At some point in our lives, we have all come across inspirational quotes such as “The youth are the future of the world” and “The youth of today are the leaders tomorrow” etc. But what do we really mean when we say that? More often than not, we simply utter those phrases to encourage young people to strive harder in life because we see a spark of potential in them and that’s how just we nurture ‘bright, young people’, isn’t it?
If that is that case, then I wonder why there aren’t more young people in high political offices. We can assume it is simply because of the young age and the lack of ‘life experiences’ when compared to someone much older. However, experience doesn’t equate to better decision making, especially if they are someone who prefer to keep things the way they always have been.
Let’s take a look at the current head of state and government around the world and see how many of them are under 40. As of today, there’s a total of 195 universally recognized countries in the world. Out of 195 world leaders, less than 10 of them are under 40! That means 95% of the high offices in the world are currently occupied by people older than 40.
I am aware that I am simplifying it way too much to prove a point, but the point still stands. There has to be more youth representation in high political offices.
Here are just a few incidents that reaffirmed my belief.
UN has a serial sexual abuse problem
Recently, I watched a VICE’s documentary on the sexual abuses perpetrated by United Nation peacekeepers in Africa, Bosnia and basically anywhere around the world where the UN troops are stationed. The focus of the video was on why these rape cases keep surfacing over and over, and why the UN officials have not done enough to punish those responsible.
“Civilian peacekeeping personnel are international civil servants with immunity from the jurisdiction of any national court. UN officials are granted immunities under provisions in Article V of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (CPIUN).”[i][i] UNaccountable: A New Approach to Peacekeepers and Sexual Abuse | European Journal of International Law | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
According to European Journal of International Law, UN peacekeepers have immunity to judicial system of the country they are designated to serve in, similar to the immunity granted to an ambassador of an international embassy in a foreign country. That means they can’t be prosecuted by the court of the country when they’re accused of committing sexual abuses. They can only be tried by the UN court or the court of the respective country the peacekeeping troops belong to, which can sometimes take months and other times it won’t even receive any attention at all.
The primary justification of such immunity is to grant the ‘international civil servants’ the freedom to perform their duties in foreign countries without being bound by the restrictions of said country. However, something has to change if the UN peacekeepers are to be trusted and relied upon by vulnerable people they are sworn to protect. And that change has to come from the top. Believe it or not, those at the top are just as incompetent and corrupt if not worse.
It has mostly to do with the fact that many of the top officials are ancient to put it politely and many of them don’t like “reforms”. They like the old way better; the way they have functioned for decades and they prefer to keep the status quo.
Therefore, if there’s going to be a change it has to be a radical one. By that I meant, bring the whole system down and build it back up one brick at a time with younger people in the lead this time around.
Time for a reshuffle
There is a video of the Myanmar ambassador to United Nations giving an interview for Aljazeera. I cringed as I watched him stutter and speak in broken English.
How do we determine who to send as a representative of a country, be it an ambassador to international embassies or a UN representative?
What are the qualifications and does it matter if the person can speak proper English? It’s possible that I am being extra nitpicky to something that shouldn’t even matter?
What really bothers me is when high-ranking diplomatic officials that are representing Myanmar speak broken English on the world stage. It gives other countries a reason to look down upon the country and its education system. Just my two-cent.
However, the biggest annoyance comes from the way they answer questions or should I say dodge the questions. Some, if not all, of the Myanmar diplomats are incapable of saying things in a constructive and cohesive manner. I will give them a benefit of a doubt that it was due to their nervousness or inexperience being interviewed in English by international journalists. Regardless, that is still not a valid excuse. As an official or a diplomat, you have to practice giving speeches and answering interviews as you’re required to represent the country and its leader.
In fact, isn’t that how you make your way to such prestigious position in the first place? Unless of course you climbed the ladders of bureaucracy by the power of cronyism.
Once again, this goes to show the need for radical and systematic change in our leadership.
At this point, we can all agree that having the old guards in charge is no longer viable for our future. The time is now for us to think about who we want to have making decisions that would impact our lives and our posterity.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Rita Mae Brown
Think of the last time you were disappointed by a decision made by your government. Generally, you’d laugh their incompetence off as a joke but when it keeps occurring repeatedly, you’d have to start asking why such incompetency is tolerated when the stakes are so high. Better yet why are these old people making decisions for those of us younger folks who would have to live with the consequences of their decisions? It is clearly obvious that those at the top don’t want things to change as they benefit from keeping things the way they were so long as they get to keep their pockets full.
It’s about taking the power to make decisions for our future into our own hands and it’s essential to have more young people involved in political and economic decisions of the country. Since younger people will undoubtedly be more incentivized to come up with innovative solutions to tackle pressing issues such as global economy, world peace and climate change as they’re the ones that would have to live with the consequences in the future.
Now we get to the part about at what age should young people be allowed to enter office. To clarify, I am referring to people between the age of 20-40 years old when I say young people. At the same time, I’m not saying appoint the young people the positions with great responsibilities simply because they’re young. They’d have to earn it.
We have to pave the way for the youth that take interest in becoming a leader one day and eventually those at the top will have to step down to make way for a new face. At the same time, young people of our time will have to take initiative to earn their spots. Even now, there are resources (both free and paid) available online for anyone to access and learn the skills required to become a leader politics, economics, and entrepreneurship.
We can look at the 2021 Spring Revolution in Myanmar as a clear example. It’s a group of young college and university students that started organizing the protests at the start of Spring Revolution and they are still the one that continue to pave ways towards democracy at the expense of their lives and livelihood.
The majority of those that are on the front line of organizing and carrying out protests are the youth of different professional backgrounds. Young activists in Myanmar are taking the lead in defending the country’s democracy, whereas older generations are more hesitant or are too scared to even voice their opinions online let alone go out and protest. However, we can attribute their fear to their past experiences with the military’s brutal crackdown of the 8888 uprising.
Freedom from fear is the ultimate freedom anyone can attain and if radical uproot of the old ways of doing things is what it takes, then that will have to do.
We need radical transformation in both political, economic, and environmental landscapes. So, let’s start by electing young people into office and hold them accountable.
This morning, I came across a captivating Vice documentary on a new political movement under the title “Undi18” in Malaysia.
UNdi18 is a Malaysian youth movement that was started by students in 2016, and they successfully advocated for the amendment of Article119(1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 in Malaysia.
Syed Saddiq, age 28, is a co-founder and president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA); a new political party that is led by a committee of youth in their late 20s and early 30s. They are making a dent on the old political system by using social media influence and changing the course of political landscape in Malaysia.
Check out the official page of MUDA to follow on their incredible work.
As always, stay safe and stay curious!