More and more young people feel estranged from their governments, and as a result, unplugged from decision making. Several pieces of research show there is a big gap in trust around the world, demonstrated by the global demonstrations that took place around the world in 2019.
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One of the examples is Africa, where a young population is governed by mostly elderly political leaders. This results in a huge generation gap between society members and decision makers. Often, the generation gap can be very harmful for building trust in public institutions.
This gap in societies between expectations, unfaced ambitions and reality has resulted in global problems, such as unequal distribution of economic growth, income inequality in a rapidly changing world, and uncertainty around the future of work.
This year 50% of the world population will be below the age of 31. Young people are looking for opportunities to unveil their talents and realize their potential. Technological platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube provide opportunities for them to make money, express opinions, find like-minded audiences and increase their number of followers. This is a new reality when small groups using new platforms can quickly create big global and local impacts – never before in history has humanity had such tools.
Liberty and the future of governance
In the book the Narrow Corridor by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson they refer to the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, “The Allegory of Good and Bad Government”, which shows that liberty is the product of a delicate balance of power, contestation and co-operation between the state and the society. For liberty to emerge and flourish, both the state and society must be strong.
Governments should rethink and create strategies to engage young members of society in decision making, and to build trust and help each member of society discover the role they have to play. This is what Acemoglu and Robinson call a "Shackled Leviathan", the progress which requires a mobilized society and a responsive state, which is very hard to attain, but still possible.
Society, technologies and a fair economy
As President Macron said in his speech in August 2019, inequality disrupts the legitimacy of current economic systems. “How can we explain to our fellow citizens that this is the right system when they do not get their fair share, which leads to the question of the balance of our democracies?” he asked.
President Macron pointed to the technological revolution bringing the unprecedented upheaval we are experiencing. “A revolution in terms of the Internet, social networks and artificial intelligence – an incredible globalization of intelligence, technological progress taking place at unprecedented speed. But it is also a globalization of the imagination, emotions, violence and hatred, contributing to a more savage world, as we are witnessing every day.”
All these changes are accelerating social processes by bringing them closer to daily users. If the governments are failing in their public polices, technology provides us with tools to arrange quick political and economic movements.
In December 2019, a Moscow court banned a political activist from using the Internet for two years. In our current, decentralized world, that cannot be a constructive way to treat young members of society, as other followers of these activists can use the same methods to spread their voice and reach their audience. We need to focus on building a fair economy, where we can redistribute wealth equally, provide equal social opportunities and deliver high quality public services.
Human progress depends on building the state's capacity to meet new challenges and combat concentrations of power, both old and new, but that won't happen unless society demands it and mobilizes to defend everyone’s rights. There is nothing easy about it, but it can and does happen and the Davos Manifesto 2020 can provide the direction for building a new, fair, platform economy.
Quick political movements, income and social inequality
Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, a professor who studies social change and conflict at Vrije University in Amsterdam, says: “The data shows that the number of protests is increasing since 2009 and is as high as the roaring 60s.” Across the globe, movements like in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, and Armenia last year all have similar beginnings: distrust of public leaders and institutions.
Of course, behind the demonstrations there are political demands but at their core there is: a lack of trust, corrupted democracy, as well as doubts about the chance of a prosperous future with an affordable cost of living, and the possibility of ever closing the inequality gap.
These are the results of unresponsive governments, bad public services, corrupted systems, social and income inequity and an unfair economy. This will continue and grow if social inclusion is not transformed.
Additionally, many more people are joining climate strikes and changing their behaviour to fight climate change and help create a cleaner environment, which is one of the foundations for a healthy and prosperous life.
Shaping the future of democracy in Armenia was driven by all layers of society and mostly by young people in Armenia with links to the diaspora. Young people decided to take responsibility for their future and build an inclusive society. Here we see similarities with other global movements of 2019, but those movements lack one important element – Armenia's emotional connection and links with its diaspora.
A possible solution
The demonstrations of 2019 had a big impact across the world; what the President of Armenia refers to as “quantum politics” – in reference to quantum physics, where interconnected yet unpredictable events are sparked in seemingly random places. This is a time when such influences can leave a huge mark on the future.
Small countries can pioneer using new, advanced technologies to create virtual platforms in order to build a mobilized and responsive state, where every member of society will be able to be part of the decision-making process. Such a solution will allow, not only young people, but every member of society with experience and deep knowledge of social networks and platforms to contribute to the creation of their own future and that of generations to come.