Mainstreaming and Expanding Youth Local Councils Around the World
Youth make up a large portion of the population throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Where there is a lack of economic opportunity and high rates of unemployment, instability and corruption that inhibits substantive engagement in governance and community building, disruption, crime and violence can occur. In these environments, effective engagement increases young peoples' confidence to participate in their communities and in decision making processes, enhances their knowledge of governance and how they can influence the decisions that affect them, and prepares them for future leadership.
Youth Local Councils (YLCs) in Palestine, developed by Global Communities with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), are democratically elected bodies of youth who mirror their community's elected local government in size and formation. They are convened, organized, elected and administered by the youth themselves, who serve two-year terms of office. Council youth are charged with considerable responsibilities and real power; they identify problems in their communities and work together with stakeholders to devise real solutions. YLC members gain critical leadership skills, knowledge of ethics-based leadership and values, and a comprehensive understanding of democratic government.
The Youth Local Council model has brought together youth from a variety of backgrounds since 2008 to encourage active participation in local development, government and civil society organizations. Founders, members and alumnus of YLCs in 2020 agreed to launch an organization supported by a social enterprise model to bring all YLCs within one network. The result is Shiam - Youth Make the Future - which today is considered the spin-off organization of the original YLC initiative. It supports existing YLCs, enhances linkages between them by establishing new ones with the aim of developing youth as good citizens and accountable leaders who believe in and practice democracy, good governance, equality, humanity and their own agency to effect positive change for themselves and in their society.
Photo by Global Communities West Bank & Gaza
The recognition the YLCs received through winning the John P. McNulty Prize for impactful and value-based leadership provided Shiam founders with great moral and financial support that enabled the expansion of Shiam's network of partners at the community, government and donor levels. Since its establishment, Shiam has worked with different governmental bodies and development agencies on designing youth councils and committees, supporting innovative entrepreneurial solutions in fields such as water management, agriculture and technology, designing initiatives to support the inclusion of People with Disabilities, and building bridges between generations through knowledge exchange programs between YLCs and retired professionals.
What began as a pilot in four communities with 700 participating youth has become a global movement. By 2017, YLCs included more than 40 communities in Palestine, impacting more than 40,000 youth and thousands of community members. Internationally, the movement has expanded through Global Communities' programs in Honduras and Ukraine. The future of the YLCs is the evolution into a Global Youth for Good Governance movement, building on the momentum in Palestine and beyond and working to link with similar community-based youth engagement and leadership models across the globe.
Palestinian youth have been impacted with leadership training and support.
Story by Amy Levey