While acknowledging the efforts undertaken by political parties to engage youth, Cook Islands National Youth Council (CINYC) president Sieni Tiraa says work still needs to be done to get potential future leaders involved in the political process.
Getting young people to support the political parties’ policies and advocating to their peers were strategies that have not necessarily been exhaustively used to engage youth, especially those eligible to vote, she says.
Tiraa adds that social media is one of the best mediums to reach youth regarding party policies for the upcoming June 14 elections.
She acknowledges government’s support in engaging youths in national decision-making, but adds there are still areas of concern.
The council acknowledges government’s support through education, health, welfare and family support, sports, just to name a few, as platforms that encourage the engagement of youth.
Tiraa says over the years, governments have also engaged youth through the National Youth Policy.
“In our view, most of these platforms are well supported and financed. However, like everything, there are areas of concern or gaps that still need to be addressed by government, such as the implementation of the current National Youth Policy.
And support for the youth office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs is also lacking.”
The council appreciates the positive engagement it has with the country’s political leaders, especially given the fact that not many youth councils in the region are given the same level of support, says Tiraa.
“We acknowledge that the current internal affairs minister (Albert Nicholas) who is responsible for youth is the youngest Cabinet member and Member of Parliament.
However, his engagement with the youth council has been sporadic since his portfolio appointment, in the sense of his presence and support.”
Tiraa says there are many reasons as to why there has been a general lack of interest in politics and national decision making from local youth.
The council has conducted two practise youth parliament programmes and the young people who participated have come to appreciate the information, the explanations of parliament’s processes and experience of decision making at the highest level, she says.
As a result of the practice youth parliament programme in 2015, one of the participants is now an interpreter for Parliament, she said.
“In this format it is a formal process of learning, in the past youth have probably only received their education of political processes through the biased views of their parents or persons of influence,” Tiraa said.
“In our view, a greater understanding of the dynamics of political life may increase the interest of young people.”
Tiraa says youth participation in national decision making is vital to ensure the equal participation of all members of the community in issues concerning the nation.
This, she says, will ensure the development and progress of the country is “well-balanced, peaceful, respectful and wholesome”.