This 10-page paper shares lessons from the experience of a Colombian youth group created in 2003 to strengthen youth integrity and work with youth to fight corruption. The group was created after a Youth Forum held parallel to the 11th International Anti-Corruption Conference in South Korea. It is based on the conviction that not only does corruption has a strong impact in the daily lives of youth but also, young people have the responsibility to help build a democratic and transparent system in which they want to live. According to the paper, despite the challenges of working in a difficult environment and with inexperienced youth, young people can be an effective part of anti-corruption efforts.
The paper explains that, while Colombia faces a problem of widespread corruption (with 72% of Colombians admitting there is corruption in the country), only about 3% of people surveyed consider the fight against corruption a priority. Among young people, 80% of Latin American youth think they should mistrust everybody; while 58% prefer democracy to another type of government, 42% don't care about the type of regime or would approve an authoritarian regime under specific circumstances. At the same time, studies show that: 23% of Colombian youth live in poverty, and 11.2% live in extreme poverty; 50% haven't finished high school; 8.2% finished college; and 25% of young women have had children before age 20.
In July 2003, a group of youth formed an organisation called "Ocasa" to empower young Colombians to participate in the building of a quality democracy that answers effectively to citizens' demands, and where political relations and the decision making process is transparent and respects the rule of law. To achieve the progressive involvement of youth, Ocasa follows three strategic lines: i) awareness raising about the role of young Colombians in their democracy, ii) strengthening of democratic values, and iii) promoting citizen participation through concrete tools. This has included holding virtual and face-to-face training, undertaking communication campaigns, producing tools and guides, and hosting experiential education activities.
According to the report, Ocasa's experience and the lessons learned from the field show that a partnership model is one of the key building blocks of a youth integrity programme. Partnerships should include other social organisations, international organisations and cooperation agencies, governments, the media, universities, and the private sector. The paper states that the type of partnership is defined by the type of project. For example, media can play a role in organising campaigns to raise awareness. While universities can participate in communication campaigns, they can be key players in strengthening democratic values, for example, by organising students' seminars and forums, polls, and research concerning youth or youth perceptions on democracy and corruption.
The paper states that Ocasa's experience shows that sustainable and successful youth integrity programmes require the following efforts, among other strategies:
- move from traditional approaches to youth towards engagement that involves collective actions;
- dispel myths about youth by opening further spaces for youth participation and action in their fields of interest;
- use experiential education programmes, such as real cases of ethical dilemmas that these young people are facing, as well as new technologies such as internet-based tools;
- use peer-to-peer methodologies - Ocasa's team is very young, and this helps the beneficiaries to recognise them as equals, which facilitates communication and mutual understanding;
- take a position of youth as key actors of the present time and not only as future leaders;
- build capacity in youth by making them aware of corruption and providing concrete tools so they can carry out specific actions; and
- establish a wide range of partnerships to increase possibilities of success.
The paper notes that key challenges have included measuring impact and gathering information on youth perceptions/attitudes regarding democracy and corruption, as current information is not adequate. The need for more media coverage is also noted. Finally, the paper recognises the difficulties in working in dangerous places and situations, and concludes that more training and experience is needed for young people to design and develop viable projects to counter corruption.
Corporación Ocasa website on February 9 2013.