Youth Engagement Mechanisms

Youth engagement mechanisms can enhance inclusion and participation throughout the electoral processes. Youth engagement mechanisms take many forms, and this programmatic option considers youth sounding boards; youth structures such as councils, caucuses and networks; multi-stakeholder forums; problem-solving workshops; national dialogue; and deliberative peace processes.



Youth participation during elections can be strengthened through engagement mechanisms. Such mechanisms take many forms, with the common denominator being the ability to reach young people and to gather their input. Information on perceptions about elections, democratic governance and peace exist when young people participate in its collection. Engagement mechanisms can enable a structured sharing of such information with national electoral stakeholders and international partners.
Dialogue spaces and youth engagement mechanisms were among the most mentioned as potential ways of supporting youth participation during elections as well as a common activity currently being implemented by young people, according to the SELECT youth survey. While a separate activity describes dialogue forums with the intent of mitigating electoral violence, this tool provides further insights to enable inclusive engagement with young people.
Specifically in relation to the latter, the young respondents highlighted the value of:

  1. Creating spaces for discussion and engagement such as forums, workshops, talks, councils and meetings taking place both online and in person and on matters relating to freedom of speech and conflict resolution;
    Promoting participation in electoral and political processes through youth councils at the national and local level, including youth caucuses;
  2. Increasing youth participation in citizen engagement mechanisms by considering the meaningful engagement of a diversity of young people and avoiding tokenism;
  3. Initiating spaces and platforms in relation to policies and frameworks concerning youth participation in elections and peacebuilding priorities.



Councils, caucuses, networks and observatories: Youth councils can be found and established from the local level to the international levels. They are appointed bodies that provide a youth-led structure for organizations and associations. Councils can function as platforms for youth participation (provide a space for young people to meet, deliberate and exchange) and can serve as partners to enable peaceful elections (undertaking specific conflict-prevention-related activities) and to promote youth participation in governance (representation in national multi-stakeholder groups or youth delegate programmes to the UN) [Danish National Youth Council (2019). Meaningful youth participation towards 2030 and beyond].
However, it is not always the case that youth councils are the most representative youth structures in a society, and not all youth councils are independent from political influence. Furthermore, the degree of democratic working methods within the councils varies. Representativity, internal democratic governance and independence affect the legitimacy of youth councils.
In some contexts, caucuses, networks or observatories might be well positioned as partners for electoral stakeholders seeking to engage youth. A youth caucus can be understood as a meeting space for a group of young people belonging to the same network or political group and/or party. Youth observatories can be platforms for young people to engage in societal matters and collectors of youth perspectives on elections.

Youth advisory boards and youth sounding boards: Young people can provide input and feedback to strategies, projects and activities relating to the electoral process through spaces such as youth advisory boards, youth sounding boards or youth advisory councils that may be initiated by national electoral stakeholders and international partners to support dedicated youth engagement mechanisms.

Consultations: The organization of consultations are a common approach to include young people in project design and youth perspectives in policies and frameworks. Enabling two-way communication can support meaningful youth engagement and help avoid that a consultation becomes an extractive exercise [For examples of questions to consider when organizing consultations, please see United Nations and Folke Bernadotte Academy (2021). Youth, peace and security: A programming handbook, Table 2, pp. 22–23].

Multi-stakeholder forums: Youth-inclusion in processes relating to elections, governance and peacebuilding can be facilitated through the organization of multi-stakeholder forums, whereby, youth perspectives can be brought to the fore. Furthermore, such forums can facilitate intergenerational dialogue, enhancing mutual understanding across generations and between different groups and stakeholders (see programmatic option dialogues for peace).
At the time of writing, at least 15 countries and territories have national youth, peace and security coalitions [SG report on YPS 2020 and 2022]. These bring together multiple stakeholders and provide an entry point for collective promotion of youth participation to sustain peace during elections.

