HD Track

Political Action for the SDGs: The Role of Youth

Grand Ballroom


Bonnie Worstell, Development and Advocacy Program Manager, United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

Rory Mondshein, Constituent Liaison, New York State Assembly, Director of Community Services, UNA USA

Scott Warren, CEO, Generation Citizen

Heran Zhao, Distinguished Youth Speaker


Achieving the SDGs will require action from all different sectors, and in many cases, political action by governments is needed to make progress. However, youth is one of the most underrepresented demographics in politics globally. This is often due to legal restrictions on their participation – though youth aged 15 – 25 constitute a fifth of the world’s population, a third of countries have 25 as the age of eligibility for the national parliament. Indeed, the average age of parliamentarians globally is 53, with 1.65% in their 20s and 11.8% in their 30s, despite 30 being the global median age. In addition to this, and perhaps in part because of this, youth typically have low turnout rates at elections, and reports often show disaffection with politics. However, the tide seems to be turning, with a sudden wave of major young figures in politics emerging in recent years. In particular, the position of Youth Minister is increasingly being created and held by young people, such as 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrouei in the UAE, 26-year-old Syed Saddiq in Malaysia, and 27-year-old Pedro Robledo in Argentina. Even in the US where the average age of Congressmen is 58, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at 29 became the youngest ever woman in Congress this year. While political processes can be difficult and complicated, it remains clear that political influence can be one of the most powerful pathways to enacting change on a large scale. This panel will assess the role of youth in politics and discuss how youth can best address global challenges through the channel of politics.

Possible Discussion Points:

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in politics? What did you imagine it would be like and does it differ from your actual experience? What are the biggest misconceptions about how politics works?
  • How can politics be used as a platform for promoting the SDGs? How do you use politics to promote the SDGs?
  • What do you think are the root causes of the lack of youth participation in politics? What can be done to change this?
  • For youth who believe their politicians are corrupt or against their interests, how can they address this and hold politicians more accountable?
  • We all know about party polarization around the world. What suggestions do you have for working with stakeholders that may not share your interests? How do you advance your goals while staying true to your own morals in these types of situations?
  • The media tends to focus exclusively on national politics, but what are some things that we should know about the local level? What have you learned from working on the local level?
  • How can youth most effectively engage with foreign policy and international relations?
  • Has the international community improved youth inclusion in foreign policy in recent years? If not, what more can be done?
  • The SDGs are vast in range and scope, how do you bridge local and international affairs when addressing these goals? What, if any, challenges have you faced bridging local and international affairs?
  • What, do you think, are the most important skills to be successful in your field? How do you suggest that young people develop these skills?
  • What advice do you have for someone that is interested in pursuing a career in politics? What can be done to promote more youth inclusion, particularly for communities already underrepresented?