Measuring the high expectations of Latin America’s youth | Heraldo Muñoz

22 Jul 2013

Recent demonstrations sparked by young Latin Americans urge us to understand the demands of young people, and to address lingering structural problems in our societies, especially inequality. These protests are also an opportunity to rethink democratic governance in the 21st century, in the digital age of flourishing social media activism.

The increasing frequency of such mobilizations tells us that young people want to actively participate in their society’s development. The first Ibero-American Youth Survey—which we launched with the Ibero-American Youth Organization and other partners on 22 July in Madrid— shows that young people in Latin America, Portugal and Spain expect their participation to increase over the next five years. Institutions should provide formal spaces for this, or protests will become the most effective way for young people to make their voices heard. And the region will waste an opportunity to enhance the quality of its democratic governance.

We introduced in this survey the first Youth Expectation Index, based on our decades-long experience in the production of Human Development Indices. This new Index—which reflects young people’s perceptions and subjective values of social, economic and political rights—  revealed the same messages that young people in the region are conveying in the streets: they expect more in terms of reduced corruption, violence, poverty and inequality.

The Youth Expectations Index also showed us that two thirds of young people in Latin America have a positive outlook and that they are more optimistic about the future than the present. Young people express more confidence in their own capacity than their surrounding environment, and the notion of “national crisis” does not seem to directly impact their expectations. For example, Spain’s youth are not pessimistic about their future.

To achieve our vision of a true citizens’ democracy we need to boost youth participation in politics, with all their diversity. For this reason we launched a new tool, the online platform JuventudConVoz, to expand political participation of young people aged 15-29 years, especially women, Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples.

Talk to us: What are your expectations for the next five years and how do you think young people can get more involved in politics?

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