IFES Kosovo Works to Engage Youth in Political and Electoral Processes
Twenty-seven percent of the population in Kosovo is between 15 and 29 years old, and young people are critical to political and electoral processes in the country. To increase youth participation in, and awareness of, political and electoral issues in Kosovo, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) implemented an intensive program, which included mock debates, election simulations, and meetings with political entities. At the conclusion of the project, IFES produced several documents to institutionalize its work, including several research reports. The information from these reports will be used by Kosovo’s Central Election Commission and civil society organizations to develop their public outreach strategies and to identify which groups of voters will need more effective targeting and motivation.
The “Voter Turnout Among Youth of Kosovo” and “The Role of Youth in Political Entities in Kosovo” reports provide information on both the role of youth in political entities and youth organizations and reasons why Kosovo youth chose to vote in elections. In determining the role of youth in political entities and youth organizations, IFES conducted meetings, phone interviews, and face-to-face surveys with youths and found that 73 percent had never been a member of a political entity youth wing or youth organization and that 17 percent had been but are no longer members. Despite such a low percentage of youth involvement in youth wings and political organizations, in all four elections held between 2009 and 2014 youth voter turnout was higher than or equal to the overall voter turnout. In all four elections, 18 to 21-year-olds had the highest voter turnout and in the 2014 election, the 18 to 21-year-old demographic had a higher voter turnout in 36 of the 38 municipalities. It is believed that this demographic had a high voter turnout due to the excitement of voting for the first time.
In addition to being surveyed about their political involvement, youth in Kosovo were also asked about their views on the use of hate speech. In the report “The Influence of Hate Speech as a Political Tool on the Youth of Kosovo,” survey participants discussed their beliefs that hate speech has a negative impact on society and an especially negative influence on youth. The participants condemned the use of hate speech by political figures and stated that they were less likely to support a political candidate that uses hate speech.
Given the low involvement in youth political wings and organizations, there has been a push to encourage youth involvement in local communities. In the “Superchangers Guidebook for Community Development,” youth are encouraged to become “superchangers.” Superchangers are young people with outstanding abilities to address issues in their community by coming up with creative solutions and demonstrating their commitment to work toward improving their country.
IFES also developed a multiplayer video game and a series of interactive quizzes called “Aktivomania” to increase youth awareness of political and electoral issues. You can test your knowledge here. IFES and subawardee Peer Educators Network also developed a social media and web platform to encourage discussion and debate among youth in Kosovo. You can learn more about the project here.