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IOG Research Officer Supports the World Bank Group Youth Summit

Author: Maria Habanikova

On October 7th IOG Research Officer Maria Habanikova attended the Work Bank Group Youth Summit in Washington D.C. Here is Maria’s first hand account of her experience.

The Youth Summit Chair was an opportunity for 300 youth representatives, students, and young professionals to reflect on key issues affecting governance ranging from corruption, lack of transparency, and distrust in governments, and to consider youth’s capacity to strengthen the mechanisms of accountability.

Research shows that youth supports open government and is interested in pursuing action-oriented solutions. The Summit – blending policy dialogue, tool-focused workshops and collaboration – provided us with a unique opportunity to do just that.

Introductory remarks were followed by a speech from Erion Veliaj, Minister for Social Welfare and Youth for Albania and two plenary sessions. The first session featured Ahmad Alhendawi, U.N. Envoy for Youth, Edith Jibunoh, Civil Society Adviser at the World Bank Group, Nigel Chapman, President and CEO of Plan International, and Frank Vogl, Co-Founder of Transparency International who spoke on promoting and enabling youth, youth ideas, and youth movements in ensuring open and responsive governments. The second plenary session, The Role of Youth in Inclusive Governance, showcased the impressive work and involvement of youth representatives from the US, Kenya, and India.

The afternoon presented the participants with an opportunity to pick two of eight governance-themed workshops run and sponsored by a variety of partnering organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, Carter Center, Plan International and others. I first attended #OpenGovNow: Innovations on gathering citizen feedback hosted by the World Bank Group Governance Practice. We learned about the results of WBG Governance Practice six-week survey administered online to 62 countries and 95,000 respondents. Essentially, , citizens do want their governments to be more open, they want to have easy access to information or be involved in state’s budgeting process. Specifically, the study revealed that 61% of the 95,000 respondents would like their government to be more open and 63% believe they should have a say in government spending and contracting. Oftentimes, citizens feel that the data is out there but is not used efficiently. Governments aren’t always able to gauge well what citizens want information on and what their needs are. Therefore, during this session, we worked in several smaller groups to talk about the ways in which citizen feedback can be gathered, what we should be looking to gain feedback on, and why having citizens’ input matters to governance. Open budgets, impact of services offered, community needs and urban planning appeared frequently on the flipcharts in the room. We all agreed that regular assessment of citizen feedback – be it via smartphone applications, polls, surveys, online platforms, face-to-face consultations, etc. – have the capacity and potential to make a difference and have a substantial impact on governance.

The second workshop I attended – Youth Engagement and E-Governance Tools – was hosted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) & Generation Democracy (GenDem) and explored the ways in which technology can enhance governance and citizen-government conversation on issues that matter to both. The assumption behind the combination of digital with real-time conversations and engagement is that it has the potential to maximize effect and minimize cost and that technology can help us innovate because it does not discriminate and encourages participation.

The key in most contexts – especially in developing countries such as Jordan and Kenya where IRI and GenDem operate respectively – is to integrate technology into governance programming instead of replacing it. For instance, IRI’s work in Jordan incorporates a two-angled approach. On one hand, it helps develop committees in which citizens can voice their concerns and ideas and interact with local elected officials; on the other hand, the organization created a mobile application which displays survey questionnaires, allows registered users to view results from previous citizen surveys, and syncs all the information to one website where results can be sorted and analyzed.

The highlight of the Youth Summit were the closing remarks by the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim who encouraged us to confront the socio-economic challenges of the world today, hold governments accountable, make people uncomfortable, and remember that when it comes to governance, we matter today more than ever before.

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