|New study highlights status of youth civic participation in Cambodia|
PHNOM PENH, 21 July 2011
Cambodian youth feel optimistic about the overall direction their country is taking but face challenges on the way to a meaningful participation in the political and socio-economic life of Cambodia. A lack of knowledge and understanding of democratic processes and difficulties expressing issues of concern are among the obstacles to greater youth participation as citizens, a study said.
The United Nations Development Programme released the findings of the nation-wide Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) Study on youth civic participation and the media in Cambodia on Thursday. UNDP commissioned the BBC World Service Trust to conduct the study with the objective to support greater civic engagement, participation and interaction between the government, civil society and citizens through better understanding of youth awareness and participation in democratic processes.
The baseline study involved face to face interviews with 2000 youth aged 15-24 discussing civic participation, knowledge of democratic institutions and electoral participation. It showed that respondents’ knowledge of democratic institutions and their roles was very limited, particularly of elected bodies such as the Parliament and commune councils.
“Commune councils were a widely familiar institution but what they do was less clear to respondents. Ninety-two percent of youth had heard of commune councils. However, nearly a third of those who were aware of commune councils did not know what they do,” the study said. “Parliament was the least familiar to youth, with just three-quarters having heard of ‘Parliament’, and two-thirds of these people not knowing what parliament does.”
Youth are the key to democratic participation in Cambodia with two out of three people in Cambodia being under the age of 25 years old and more than 30 percent of the population aged between 10-24 years. Active and meaningful youth civic engagement is essential to Cambodia’s development.
The study found that 54 percent of respondents who were eligible in the 2007 Commune Council election did not actually vote and that 21 percent of the young eligible voters were not registered at all. Youth participation in community-based activities is very important, and yet only 4 percent of the respondents said that they had participated in making decisions on community plans, according to the study. Among the issues to be addressed, the participants of the study mentioned community issues, corruption, gangs, health and domestic violence.
Recognising the need for better targeted civic education and public awareness programmes in the years to come, UNDP partnered with the BBC World Service Trust to undertake this research. The BBC World Service Trust has extensive experience in Cambodia and is one of the global leaders in using media to promote political, economic social and cultural development.
“Youth voices, collected and analyzed through this study, will hopefully help to inform and guide more effective actions through which the youth can better contribute to an equitable and prosperous future for Cambodia,” Elena Tischenko, Country Director of UNDP Cambodia, said in her remarks at the launch.
The study’s findings also provide an insight into how a variety of media including television, radio, internet and mobile technology can be used to communicate with Cambodia’s large youth population. They can serve as a resource for national institutions, civil society, media and universities working with youth in Cambodia.
Recently, UNDP working in partnership with the BBC World Service Trust developed a national youth civic education campaign aimed at reaching 5 million young people, including 3 million young voters ahead of the upcoming elections. Programmes will go on air in January 2012 and address the knowledge and skills gaps identified in the study by presenting positive examples of youth participation in governance.
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