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  • Jahkini Bisselink

From Participation to Meaningful Participation Pt. 2

Updated: Jan 1

Hopefully you are all convinced of the importance of youth participation. Now I often make a distinction between youth participation and meaningful

youth participation.


A huge misconception is that you can simply put a young person at the table and have youth participation. That you can consult with a student association and have incorporated the voice of young people. That it is sufficient to sit down and listen to youth. In these series I will give a few concrete conditions in order to go from participation to meaningful participation.


It is crucial to recognise the diversity between young people. This sounds very logical. Kanye West is not a representative for the black community, neither is Hillary Clinton the spokesperson for women as a whole. But when it comes to youth, this is easily forgotten.

Last summer I was in Argentina for the G20 preparations. The G20 are the 20 most powerful economies coming together to discuss economic and financial issues. We were with about 20 lovely, ambitious and very engaged young people who came from Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford, Science Po and other very prestigious universities. With them we had to discuss education skills for the 20th century. But often a lot of people, me included, tend forget that only a small percentage of young people even get to go to university, let alone such prestigious ones. Young people who study to be a car mechanic, or nurse face very different issues, then someone studying international relations. That is also why the Dutch UN youth delegates, together with an amazing team of volunteers, have the honour to speak with thousands of young people every year from all types of education; academic, practical. We go from city’s to hard to reach villages and even closed institutions to try and get an as representative view as possible of what young people want and need in order to live a sustainable and happy future.


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