Co-Covid world: Youth showed the way
Finland’s 34 year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin, heading a young and women-led council of ministers, took gigantic strides in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity
If the adversities of living with coronavirus have shown us anything, it is that humanity has tremendous resilience and capacity to thrive in difficult circumstances and the youth have particularly exemplified this vigour.
From creating and broadcasting databases to enable the provision of crucial resources to spreading awareness about the viral spread and demanding accountability from authorities, the youth of this world have energised civil action in unprecedented ways.
The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people
– Kailash Satyarthi
Young activists and volunteers democratised the resources held by society by making them available to people through voluntary effort. In India, not only did they facilitate the sharing of important information through collating and broadcasting it, they also engaged in creating mechanisms for ensuring relief to beleaguered people and distribution of necessities
It is thus time to think where these young energies can take us— specifically in the realm of politics and our collective lives.
Politics and administration have remained hierarchical, top-down systems for the longest time and the difficulties inherent in the same became alarmingly visible during the Covid crisis. A lot of relief and resources were withheld from people due to delay in decision-making, administrative lapses and long drawn political procedures.
However, young leaders have contributed to the world's existing politics effectively. Under Sanna Marin, Finland's 34 year-old Prime Minister, heading a young, women-led council of ministers, Finland took gigantic strides in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity.
While half of the country's parliamentarians are women, Finland also ranked first in the Covid Economic Recovery Index (CERI), a global study of 122 countries that ranks countries on their economic bounceback ability against the pandemic.
Jacinda Ardern who became New Zealand's Prime Minister at 37 in 2017, did an exemplary job at strategically controlling the spread of coronavirus and kept the country's stability in place, a feat that won her global applause. On the other hand, young activists and volunteers democratised the resources held by society by making them available to people through voluntary effort.
In India, not only did young volunteers facilitate the sharing of important information through collating and broadcasting it, they also engaged in creating mechanisms for ensuring relief to beleaguered people and distribution of necessities. Such efforts were witnessed across the world.
As documented by the World Bank blog, in Cameroon, Achalake Christian, the coordinator of Local Youth Corner, launched the "One Person, One Sanitizer" operation and worked with young people to produce and distribute free, homemade hand sanitizers using World Health Organisation standards.
In South Africa, Sibongumusa Zuma has organised young people to donate groceries to street hawkers, had been prohibited from trading during the national lockdown and faced a crisis of livelihood.
The youth have also been committed to mental wellness, activism, engaging elected authorities, the quest for social equality and using communication and technology for the most beneficial ends.
It is thus worth expecting that young people of the world will overhaul obsolete and flawed political mechanisms and pave the way for inclusive politics which relieves human suffering with immediacy.
To this end, the youth has already signalled progressive trends with exemplary activism.
From Greta Thunberg to groups such as Teens 4 Equality, the youth of the world have carved new definitions of responsible political engagement. We can imagine what youth-led political reform could look like if these spectacular rebellions become the norm.
One fundamental aspect in which young people can invigorate change is the immediacy and effectiveness of everyday politics. While most political exercises become about electoral politics, parliamentary debates and power plays, these processes delay the end goal of politics— the meeting of our collective needs.
Work done by young volunteers shows that for them, serving came first and recognition came afterwards. This can be just the political transformation we need, where the people and their needs are put before pedestalising individuals.
In other words, everyone regardless of their participation in the electoral process can be a leader and we can move towards immediate participation and consequent effectiveness.
On a related note, such a model will also do away with gatekeeping and hierarchies. If resources are owned by the people at large, they will have them through instant and judicious decisions instead of waiting for the approval of governments through painstaking processes.
Accordingly, youth-led regimes can move to a culture of little to no gatekeeping and can instantaneously do justice to public demand by letting go of obsolete and lengthy procedures.
This also enables more and direct participation and collaboration among local leaders, who whether elected or unelected can voice worthy demands and expect responses, in the absence of a hierarchised political system.
Furthermore, youth-driven politics is likely to support and encourage progressive participation and activism, instead of stifling it for the sake of governance.
The crises engendered by coronavirus could have been a lot less severe in a freer world and if things were made easier by independent young elected and non-elected leaders, activists and volunteers, a future driven by them promises more security and freedom.
A lesson from the Co-Covid world is trusting the vast reservoirs of energy, innovation and responsibility young people harbour and for them to transform our politics would be a new, emancipating beginning for our social existence.
(The author is Founder, Upsurge Global, and Senior Advisor, Telangana State Innovation Council)