International Day of Democracy
Shutterstock. Copyright: arindambanerjee

2014 - Engaging Youth

Democracy needs young people – and young people need democracy.


Meaningful democracy requires the meaningful participation of youth.

Young people have much to offer societies – from innovation to creativity to new thinking. Their participation in democracy promotes active citizenship, strengthens social responsibility and can enhance democratic processes and institutions. And today’s young citizens are tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers.

Yet young people’s engagement with democracy faces significant challenges – threatening the future of healthy democracies.

For International Day of Democracy 2014 we are highlighting the urgent need to engage youth in democracy.

"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies."

Kofi Annan
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Making a difference

Taking action to engage youth with democracy can:

  • Help ensure better political decisions and actions – as young people are best-placed to express experiences unique to them
  • Strengthen understanding and action for democracy and human rights
  • Empower and protect young people – including by realizing the fundamental democratic right of participation
  • Promote the well-being of young people and development of their skills and experience
  • Have a positive impact on eradicating poverty and hunger and achieving international development goals
  • Promote peace, manage conflict and foster transition to democracy – as young people can help build bridges across communities and contribute to more just and peaceful societies


  • Young people aged between 15 and 25 make up a fifth of the world’s population – but have limited influence in national political institutions.
  • Young people are often well-placed to help tackle the challenges they face – including poverty, discrimination, barriers to education and limited employment opportunities – but frequently have limited opportunities to meaningfully participate in democratic action.
  • Widespread global mobilization and action demonstrate that young people care deeply about social causes, while recent events in the Arab States and elsewhere have highlighted how youth can play a key role in democratic change. But young people have a dwindling interest in formal political activity – including voting and party membership – and are increasingly disenchanted with politicians and political parties.
  • And even though youth today are better placed than ever before to take part in and benefit from global development, many young people feel marginalized and excluded.
  • These are real threats to the future of democracy.


  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Challenges facing young people and their engagement with democracy vary widely from developing to developed countries.
  • But to identify tailored solutions, political leaders must involve youth in democratic decision-making and build partnerships with them.
  • Young people should be offered involvement in responsible, challenging actions that meet genuine needs. They should have the opportunity to participate in planning and decision-making.
  • And they should know that their participation can make a difference.
  • International Day of Democracy is an ideal time to consider how youth engagement with traditional democratic institutions can be increased. Visit our Get Involved page for ideas for practical actions and our Events & Activities page for details of events being held around the world.

democracy fact


The age at which  eligibility for national parliament starts in a third of countries.

Youth Participation in Democracy

In 2010 the 122nd IPU Assembly, held in Bangkok, passed a resolution entitled ‘Youth Participation in Democracy’. This highlights the importance of giving young people a political voice and of promoting their knowledge and participation in democratic political activities.

How strong is your voice?

Engaging youth on democracy

Speak up and speak out

Speak up and speak out

Download the poster

Download free resources

About Democracy

About democracy