Event Reports

Building Synergies between Political Parties and CSOs for Constructive Youth Participation in Politics

On the 10th of March 2017, the University Forum on Governance in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung organised a roundtable discussion at Makerere University, Kampala. The discussion aimed at reflecting on the initiatives by the two dominate agencies – political parties and the civil society organizations in advocating for the fair representation of the youth interests at policy discussion levels.

This followed a continued manifestation of the gap in national policies and development papers that can effectively solve the challenges that face the youth. The discussion was attended by selected representatives of youth from the different political parties, the civil society organisations as well as student leaders from Makerere University.

The lunch time roundtable discussion started with an in-depth presentation on the representation of the youth interests by the civil society organisation and the political parties by Henry Kasacca the Executives Director, Dialogue & Democracy Training Centre. The central argument in his presentation was that meaningful and long lasting youth participation and representation in national politics and development can mostly be achieved through political parties.

He also argued that the role of the civil society should be to mobilise the public and provide civic awareness on the different social programmes. Further noted was that the works of the civil society organisation is increasingly seen as destabilising to the democratisation process. This is because CSOs have created the need for democracy among the public without developed institutional framework in place to provide the need levels of democracy. This observation does not render the efforts of the CSO wished away, rather calls for commensurate effort in building the institutional frameworks (political parties) necessary to deliver to the interests of the public.

On the other hand, participants noted the seasonal nature of the political parties as they are only active during election periods after which they become silent. This nature of operation was reported be ineffective in representing public interests as it requires constant advocacy. Also, the ideologies of the different political parties do not represent the interests of the youth let alone the lack of initiatives to inculcate those ideologies among the youth has made it difficult for the youth to trust the political parties.

It was also noted on the side of the political parties that ineffective management abilities and structure has failed them from winning trust of the donors to finance their initiatives. The lack of this trust has made the political parties to operate with minimal funding which has in turn limited their abilities to fulfil their functions.

Amidst all the arguments, participants expressed the critical need to build synergies between the political parties and the civil society organisation to harness efforts for effective youth representation in political and policy discussions. The political parties need to engage the youth not only during elections but all the time to enable them (youth) to continuously demand attention from the policy makers. CSOs need to work together with the political parties to build the political institutions that can absorb the democratic demands that continues to raise because of the civil society activities.