in the UK should have their say in decision-making.
“We believe that a devolved national voice for young people in Wales will unify their representation – giving them an equal voice to those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Empowering young people to have a voice is not just the right thing to do it’s a duty.”
Oliver Sidorczuk, Advocacy Coordinator at Bite The Ballot, said:
“Every young person in Wales deserves to be empowered with the knowledge to help evolve the relationships between individuals, communities and decision-making. And it’s for this reason that Bite The Ballot is proud to echo ERS Cymru’s calls for inspiring political and citizenship education and targeted, engaging voter registration drives to be placed at the top of Wales’ political agenda.
“We’re inspiring 16-24 year olds to become active change-makers; responding to calls to action and sharing in the responsibilities, challenges and opportunities of a modern, evolving democracy. If we’re going to achieve this, it’s vital that young people in Wales make the link between the issues they feel passionate about and politics. That’s why we’re supporting ERS Cymru’s ‘Youth Manifesto’.”
Christian Webb, Chair of Youth Cymru’s Youth Leadership Panel Llais Ifanc, said:
“We back these calls because every young person in Wales deserves the chance to have a say on decisions which affect them. They also deserve to be informed by the education system on how decision-making works, and how they can get involved.”