A number of national youth commissions, youth-led organizations and other youth civil society networks have been directly involved in official decision-making structures at the highest levels. Studies have shown that public policies and organizational policies are more effective when young people are involved in the planning and design. Youth engaged in migration and development policy processes can share the perspectives and life experiences of young people and articulate their needs (see box 5.3). Genuine consideration and integration of their input can increase young people’s trust in development mechanisms. Political participation among young people can be effective if youth share in decision-making and are recognized as partners in migration policy and programme development.
Box 5.6 Youth engagement wins the ‘Dream Act’ in the USAThe adoption of the Dream Act in the USA was significantly influenced by the successful campaigning of youth and youth-led organizations. Thousands of youth migrants and DREAMers (potential beneficiaries of the legislation) were organized under the coalition ‘United We Dream’, which eventually became the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the United States of America, to engage young migrants for their rights.
United We Dream (UWD) started in the mid-2000s to advocate for the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), but became more result oriented after the Dream Act failed to pass in the U.S. Congress in 2007.
Since 2007, UWD organized and advocated for the rights of undocumented youth immigrants, especially through their campaign, ‘Right to Dream’. They mobilized thousands of youth immigrants as well as other stakeholders including leaders from labour, civil rights, and other sectors to demand the end of detaining and deporting youth migrants. As a result of their work, in 2012, the US Government announced that it would grant temporary relief from deportation for eligible undocumented youth through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), commonly referred to as Dream Act.
Source: United We Dream (n.d.).
An increased commitment among young people (especially youth-led organizations) and the political will of decision makers at all levels are required for meaningful youth participation in migration and development policy planning. Governments can include migrant youth in policy-making processes, strengthen mechanisms that promote and protect the rights of young migrants, and promote institutional arrangements that enhance the capacity of youth to participate at the local and national levels. Without a major shift in perspective on youth involvement, young migrants will be unable to fulfill their potential role as partners in the articulation and implementation of inclusive, equitable and sustainable development policies.
The migration process can be extremely difficult for youth migrants and youth left behind by their parents. Young migrants and returnees face many challenges for which they are often ill-prepared, so it is important that they receive support and assistance in their countries of origin, transit and destination. Although youth are especially vulnerable to the risks and dangers associated with migration, their capacity as agents of social change and development should not be underestimated.
Figure 5.1 Youth action for safe migration: a roadmap