Young people and the social contract

Issue Brief | How can young people be included more deliberately in societal-decision making in order to rebuild trust and strengthen solidarity?

Ariana Palombo is a 21 year old climate action activist from Uruguay.


Recent global upheavals, including the 2008 financial crisis, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and growing climate crisis, have exposed or exacerbated fractures in the social contract — that is “the partnership between individuals, businesses, civil society and the state to contribute to a system in which there are collective benefits.”

The disproportionate impact of global crises on young people (crises they did not cause) means that neglecting their interests is no longer sustainable.

There is increasing recognition that the social contract must be renewed if the world is to “build back better” following this period of turmoil. However, social norms in many cultures promote paternalistic attitudes which deny young people a meaningful voice in priority-setting deliberations and policy formulation.

This issue brief outlines the consequences of excluding young people from societal decision-making, demonstrates why it’s in everyone’s best interest to include young people, and then offers recommendations for meaningfully doing so in order to successfully build a new social contract “fit for the twenty-first century.”

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Mark Weston
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