Problem-solving workshops: Representatives of different stakeholders and groups may gather for problem-solving workshops to tackle challenges and concerns relating to the electoral process. Such workshops provide an unofficial space that can complement formal structures and processes, facilitating engagement of a broader range of stakeholders and allowing for innovative approaches. The participation of young people and their organizations in such workshops is a way of tapping into young people’s creative ideas and local know-how.

Deliberative processes: Deliberative processes are increasingly used by authorities for public decision-making processes to enhance citizen participation [OECD (2020). Catching the Deliberative Wave; UNDP (forthcoming). Youth, peace and security: Fostering youth-inclusive political processes]. Such processes can provide the diversity of people within the society with an equal opportunity to participate because the processes use random selection. Therefore, they provide an opportunity for youth-inclusive decision-making processes as well as youth-dedicated deliberative processes.

Questions for reflection: Meaningful youth engagment

The following questions are suggested in the youth, peace and security programming handbook [United Nations and Folke Bernadotte Academy (2021). Youth, peace and security: A programming handbook, Table 2, p. 22] to plan youth engagement and have been adapted to be election-specific.

  1. Why do we need to engage young people in the electoral process overall, or in this particular election and/or violence-prevention-related activity or engagement process specifically? What is unique about their engagement or contribution? How will they particularly benefit from it?
  2. What are the concrete opportunities for young people to engage in the electoral process and/or the specific project activity? How will their engagement happen (e.g. youth consultations, youth-led implementing partners, advisory groups)?
  3. Are there risks that young people’s engagement in the electoral process and/or this specific activity might be limited or tokenistic? If so, how might we address them?
  4. Do the young people we are trying to reach have a desire to be included? If not, explore the reasons for their reluctance and how to incentivize them.
  5. What do we know about the young people in the community in which the project/activity will take place? Have they been previously engaged in similar processes? Are they often marginalized or included in these kinds of processes?
  6. Would it be necessary to negotiate young people’s participation with other stakeholders (e.g. EMBs, community elders, government authorities)? If so, how might we convince the other electoral stakeholders of the value of engaging young people?
  1. Would it be safe and would it feel safe for all young people to engage in the electoral process and/or this specific activity? Would there be any consequences of their engagement (e.g. prosecution by authorities or elders, stigma)? If there are risks, how might we address them? In what ways can young people feel safer in engaging in the process/activity (e.g. having peers in the group)?
  2. Do the young people we are trying to engage in this activity come from the same background or similar backgrounds? If so, what could be done to widen/diversify the young people who are reached?
  3. Are there any cultural or social biases and barriers that might prevent or jeopardize the participation of young women? If so, how can we address them?
  4. Have we included a representative and diverse range of young people, including representation of different gender, racial, ethnic, linguistic, tribal and religious identities and people with disabilities? Can this be addressed?
  5. Are there existing youth peacebuilding activities and/or youth-led mechanisms and platforms that we can support and engage in to contribute towards an enabling environment for peaceful elections?
  6. What information do we need to provide young people with to enable them to decide if and how they want to engage in the process, and in what format?
  7. What kind of support (operational, capacity, etc.) might we need to provide young people with to enable their full and meaningful participation in the electoral process?

Specifically for online youth engagement and digital technology, the following may be considered [SELECT consultations 2022]:

  • Are online participatory processes youth-friendly?
  • Which digital security tools can enable safe youth online participation? Are young people’s personal data protected when they participate online?
  • Concerning digital tool development, have youth been involved in the design of the tools?
  • There are many forms and types of youth participation. Will online participation have the intended impact for this activity? May a certain group of youth be excluded as a result of the online engagement format? Who are the young people with access to participate in the digital sphere?


Who is best placed to carry out the activity?

Youth engagement mechanisms can be established by a range of actors and may be initiated by young people, established for young people with youth taking the lead, co-created with young people or characterized as a collaborative effort including youth among other actors.
Examples of this include youth structures such as councils that are well placed to bring together young people from different parts of the country or territory. Furthermore, national authorities including EMBs, civil society organizations (CSOs) and international organizations can create platforms and spaces for youth. In addition, community leaders can bring together stakeholders at the local level.
The SELECT consultations highlighted the important convening power of the United Nations to bring together young people, decision-makers, electoral stakeholders and other development partners.


