Every month since December 2022, we at Youth Talks publish articles about key socio-political topics, intending to trigger discussions with our readers. This month, we explore the topic of democracy, its importance and its evolution across time, with a focus on young people and global initiatives building and strengthening democratic spaces.
As seen in our first article about democracy, this way of governing is never 100% safe from authoritarian movements or populist influences, which can explain why the number of protests around the world more than doubled between 2017 and 2022. Among all young people demanding better political representation, we focus today on two 26-year-olds: Romina Pourmokhtari, the youngest Swedish minister in office, and Joshua Wong, a key figure of Hong Kong’s pro-democratic movement.
🇸🇪 Romina Pourmokhtari
What is she doing?
Born in 1995 in Stockholm, Romina was appointed to the Swedish Ministry for environment and climate in September 2022, by the country’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson. Her term should last four years and she is the youngest person to ever be named minister in Sweden.
What is her background?
Until then, she was the president of the Liberal Party Youth Association (centre-right), of which she has been a member since 2014. Before that, she studied political science at the University of Uppsala, and science at Blackebergs Gymnasium in Stockholm from 2011 to 2014.
What is she known for?
Although her sensitivity to climate issues was not central to her political involvement throughout those years, she was always outspoken about issues such as education, immigration, and feminism. Indeed, her parents came from Iran and her father is a political refugee. She has defended a liberal approach to immigration policies in Sweden and publicly supported the Iranian movement for women’s rights.
What political challenges is she facing?
As she was very critical of Ulf Kristersson’s rapprochement with far-right politicians, she faced a lot of criticism when she accepted to join this government. However, she declared that participating in a coalition government where the extreme right is present still is “an opportunity to make a difference in the environmental and climate policy of this government” and that it is “a reality to live by”. Moreover, under this new government, funding for the environment and climate has been cut and the ministry is now part of the larger business ministry.
🇭🇰 Joshua Wong
What is he doing?
Joshua Wong was born in 1996 in Hong Kong. He has been in jail since December 2020 as he was convicted for the third time over an unauthorized protest outside police headquarters in June 2019. More importantly, he is one of the 42 Hong Kong pro-democratic protesters of which the trial just started. They are charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” because they held “unofficial primary elections” in July 2020, after the national security law was voted.
The group of activists maintains they were simply practicing opposition politics and critics said the trial, the largest national security case to take place in Hong Kong to this day, is a pretext to crush pro-democratic movements as the Chinese government has been fighting against the island’s pro-independence movements.
What is his background?
Growing up, he took an interest in organization management and public speaking while he was a member of church groups. Then, he studied at the United Christian College in Kowloon and specialized in political sciences and public administration at the Open University of Hong Kong, before taking leave from the program to dedicate more time to his political activities.
What is he known for?
Joshua Wong took part in various pro-democratic movements, until gaining international fame as a key figure of the pro-independence Umbrella movement when he was only 14. Among other nominations, TIME magazine listed him as one of the Most Influential Teens of 2014.
A group of American politicians just named him, and five other Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, for the Nobel Peace Prize. They declared in a press release that “the nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China.”
What political challenges is he facing?
Joshua Wong pleaded guilty and will be sentenced after the trial. He and his lawyers are not allowed to comment on the case, but legal experts say they probably are under enormous pressure to plead guilty because they are lacking financial resources and their chances of winning in a court modeled after China’s authoritarian system are small.
If you’d like to know more about Joshua’s daily life in prison, and more importantly if you speak his language, you can read his blog.
🌏 How can I get involved?
If you are interested in becoming a democracy proponent, you can join one of the many international programs that will teach you how to politically organize and take part in public discussions.
Makesense was founded in France in 2010 by two newly graduated friends, Christian and Leila. Their goal is to enable young people to have an impact on their societies by helping them develop their ideas. Since, the organization has spread to the Americas, the Philippines, Lebanon, and West Africa. It offers multiple programs, from “hold-ups” dedicated to inspiring entrepreneurs with the will to have a social impact, to “makesense for citizens”, programs that teach participants how to mobilize other people around a socio-political cause. Makesense is ideal for people that have no idea where to start but wish to come up with their own projects.
Junior Chamber International
Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1915 in the United States. Today, it reunites young active citizens all over the world, aged from 18 to 40 years old. The JCI’s goal is to enable its members to take part in local actions and impact their community. One of its most effective tools is the Active Citizen Framework, “a methodology for conducting grassroots projects, building sustainable solutions that address a community’s most urgent need”, in alignment with the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development. JCI is best for people that wish to join an existing project.
📢 We need you
Why do we need to hear from you?
- From October, 14th to April 30th, young people (15-29yo) worldwide are invited to take part in Youth Talks, a massive collective intelligence consultation.
- The Higher Education for Good Foundation, which is launching this initiative, is expecting tens of thousands of respondents, hopefully including you!
Why should you participate?
- The results of the consultation will help the Foundation imagine new higher education models to grow future generations into empowered individuals able to overcome the challenges of their times.
- Thanks to an online platform and offline activities, you can share your ideas, concerns, dreams, and expectations for the future.
Any other reason?
- Plenty! First, we believe that asking yourself such questions will help you better understand who you are and what you want for the future.
- Second, participating in the consultation means your answers will co-construct the educational policies of tomorrow: they will nourish a white paper that will be read by the OECD, the European Commission, and other major youth organizations.
- Third, thanks to the online open data platform we will publish thanks to your answers, it’s the occasion to show the rest of the world what young people want.
- Finally, it helps plant trees as for every 10 people responding to Youth Talks, we will finance the planting of 1 tree to help restore forests, create habitat for biodiversity, and make a positive social impact around the world.