- New global report released: 82% of people around the world think the political system needs drastic reform to be fit for the future and nearly 70% feel that young people should have more say*
- The Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and The Body Shop join forces to launch highly ambitious advocacy effort
- The Be Seen Be Heard campaign seeks to raise the voice of millions of young people in over 75 countries across six continents
United Nations, New York, 11 May 2022: Millions of young people are missing from public life. With the climate crisis, global conflict and generational inequalities running rampant, the inputs, perspectives and representation of youth are needed more than ever.
Almost half the world’s population is under 30. Yet, they make up only 2.6% of parliamentarians around the world**. The average age of a world leader is currently 62***. Of all the parliaments in the world, 37% do not have a single Member of Parliament (MP) under age 30** and less than 1% of these young MPs are women.
Young people have the right to be included in political decisions that affect them, however, numerous barriers prevent their participation. The Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and The Body Shop are collaborating to change this through the global Be Seen Be Heard campaign to amplify youth voices in public life.
The campaign seeks to create long-term structural changes to decision-making to be more inclusive of young people. It is launched today with the release of a joint report, ‘Be Seen Be Heard: Understanding young people’s political participation’. The report is a snapshot at a critical moment to understand preconceptions and structural barriers preventing young people from participating in public life, along with recommendations to address these challenges for the benefit of societies around the world. The report includes findings from the largest-ever survey carried out by The Body Shop in December 2021, covering 26 countries with 27,043 respondents in total, over half of which were under age 30.
The research found that 82% of people surveyed agree that political systems need drastic reform to be fit for the future. Across the board, 84% of people described politicians as ‘self-interested’ and 75% of people surveyed think politicians are corrupt. Three quarters of people under age 30 felt that politicians and business leaders have ‘messed things up’ for people and the planet.
The majority, two in three people, also agree that the age balance in politics is wrong, with 8 in 10 people of all ages believing the ideal voting age (the age when someone can first vote) is 16 to 18, despite that in most countries around the world the voting age is 18 or over. A third of those under age 30 surveyed would consider running for office versus only a fifth of those over age 30. People across all age groups agree that more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development and/or change would make political systems better.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth says, “The intergenerational gap in power, influence and trust constitutes one of the biggest challenges of our time. As young people have made abundantly clear through their activism on the streets, in civil society and on social media, they care deeply about the transformational change needed to create more equal, just and sustainable societies. Participation is a right, and a lack of youth representation where decisions are made contributes to a growing mistrust towards political institutions and a sense of alienation from elected leaders, caused by policies that do not reflect the priorities of youth, mirror their concerns or speak their language. This campaign is an opportunity to change that.”
David Boynton, CEO of The Body Shop says, “Our position is clear. The world’s problems cannot be solved by the same people making the same choices. Our research indicates young people are the most positive about the future, and we need to hear their views and ideas inside the halls of power. We will use our global reach to galvanise awareness and support, as we have in the past. Since Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1976, we have campaigned on issues of social and environmental justice, because we believe that global businesses have a responsibility towards the communities in which they operate. Our last activism campaign of this scale, Stop Sex Trafficking of Young People, changed 24 laws in 24 countries. Be Seen Be Heard is rooted in creating a fairer world with and for young people, and together with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth – we are on a mission to do exactly that.”
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and The Body Shop push for transformational change
The report supports the fact that there is a chronic lack of faith in political systems but a clear appetite for more youth representation from all age groups. Learnings such as these will inform grassroots campaign actions around the world. These actions, outlined in the report, include a wide range of structural changes in political systems. Among other actions, young people’s participation in public decision-making could be improved long-term by:
- lowering voting ages
- increasing formal youth representation through youth councils, parliaments, or committees
- removing barriers for young people to participate in public decision-making
- simplifying registration for first-time voters
- improving young people’s leadership skills
Campaigning in 2,600 stores, in over 75 countries, across six continents
The collaboration between The Body Shop and the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth will mean that young people and other stakeholders will be able to engage with the campaign through many routes. Local campaign activations will include partnerships with specific youth-led or youth-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and/or opportunities to support through petitions and other activations.
The campaign is launching globally in May 2022 and will run until mid-2025. Check out the campaign website for further information
Learn more about Sir David Martin Foundation’s Youth Advisory Group here
*The Be Seen Be Heard Global Youth Survey was conducted in December 2021 by Dynata.
This large-scale qualitative and quantitative research surveyed 27,043 people across multiple age ranges, including 14,160 between the ages of 15 and 30, across 26 countries. To ensure high confidence levels and representativeness of findings, participant samples included quotas on age, gender, region and income. The survey additionally ensured a good spread of global geography, with 59% of the world population covered in the sample.