May 03, 2007
Youth in Politics: How Political
Parties Can Attract the Youth
Youth involvement in Philippine politics is still somewhat limited.
One of the reasons is the weakness of political parties
which in turn often do not have strong youth wings that offer
young people an attractive entry point into politics. This ultimately
limits participative democracy
in the country.
How to address this issue was the burning question at the
Institute for Popular Democracy
and the National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs
Political Parties Can Attract the Youth” on 3 May 2007 at
Sulo Hotel, Quezon City.
The morning was devoted to inputs from speakers: Dr. Joel Rocamora
spoke on “The State of Philippine Political Parties and
the Extent of Youth Participation,” Mr. Norman Patino shared
“Experiences of Building Youth Wings of Political Parties
in the Philippines” and Friedrich Naumann Foundation Representative
Siegfried Herzog looked at “Examples of Building Youth Wings
of Political Parties in Other Countries.” The afternoon
was devoted to topical workshops aimed at discussing practical
steps to increase youth involvement in politics.
Herzog explained how the task of youth wings is to allow new
ideas and new talents to come up. It does this by giving
the youth representation in the political sphere, by helping the
party reach out to young voters and by giving young people a chance
to engage in policy debate and activism. Youth wings also assist
young people in developing skills and networks that will help
them in their careers.
However, this often implies a conflict within
the party. Though party leaders appreciate youth activism, when
faced with demands for policy debate and youth representation,
they fear this might upset other groups in the party. “The
challenges of managing the relationship between mother party and
youth wing are in-built,” Herzog pointed out. “Party
leadership is concerned with stability while youth wings are concerned
with bringing in new ideas and new people. Both of these upset
stability and therefore often annoy party leaders,” he added.
“There is no easy solution — it is a tension that
has to be managed carefully and wisely, but it
won’t disappear. Indeed it is necessary
to keep the party vigorous and relevant.”
With its young and growing population, the Philippines is a democracy
where the youth can play a pivotal role in politics. The growing
urbanization will probably strengthen the demand for modern
democratic governance. Parties with a strong
youth wing will have a crucial advantage
in the years to come.