Youth participation in social and political life is the theme of the Be Seen Be Heard campaign, which aims to increase young people’s participation in politics and help make their voices heard in all spheres of public life. The Body Shop International, in cooperation with the UN Secretary General’s Office of the Envoy for Youth Affairs, conducted research and created a report outlining how and why young people are involved in political decision-making, and what challenges they face. For the purposes of this study, young people were defined as those between the ages of 15 and 29.

According to data collected by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in 2021 there were only 2.6% of parliamentarians under the age of 30 worldwide, and less than 1% of young MPs were women. With half of the world’s population under the age of 30, there is a glaring picture of underrepresentation of the younger generation in legislative bodies resulting in little influence on decision-making. The low representation rate translates into a shortage of candidates with whom young people can identify, who understand the issues they raise and the need for change. A derivative of this situation is also the low level of trust in the system and politicians.

Young people who want to get involved in public affairs also face barriers at the administrative, financial and legal levels. Globally, the gap between obtaining active and passive voting rights is four years, which clearly limits the possibility of involvement in political life. Lack of or inadequate civic education is also an obstacle to greater participation of young people in political and social life. Unequal access to education is also a cause of exacerbating already existing inequalities and further marginalizing certain communities.

The Be Seen Be Heard Global Youth Survey found that as many as three-quarters (76%) of people under 30 believe that politicians do not listen to young people. This sentiment is particularly strong in South Africa (90%), Spain (80%) and the UK (80%). Young people are not isolated in feeling a lack of agency. 65% of people over the age of 60 feel the same way.

The report shows that with limited opportunities for change and discussion in an institutionalized manner, young people are left with protest as an attempt to influence decision-making processes and break through with their views to decision-makers.

The Be Seen Be Heard report presents recommendations for policies and legislation that the authors believe will support the realization of young people’s needs and rights, and ensure that their voices are heard in public life and decision-making.

Here are the advocated changes.

Recommendations included in the report

  • Lowering the voting age for local, municipal or national elections.
  • Address legislative or political barriers that directly or indirectly prevent people under 30 from running for leadership positions, including removing barriers such as registration fees.
  • Implement comprehensive civic education programs for youth.
  • Recognize, support and establish youth-led organizations and associations at the local and national levels, with direct contact with national legislation.
  • Establish formal, transparent and diverse mechanisms for youth involvement in national policy development, such as on climate change.
  • Implement simplified voter registration for young people and first-time voters.
  • Apply minimum financial quotas for political parties for youth-oriented spending, especially for marginalized young people, including young women, youth with disabilities, indigenous and rural youth.
  • Ensure the independence and financial stability of youth political wings from their parent parties.
  • Introduce minimum parliamentary quotas for MPs under the age of 30, taking gender parity into account.
  • Developing national youth strategies and legislation for the younger generation in cooperation with youth organizations.
  • Recognize new forms of youth participation and activism, such as online mobilization and campaigning addressing specific issues.
  • Ensuring that spaces for youth political participation give young people real power and influence, including budgeting and agenda-setting.

The demands presented above, as well as the Be Seen Be Heard Global Youth Survey report as a whole, are an important voice in the discussion of youth social and political participation. Let’s hope that this voice will be heard and contribute to real changes that will enable young people to duly participate in creating the reality around us.

Active participation of the younger generation in social and political life is a very important issue that has a permanent place in the activities of our foundation. We have conducted our own analyses on this topic, including in the study “Social Participation of the Young Generation. A selection of analytical content,” which you can read on our website

We also encourage you to read the full version of the report, available in English at