In many countries young people, the disabled, ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous peoples have been excluded from the political process. As more countries join the growing number of democracies, these groups are demanding and gaining a greater say in their governments and communities.
In Cambodia, IRI helped to establish a nonpartisan youth organization, the Youth Council of Cambodia (YCC) that trains young people in how to become civic activists.
A basic civics class teaches 14-17 year olds about how their government works and citizens’ role in effective democratic governance.
A more advanced course for 18-24 year olds teaches effective activism by engaging government officials at public meetings, conducting petition drives, fundraising campaigns and grassroots advocacy.
Graduates have access to additional training in topics like debate, public speaking, information technology as well as access to YCC’s libraries, matching funds for community service projects, and networking opportunities with other youth activists around the country.
IRI spreads the concepts taught by YCC through two additional channels – provincial Youth Democracy Festivals and the Youth Leadership Challenge reality-TV show. The formats reach millions of young people throughout the country empowering Cambodian youth to become more active in their communities and more interested and engaged in the political process.
A network of future political and civil society leaders, the Europe and Eurasia Young Political Leaders (EEYPL) Seminar provides a space, both through periodic seminars and online forums, for up-and-coming young leaders to share experiences and ideas. One of the most prominent features of EEYPL has been the Democratic Youth Network website, which allows participants to engage in a dialogue on social and political issues.
In addition to its online community, EEYPL has gathered more than 150 young political and civic leaders at conferences in Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Turkey. Organized by IRI and its partners the National Democratic Institute and the American Council for Young Political Leaders, these conferences have focused on leadership attributes, communication skills, political and community organization, and the use of technology and social media.