Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Launch of USAID Youth ALLIES Program
May 13, 2022
Good morning. It is an honor to be here this morning for the launch of another exciting United States Government Program through USAID.
The Youth Advocacy, Linkages, Leadership in Elections and Society, or Youth ALLIES, is a particularly remarkable program because of its focus on the involvement of young people.
Youth ALLIES will support youth participation in local governance and local elections. It was designed with young people in mind, it was planned with the input of young people, and the outcomes will benefit young people.
Youth play a crucial role in successful democracies around the world, and Guyana is no different. The United Nations estimates that 70 percent of Guyana’s population is currently under the age of 35 and young people in Guyana make up a significant portion of the electorate.
To the youth of Guyana, we recognize that you have a vested interest in contributing to decision making that shapes your lives and futures.
When young people are disenfranchised or disengaged from political processes, the political system as a whole is undermined. Inclusive political participation is a fundamental political and democratic right and is essential to building stable and peaceful societies.
For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes, and decision-making, and in particular in elections, they must know their rights and be given the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate in a meaningful way at all levels.
When there are obstacles to participating in formal, institutionalized political processes, young people can rapidly feel disempowered. Many tend to believe that their voices are not going to be heard or that they will not be taken seriously even if they are heard.
The problem can become circular as politicians may lose interest in responding to the aspirations of young people if they cannot win their votes. This in turn often leads to young people being increasingly excluded from taking part in decision-making, or in debates about key socio-economic and political issues, despite their sensitivity to the demands for social equity and justice, environmental protection and cultural diversity.
Young people’s active contributions give life to democratic values, and the United States is committed to supporting that wherever we can.
This program will engage young people with diverse identities, including young people with disabilities and indigenous young people. The program will also prioritize adaptation, continuously using research to inform activity design and modification.
The success of Youth ALLIES will be determined by the strength of partnerships that will be forged. A number of local partners were and will continue to be engaged to drive implementation and bring insight into the lived experiences of young people in the country.
I want to thank our implementing partner, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems or IFES, for your continued efforts to strengthen these partnerships in order to make this program a success. And of course, I’d like to recognize the cooperation from our partners in government, that make this effort richer.
It is my hope that through this program, many of you will continue to strengthen your resolve to make Guyana’s democracy stronger and more resilient.
Thank you very much.