In his recent interview with Nepal Live Today, Sarin Ghimire, a young leader with the ruling Nepali Congress, wrote that getting into politics for youths means “you are diving into dirty, muddy waters”. You should make sure, he added, that “you are self-sustainable because the only reward you should be expecting from politics is the sense of pride in contributing to making Nepal a better place to live in”.
Ghimire’s depiction of politics may be close to reality, a sad landscape for an emerging democracy like Nepal. You need resources, often not available to many youths with a passion for politics, and at the same time, you need a lot of passion, a long-term enthusiasm to help achieve the common good. This is what politics should be about and it is encouraging to see that despite odds, youths like Ghimire are in politics.
There are many like him across the entire political spectrum. There are lots of youths with tons of political passion as we can see in the recent protests against the MCC Compact.
Yet I am wondering if joining a political party is the only venue for youths to “do politics”. The reality is that joining a political party is synonymous with entering the political field but are there any other alternatives available?
Perhaps we should expand the meaning of doing politics here. Yes, becoming a member of a political party is the main pathway for change but there are also others especially if we think of politics as the art of policymaking for the common good. You can volunteer your way forward as a budding thought leader able to express your well-researched ideas and as an activist with work on the ground.
Let’s not forget that the common good we are talking about is inspired and driven by Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It makes so much sense to devote yourself to a mix of initiatives, some of more reflective nature like research or an article and some others of more impact like actions on the ground.
I would call this way of getting engaged as the “the Doer Advocate”. There is also another platform where instead the “deliberators” could get into motion. This venue would open up if a nation like Nepal starts re-discovering its own ancient tradition of local deliberation, allowing the citizens to have a bigger say in the decision-making process.
Deliberative democracy would not be a replacement for liberal practices of democracy based on periodic elections but rather could strengthen and complement the existing constitutional framework. In the context of youths’ involvement in the political theatre, this could lead to citizens’ forums or assemblies, a space for discussion and debate. In short, youths could become protagonists in organizing and running these “agora’”, the setups that are inspired by old practices of consultations that used to thrive in the past.
Another area where youths could be involved in a different way of doing “politics” is by simply leveraging every single channel of communication available to them. I would call those embracing this role the “opinionists”. From being more constructive users of social media to writing opinion pieces for newspapers to articulating their views through recorded videos, there is a variety of options available for youths to express their opinions and try to shape the public discourse. Another way could be to join a think tank and this could be a valid option especially now that more and more research centers are coming up in Kathmandu.
Policy analysis plays a fundamental role in shaping appropriate policies while at the same time it improves the effectiveness of policymaking. In this context, youths could even set up their own think tank. They can start small and informally by deciding a particular angle or focus area and from there onwards they can plan a series of activities, including surveys, a series of articles, videos, a public debate, and so on.
Policy analysis plays a fundamental role in shaping appropriate policies while at the same time improving the effectiveness of policymaking.
Most of these activities would require little budget and could provide the foundations to attract potential donors when the step of formalizing the set-up is going to be taken. It is true that none of the above-mentioned options will have the power of a magic wand and transform the political landscape and make politics cleaner and more effective but they could all be stepping stones for a more meaningful civic life.
Formally entering a political party and taking responsibility as elected leaders, either at local, provincial, or federal levels, would hold the key to cleaning the swamp and improving the way politics is done in the country. Yet someone with a passion for policymaking, a passion to propose ideas and solutions, should not be dissuaded from the current political landscape.
Making the difference
A simple debate or policy discussion on the issues that are most relevant today, for example, ways to tackle inequalities, measures to fight climate change and create employment, can truly make the difference in two different ways.
First, it can shape someone’s mind because this person will be exposed to information and different views and therefore she would be able to develop her own understanding of the issue at stake.
Second, a simple act of civic engagement could generate new ideas and solutions that could be taken forward by those who hold elected positions. Thus if you are a youth with a passion for politics, do not feel discouraged about the current status of power play within the national political parties.
Instead find your own way to become relevant, remaining open to different views while expressing your own prepositions. You might not notice it and you might not get any immediate recognition but your action will count and will be noticed. This is what, after all, it is called “influence” and it matters.
Simone Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Views are personal.