Youth Integrity Program
Our Youth Integrity Officer have operated two programs between 2016-2018 focusing on ensuring that young people in Mongolia are fully educated on the meaning of corruption, the forms it can take, its impact on society and most importantly, how young people can have a pivotal role in fighting corruption. Our team have presented workshops to over 1000 university students, holding video and essay competitions, and youth events, all working on empowering young people to have a say in their future. We have also partnered with Save the Children recently to develop research tools to understand children’s perception of corruption in schools. This publication has just been released with insightful data on young voices in Mongolia that will be beneficial to assist in future youth projects.
Overview of Youth in Mongolia
Participatory youth programs, and more broadly public participation is a key way to counter corruption. Participation in decision making is known to create further transparency and make governments more accountable to their citizens.
In Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s report (2015), a key recommendation was to include public participation in anti-corruption policy work, raising awareness and public education (OECD 2015.) Young people have a key role to play in fighting corruption and pushing for change in their societies and the survey results. However, young people cannot be expected to bear the full responsibility alone: they must be equipped with the capacity, provided with the opportunities and encouraged to build their confidence to stand up against corruption and for integrity.
Youth Integrity in Asia ( Transparency International 2014) respondents were asked about the role youth could play in building integrity and in anti-corruption efforts. The findings shed some light on young people’s belief in their own power and ability to bring about change. Personal integrity is the basis for young people who reject corruption and could potentially lead to activism and leadership that rely on transparency-oriented leadership values. Such energy should be harnessed and supported by all the stakeholders, including parents, government, education authorities, civil society and the private sector. More than 80% of young people surveyed thought that youth can play a role in promoting integrity-building, which would then strengthen the fight against corruption.
"If educated and properly supported to oppose corruption, young people could ultimately become more involved and role models for future generations"
- Transparency International 2014
In Mongolia, there has been a distinct lack of policies to support young people engage within their community despite youth being active and involved. Young people are engaged in social activities, including through civil society organisations and volunteerism. Additionally, young people in Mongolia are using online platforms to connect with others which has proven to be a key medium for mobilising participation (UNDP 2016).
Whilst not always present in the past, it appears that participatory youth programs are gaining momentum in Mongolia and young people are wanting to express their opinions in decisions that affect them. In the latest report by Save The Children (2017), 86% of children felt that it is vital that decision-makers listen to children’s voices and opinions. In addition, 87.4% of children consider that there are limited or no opportunities to raise their voices and express their opinions to decision-makers. The National Human Development Report states that a comprehensive youth development policy was being prepared by the government at the time of writing (UNDP 2016). This policy was seeking to promote further investment in youth, and seeking their perspective in overall policy making.
From an Australian perspective, youth participation is a multifaceted, largely ambiguous term with a range of contested understandings (Farthing 2012: 72). A seemingly commonsensical concept, youth participation has gained traction within government policy, community development, research and youth work practice (Couch 2007: 37). From radical empowerment of otherwise oppressed youth to creating efficiency/performativity in youth organisations (Farthing 2012:71), it has become a positive catchphrase used to attract funding and recognition that is perceived to be unequivocally desirable (Farthing 2012:71). Furthermore, by ‘doing’ youth participation, western governments are seen to be addressing social problems whilst enhancing citizenship among youth (Bessant 2004: 388).
Understanding power dynamics, systemic structures and the impediment of age is critical to youth participation. Furthermore, understanding power, systemic structures is critical to coordinating anti-corruption initiatives. The very basis of youth participation comes from the idea that young people are in a disadvantaged social situation and need to be given the space and assistance to have their voices heard. Resting on this default position requires rethinking why young people are generally perceived to be subordinates to their dominant elders (Gallagher 2008: 137). In addition, when thinking about young people and their position within society for young Mongolians it is very different experience to Australian young people and their experiences of participation.
As already outlined, the conduct of politicians and political parties in recent years has eroded the trust of young people in political institutions in Mongolia. However, young people are not disillusioned nor are they politically indifferent or disinterested. Policymakers and political leaders should view this lack of trust as a means to make improvements in governance and to engage with youth on policies that affect them and to include young people in the development process. This will provide young people with an opportunity to hold officials to account and at the same time contribute to strengthened governance in institutions.
Education is the strongest weapon that can change the world.