Young lady-lawmaker wins Board seat in first global forum of young parliamentarians in Geneva
Quezon City, M.M., Philippines  ·  
posted 19-Oct-2014  ·  
A young lady-lawmaker was recently elected as member of the Board of the Forum of Young Parliamentarians from the Asia Pacific, held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (6th District, Negros Occidental), 32 years old, who was personally nominated by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., to represent the Philippines, was the lone Filipino delegate at the said Conference held at the Centre International des Conférences de Genève on October 10 and 11, 2014.

Alvarez expressed her sincerest gratitude to Speaker Belmonte for nominating her to be the Filipino delegate to the 1st Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians.

She was humbled to be one of only two delegates from the Asia Pacific region who won a seat in the Board of the Forum of Young Parliamentarians for Asia Pacific. The other winner was a male delegate from Cambodia.

The Speaker welcomed the news with pride that the young Alvarez, a lawyer-lawmaker, has made “an imprint in the area of global youth leadership,” a global youth leadership conference organized by the IPU with the generous support of the Worldwide Support for Development (WSD).

The IPU’s commitment to supporting youth participation in politics began in 2010 with the adoption of the resolution on “Youth participation in the democratic process” at the 122nd IPU Assembly in Bangkok.

In 2013, the IPU established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians, a formal and permanent body dedicated to enhancing the quantitative and qualitative participation of young people in parliaments and in the IPU.

The Conference provided a platform for reflection and debate for young leaders in politics and other fields on common concerns that are challenging democracy today.

Although young people have been at the forefront of many recent mass movements for democracy and respect for freedoms and socio-economic rights, studies and surveys show that they are increasingly disillusioned with conventional politics. This poses a challenge to democracy in many parts of the world.

It further stated that recent years have witnessed the engagement of young people in the streets of Cairo, Tunis, Athens, Madrid, Bangkok, New York, Montreal and Rio de Janeiro, among others. While in some cases this engagement has made history, young people’s dwindling interest in formal political activity, including voting and party membership, and a shaken trust in politicians and political parties, is a real threat to the future of democracy.

The Conference aimed to find ways and means of stimulating youth engagement and help define the youth agenda in politics. Young parliamentarians from 61 countries have called for wide-ranging measures to be put in place to ensure the world’s youth are politically engaged and represented at the conclusion of the first global conference of its kind.

According to the IPU Secretariat, more than 180 young MPs, representing the youngest members of Parliaments, below 45 years old, youth leaders and experts at the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians identified youth quotas for parliaments and political parties among several key actions to assure youth political representation and participation. Currently MPs under 30 years of age represent less than two per cent of parliamentarians.

Quotas were also needed for youth participation in local politics to help prepare young people for national politics. Political parties were encouraged to put youth in their leadership and decision-making structures.

Based on the Conference outcome statement, young MPs highlighted a reduction in the minimum age for voting and for being elected as another key step that needed to be taken. Voting and eligibility ages required alignment.

Also, youth involvement in political decision-making and in governance both at national and international levels was similarly called for. This included a youth component in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.

Other actions to take include the creation of parliamentary committees on youth, the allocation of sufficient resources in national budgets for youth programmes, training and education and incorporating youth perspectives into national budget plans.

Furthermore, drawing upon their experience either as young MPs or the part they would have played in youth movements, participants called for democracy to be revived and for regimes the world over to be more democratic.  

The outcome statement also stated that political education should be integrated into school curriculums with an emphasis on democratic values, governance institutions and the responsibilities of citizenship as a way to put political engagement at the heart of young people’s lives.

A second IPU Global Conference for Young MPs is slated for next year in Japan. The Geneva gathering was funded by the Japan-based organization, Worldwide Support for Development. 
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