How to ensure a context-specific approach?

Youth engagement mechanisms are context-specific, and a youth-sensitive stakeholder analysis can provide electoral-related programmes with an understanding of power relationships in societies and the specific situation of youth.


How to ensure an LNOB approach and promotion of gender-equality?

For youth engagement mechanisms to be effective, they may include a diversity of young people, particularly young women and young people from marginalized groups. While it is important to sustain collaboration with young people and youth organizations, it is equally important to avoid re-engaging the same young people for all activities. Consideration may also be given to the area of expertise and experiences most relevant for the activity.
Together with identifying context and conducting conflict analysis, establishing a good understanding of who the young people are that you are engaging with, how they are organized and what different youth groups’ relationship is with other stakeholders is key to deciding upon the appropriateness of different youth engagement mechanisms in a specific context—hence the importance of youth-inclusive and youth-sensitive assessments and analysis.


How to ensure sustainability?

Considerations for sustainability depend upon the type of youth engagement mechanism. For instance, a focus on local ownership of youth councils can contribute to sustainability, as it strengthens national capacities.
However, the initiation of a youth sounding board, which would be specifically established for a programme or strategy, may, as such, be a time-bound mechanism and may not have been established as a continuous mechanism. Nonetheless, the established mechanism may continue to exist and evolve into another type of mechanism, which could benefit from nurturing the created relationships and network.






The meaningful engagement of young people is essential for the success of a youth engagement mechanism. It is not the mechanism in itself that effectively promotes youth participation to sustain peace during elections. See Annex 3 for more on principles and strategies for meaningful engagement of young people.
It is important to consider how to avoid putting young people at risk through the engagement. For instance, in some situations, young people might face safety and security issues if directly participating in meetings and activities, and alternative means of engagement may be considered such as online participation instead of in-person activities, dedicated spaces for young women, individual conversations and/or anonymous surveys.
Youth-inclusive deliberative processes are not seen that often, and there is still limited evidence of the impact of such processes.


United Nations and Folke Bernadotte Academy (2021). Youth, peace and security: A programming handbook.

Youth, Peace and Security: A Programming Handbook, developed by the United Nations with the generous support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy – the Swedish Agency for Peace, Security and Development – seeks to contribute to the operational readiness and capacity of United Nations practitioners to implement the youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda.

Danish National Youth Council (2019). Meaningful youth participation towards 2030 and beyond.

A progress study conducted by the Danish National Youth Council highlighted  national youth councils as potential vehicles for increased legitimate youth participation and representation in decision-making processes provided that the national youth councils are legitimate. This has led DUF to conduct a study on how national youth councils can ensure meaningful youth participation and representation going towards 2030 and beyond. Based on this DUF study, this piece presents key findings and key recommendations on three essential themes: 1. National youth councils as legitimate platforms for youth participation; 2. National youth councils as partners for youth’s contributions to achieving Agenda 2030; 3. National youth councils as promoters of youth participation.

United Network of Young Peacebuilders and Search for Common Ground. Translating youth, peace and security into practice: A guide to building coalitions.

The guide aims to support the work of young peacebuilders and allies at the local and national levels through locally-led collective approaches that address their exclusion in
preventing violence and sustaining peace. It also provides good practices, lessons learnt, and tools to form a multi-stakeholder alliance around YPS.


Empowering Youth as Agents for Peace and Social Cohesion in Solomon Islands (EYAPSCSI) project 

