At the end of the UK’s referendum campaign on membership of the European Union, Restless Development pays tribute to the work of young people’s participation in the democratic debate across the world.
On the eve of the deadline to register to vote, we hosted an interactive youth-engagement event called Brexit Live: Youth Decide. Young people participated in an immersive theatre exercise where they had the chance to put themselves in the shoes of others in the debate.
We were then joined by the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, for a rallying speech about why it is so important for young people to participate in the referendum.
Before finally, we were treated to the perspectives of young people from across the debate in a panel debate. Thanks to Shahmir Sanni (BeLeave), Shakira Martin (NUS), Caroline MacFarland (CoVi) and our chair Josh Pugh (Bite The Ballot).
After the event, we were proud to facilitate two blogs from different youth perspectives to appear in The Huffington Post’s Young Voters series:
We Can Not Be Truly ‘Open to the World’ While Being Part of the EU by Shahmir Sanni, BeLeave
In Our More Globalised and Connected World, We Should Remain in Europe by Flo Savage, Volunteer for Restless Development
The campaign paused as former aid worker and champion of international development Jo Cox MP was killed in a politically motivated attack. It shook the country and we were all reminded of how much one person can achieve.
But the campaign resumed and continued right up until 10pm Thursday night. As the dust settles on the final outcome, one result is clear. Young people participated strongly and clearly made their voices heard.
Alex Kent, Restless Development's UK Director, said:
"Young people have been actively engaged throughout the referendum campaign. They’ve been creative, and passionate drivers of the debate, mobilising to vote and making their case online.
"As the process towards Brexit begins, it is crucial that decision-makers move beyond politics to listen to, and act upon, the interests of this country's young people,and that young people remain engaged at this critical time helping shape our future. Young people are globally connected and globally concerned and ready to lead the way as active global citizens."
This is not the first time the young people we work with have mobilised to participate in landmark votes recently.
In October last year, young Tanzanians raised their voices in the nationwide election. This included mobilising over 270,000 young people to contribute to a Youth Manifesto and creating a R&B video to motivate people to vote:
And it will not be the last either, with young Zambians preparing to go to the polls later this summer (August). They’re already raising awareness through weekly radio shows in partnership with BBC Media Action.