THE influx of newfound wealth brings with it the ever-present fear of mismanagement and corruption. Amid that fear, inclusive decision-making, I believe, offers an opportunity to prevent those challenges.
The recently-launched President’s Youth Advisory Council is another mechanism conceptualised to push more inclusive development locally- this time with a keen focus on integrating youth voices and perspectives.
There are about 29 members currently, but a countrywide recruitment exercise that should see youth from all communities and regions involved is planned.
The council’s operations haven’t necessarily been clearly defined as yet, but as presented to the public, the council promises to channel the much-needed youth voice to the country’s policymakers. I say much-needed because young people like myself, like other groups of people, have a vantage point of issues. And that stands to reason that they have novel solutions to issues that affect them and their communities.
With Guyana pursuing ambitious goals of balancing sustainable development with exploiting oil resources and seeking to find solutions to issues that have long plagued the country and its most vulnerable people, real inclusive decision-making is essential.
Inclusive decision-making was one of the ‘soft’ topics I was exposed to throughout the study of business management and social development. What was related seemed so obvious and fundamental that I didn’t immediately understand why the world of academia placed such a huge emphasis on it.
In the business sphere, inclusive decision-making helps nurture innovation among members of an organisation. Some researchers contend that it also enhances people’s commitment to the organisation simply because they feel more welcomed/valued. In the social development sphere, inclusive decision-making generates a better sense of buy-in or acceptance for developed policies or programmes, making governance more effective than more forceful or imposing decisions (even with sound logic and best intentions). This is all the more important for marginalised communities since it generates a sense of autonomy and ownership that may have otherwise been non-existent.
I think both of these perspectives are important because they help illustrate how real inclusive decision-making can help Guyana achieve its ambitious goals. That is, by fundamentally generating a greater sense of ownership among people. By that logic, if young people are included in crafting decisions for their issues, they should feel a greater sense of ownership for those decisions.
I will admit, however, that in theory, things may seem to make perfect sense, but in practice, outcomes may be very different.
No doubt, this new advisory council promises to be a boon that allows young people all across the country to share their ideas and solutions to problems they experience with the country’s policymakers. But unless it is a forum for youth across the country to meaningfully participate in, and unless the solutions crafted are received and acted upon with much alacrity, it can very well become a fancy show of tokenism.
With the evident level of interest and support showered on the council, one hopes that this will not be the case. And even if there are bona fide efforts at supporting the council and its work with young people, I still believe that these are valid concerns that should not be shelved and ignored.
I also think the council shouldn’t eventually become a popular space for a small group of people with political ties or ambitions. While those things aren’t inherently bad and admittedly, everything is political (everything!), representing youth and the voice of youth must be paramount.
I believe that the advisory council is fresh and full of promise. Once nationwide representation and engagement goals are achieved, it should be a space that meaningfully allows young people to contribute to their communities’ and country’s development.
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