Solomon Islands: Enhancing youth political participation through local youth councils. Between 2018 and 2021, the 30-month long “Empowering Youth as Agents for Peace and Social Cohesion in Solomon Islands (EYAPSCSI)” project spearheaded by UNDP and International Labour Organization (ILO) strived to empower marginalized young Solomon Islanders, particularly young women, to engage in decision-making and act as pro-active social entrepreneurs to address local sources of grievances. The establishment of youth caucuses under the EYAPSCSI project in the Solomon Islands was successful insofar as the project created a platform with the aim to organize young men and women around peacebuilding, social cohesion and social entrepreneurship, including in areas of the country which were previously neglected. Indeed, such caucuses are a sustainable form of intervention: they are rightfully considered highly effective platforms for discussing and addressing the concerns and issues of youth and wider community, given that they have now become locally-owned initiatives kept alive by communities across the islands. It illustrates the benefits of community-level dialogue for the empowerment of young men and women. The societal impact of the project’s demographic focus on young people between the age of 16 and 24, with a particular focus on young women and single mothers, is also non-negligible: indeed, the evaluation noted that the project was highly effective insofar as it led, among other elements, to a change in young people’s behaviour towards citizenship, gender issues, drugs and working with others in targeted communities.

Yemen national dialogue

In the lead up to the establishment of the national dialogue process in Yemen in 2011, young people were critical advocates at the grassroots level. The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) set out to draft the new constitution and parties agreed to a 20 percent youth quota. Furthermore, a women’s quota required 30 percent to be female with 20 percent of these required to be young. This meant that 40 independent youth (young people without political affiliation) were selected, meaning seven percent of the members of the NDC were youth. Studies indicate that the young people collaborated as a bloc and make strategic alliances with other blocs e.g., women and that they achieved a role in and influence on the decision-making of the NDC, illustrative of youth leadership and agency as well as indicating the potential of quota in some decision-making processes.

Women Situation Room Uganda

Youth participation is mainstreamed in the Women Situation Room in Uganda, which aims to promote the full and active participation of women and youth in ensuring peaceful elections in Uganda through the provision of a non-political platform for women and youth to strategize, plan and respond rapidly to electoral-related violence in a coordinated manner. The situation room has partner with and been supported by multiple stakeholders.

It is a women-led early warning and rapid response mechanism to mitigate and prevent violence throughout the electoral cycle. Activities include women and youth peace advocates promoting a culture of non-violence; election peace monitors, coordination spaces, mobilizing electoral stakeholders for peace pledges and call centers for violence reporting. Young people are described as having a key role in the implementation of such activities. Results include that 120 trained grassroots women and youth mobilized their peers and communities in 2016 and a consultative meeting with youth from diverse backgrounds to inform the strategy of the situation room in 2021. The Women Situation Room in Uganda was established in 2016, and the first Women Situation Room was established in Liberia in 2011 by the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC).

Multi-stakeholder Consultative Platform on Peace and Governance

In 2019 and during the pre-electoral phase, the multistakeholder platform convened a meeting with a focus on the role of young people in peacebuilding and the importance of youth participation in elections. It brought together students, members of peace councils, political party leaders, among others. The multistakeholder platform aimed to prevent electoral-related violence. The Multi-stakeholder Consultative Platform on Peace and Governance was co-created by UNDP and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD Ghana).

Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON)

AYON aims to bring youth organizations together to provide a common platform for collaboration, cooperation, joint actions and collective endeavors between youth organizations in Nepal as a national network and ubrella organization of non-government, non-religious, not-for-profit youth organizations in Nepal. In 2017, AYON worked with young people from diverse backgrounds who were trained on parliamentary processes through a youth mock parliament. This led to the adoption of the youth mock parliament as an annual event under the National Youth Council. In 2019, AYON had a focus on providing capacity development and civic education for young people – including youth from marginalized communities – to engage with Members of Parliament at provincial and local level.

“Vote” Youth Lab competition – Kyrgyz Republic

The “Vote / Shaila” competition was organized in the framework of the UNDP Programme for Support of the Electoral Process in the Kyrgyz Republic, with the support of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to involve young people in informing voters about the electoral legislation and motivating them to actively participate in voting.

In the first round, 44 young participants out of 200 applicants took an active part in the Youth Laboratory, which was held online and included practical classes on topics such as: voting legislation, design thinking, mobile video shooting, moderation of meetings and graphic design from experienced specialists. The second round follows the fine-tuning of their creative ideas and products after which the winners of the project are announced.





Information Integrity E-learning

Coming soon