THE BODY SHOP. Be Seen Be Heard campaign by The Body Shop and UN Envoy on Youth seeks to raise the voice of millions of young people in over 75 countries across six continents. (Joel Sheakoski, Joel S Photo)

THE Body Shop and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth launch global collaboration calling for more young voices in the halls of power their joint the Be Seen Be Heard campaign.

That’s because millions of young people are missing from public life. With the climate crisis, global conflict and generational inequalities running rampant, the inputs, perspectives and representation of youth are needed more than ever.

Almost half the world's population is under 30. Yet, they make up only 2.6 percent of parliamentarians around the world. The average age of a world leader is currently 62. Of all the parliaments in the world, 37% do not have a single Member of Parliament (MP) under age 30 and less than one percent of these young MPs are women.

Young people have the right to be included in political decisions that affect them, however, numerous barriers prevent their participation. The Body Shop and the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth are collaborating to change this through the global Be Seen Be Heard campaign to amplify youth voices in public life.

The campaign seeks to create long-term structural changes to decision-making to be more inclusive of young people. It was launched last May 11 with the release of a joint report, "Be Seen Be Heard: Understanding young people’s political participation." The report which includes findings from the largest-ever survey carried out by The Body Shop in December 2021, covering 26 countries with 27,043 respondents in total, over half of which were under age 30.

The research found that 82 percent of people surveyed agree that political systems need drastic reform to be fit for the future. Across the board, 84 percent of people described politicians as "self-interested" and 75 percent of people surveyed think politicians are corrupt.

The majority, two in three people, also agree that the age balance in politics is wrong, with 8 in 10 people of all ages believing the ideal voting age (the age when someone can first vote) is 16 to 18, despite that in most countries around the world the voting age is 18 or over. A third of those under age 30 surveyed would consider running for office versus only a fifth of those over age 30. People across all age groups agree that more opportunities for younger people to have a say in policy development and/or change would make political systems better.

David Boynton, CEO of The Body Shop says, “Our position is clear. The world’s problems cannot be solved by the same people making the same choices. Our research indicates the majority of young people are positive about the future, and we need to hear their views and ideas inside the halls of power. Be Seen Be Heard is rooted in creating a fairer world with and for young people, and together with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth – we are on a mission to do exactly that.”

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth says, “The intergenerational gap in power, influence and trust constitutes one of the biggest challenges of our time. As young people have made abundantly clear through their activism on the streets, in civil society and on social media, they care deeply about the transformational change needed to create more equal, just and sustainable societies. Participation is a right, and this campaign is an opportunity to change that.”

The Body Shop and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth push for transformational change. Among other actions, young people’s participation in public decision-making could be improved long-term by lowering voting ages, increasing formal youth representation through youth councils, parliaments, or committees, removing barriers for young people to participate in public decision-making, simplifying registration for first-time voters, and improving young people’s leadership skills.

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