17: Revisiting young people’s participation and looking ahead: concluding remarks

Considerable policy and practice interest is currently promoting young people’s participation, locally, nationally and internationally. It has become a popularised requirement for numerous domains, from community regeneration, to service planning, to policy making (Tisdall et al, 2014; Gal and Duramy, 2015). As discussed in this book’s introduction, on the one hand, this popularisation is supported by the recognition of young people as current and not just future citizens, children and young people’s human rights (including participation rights), and examples of young people influencing change. On the other hand, it is propelled by concerns about too many young people being disengaged with formal democratic politics, being potentially disruptive influences and changing demographics. Involving young people in decisions that affect them and their communities, and that address their concerns, both respects and binds young people’s contributions to society.

Young people’s participation is not new, from their contributions as family members, workers and leaders to their involvement in protests and strikes (Cunningham and Lavalette, 2016; Blakemore, 2018). What is new is a particular combination of discourses and trends, such as the decades that have articulated ‘youth’ as a separate (often transitional age- and stage-limited) category from ‘childhood’ and ‘adulthood’; the rise of human rights, which has gradually extended to recognising both children and young people as rights holders and embedding a host of formal institutions and opportunities for participation; globalisation, which has arguably both connected much of the world’s population digitally, economically and culturally, while also widening inequalities and creating new threats; and the 2008 worldwide financial crisis, which shook particularly the Global North and traditional welfare states, to the disadvantage of young people’s future prospects.

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