An initiative of YUVA since 2014, the Mauritius Youth Parliament (MYP) is a platform run by the young people of Mauritius to make their voices heard and bring about social change by expressing their ideas, concerns, and expectations regarding the governing of the State.
Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic change in youth participation structures across Mauritius. Increasingly, national youth leaders have recognised the need for and importance of working with young people through democratically elected Mauritius Youth Parliament (MYP) schemes to champion youth voice, increase awareness of national politics and support active citizenship.
The challenges to actively involving young people in national democracy and decision-making are vast and varied. Despite this, there is a clear appetite to support the participation of young people effectively.
What is the Mauritius Youth Parliament, and what it believes in?
The Mauritius Youth Parliament (MYP) is an independent body which enables young people to use their energy and passion to change the world for the better. MYP was launched in October 2014 and held its first sitting in November 2014 in Port Louis. Run by young people for young people, MYP provides opportunities for 15–24-year-olds to use their voices to bring about social change.
MYP aims to give the young people of Mauritius a voice, which will be heard and listened to by local, regional, and national regimes, providers of services for young people and other agencies interested in the views and needs of young people.
MYP has an independent national identity with a rolling programme of activities throughout the year. This includes a fortnight MYP National Assembly, regional meetings, dialogue with Ministers and Opposition spokespeople, and policy and programme development inputs.
MYP particularly encourages the involvement of young people who are socially excluded, but also representation from established groups such as local youth councils and individuals.
MYP ensures that the young people of Mauritius are given a voice on any issue that affects them.
MYP gives the young people of Mauritius an opportunity to be involved in a democratic process at a national level.
MYP empowers young people to take positive action within their local communities based on issues of shared concern.
MYP is a non-party political organisation and, as such, seeks to represent no party-political view. MYP is solely issue-based.
How does the Mauritius Youth Parliament work?
The MYP has 50 seats for elected representatives or Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs are elected every two years in youth elections throughout Mauritius. This usually depends on the Local Authority’s budget or recommendations from previous MYPs. Any young person aged 15-24 can stand and vote. Elections are either direct by the youth electorate (up to 30) or indirect in a second-tier election by the local youth council or forum. The scheme seeks to empower young people to steer national priorities using a democratic framework.
Once elected, MPs organise events and projects, run campaigns and consultations and influence decision-makers on the issues which matter most to young people. All MPs meet twice a month at the Mauritius Youth Parliament National Assembly and influence national policy and campaigns.
Every two years, a gathering of young people helps decide the Mauritius Youth Parliament’s national priorities. A national consultation is sought to determine the top five topics to be debated in the Youth Parliament mandate. MPs listen to those debates and then vote for the national priorities.
The views of young people are represented in the Mauritius Youth Parliament’s Manifesto, which contains statements on the issues MPs think are most important.
Why so formal?
MPs have structures and systems in place to support them. The MYP schemes must have a similar approach to be effective and influential.
It is necessary to establish, within the structure, a form of protocol. This may be a written constitution, youth participation strategy or terms of reference. This helps the MYP feed into the organisation’s decision-making structure.
At the same time, you may want to think about the logistics around communication and the style of meetings. We recommend that sessions are fun, interactive, and not like school. But having a formal structure will show young people that the MYP scheme is taken seriously within the organisation. A formalised Cabinet structure with an agenda ensures that meetings reach positive and constructive conclusions.
Organisational Structure of MYP
MYP recognises Mauritius’s regional and national boundaries as defined by the Government. The island of Mauritius is divided into 20 constituencies. Each constituency across Mauritius has two members elected as representatives to MYP: one male and one female. These constituencies are listed below:
- Grand River North West and Port Louis West
- Port Louis South and Port Louis Central
- Port Louis Maritime and Port Louis East
- Port Louis North and Montagne Longue
- Pamplemousses and Triolet
- Grand Baie and Poudre d’Or
- Piton and Rivière du Rempart
- Quartier Militaire and Moka
- Flacq and Bon Accueil
- Montagne Blanche and Grand River South East
- Vieux Grand Port and Rose Belle
- Mahebourg and Plaine Magnien
- Rivière des Anguilles and Souillac
- Savanne and Black River
- La Caverne and Phoenix
- Vacoas and Floreal
- Curepipe and Midlands
- Belle Rose and Quatre Bornes
- Stanley and Rose Hill
- Beau Bassin and Petite Rivière
Therefore, MYP consists of 50 members, 40 elected for two-year terms in multi-member constituencies and ten additional members, known as “best losers”, appointed by the Governor-General to ensure that ethnic and religious minorities are equitably represented. MYP’s Board of Founders appoints the Governor-General.
The political party or party alliance which wins the majority of seats in Parliament forms the Government, and its leader usually becomes MYP’s Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who selects the members of the composition of the MYP Cabinet from elected members of the Assembly, except for the Attorney General, who may not be an elected member of the Assembly. The political party or alliance with the second largest majority forms the Official Opposition, and the Governor-General usually nominates its leader as the Leader of the Opposition. The Governor-General elects a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker, and a Clerk of the National Assembly as one of its first businesses.
MYP National Assembly is held on every second Saturday. This is where the MYP Manifesto is refreshed, and policy changes are agreed upon. MPs are asked to consult constituents before attending to ensure local young people are given a national voice.
After the Manifesto has been refreshed, a national “Voice of Today” consultation runs throughout Mauritius with young people. The top five issues voted on by young people are then debated in the MYP National Assembly. There, the top five issues are discussed and voted on. The winning debate is MYP’s annual priority.
MYP’s Management makes the decisions that guide the development of MYP and agrees on the arrangements for each National Assembly. The Management comprises the founders of MYP, the Governor-General, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The Governor-General supervises the work of MYP. He also provides support to the development of projects and events. The Clerk of the National Assembly oversees the work across all constituencies.
What does it mean to be an MP?
Being an MP is a fascinating opportunity. Throughout your term of office, you will have the chance to get involved in various activities. For example, MPs meet a large cohort of young people, the Government of Mauritius’ Ministers, and local councillors, organise events, run campaigns, make speeches, hold debates, and ensure the views of young people are listened to by decision-makers.
But the most crucial aspect of any MP’s job is to ensure they represent the views of the young people in their constituency. MPs are politically neutral.
During their term of office, MPs work with their Government of Mauritius’ Ministers, decision-makers, councillors, and local youth groups on the most significant concern to their constituents. Nationally, the views of young people are represented in the MYP Manifesto, which contains statements on the matters MPs think are most important.
MPs across Mauritius work to give young people a voice – listening to marginalised groups, organising events, making films, meeting the Government of Mauritius’ Ministers, lobbying for change, organising campaigns and appearing in the media, all to amplify the views of their peers.
The role of the MP is increasingly being recognised at a local and national level. Some local authorities give their MPs equal status to their Government of Mauritius’ Ministers. MYP works hard to enable MPs to meet regularly with Government Ministers, Members of the Opposition and civil servants.
Are elections necessary?
Yes. MPs need to be elected by other young people to represent them. This could be in a borough-wide or an internal election within an MYP. Elections help increase the positive perception of young people and support them in understanding who and what they are voting for. Elections lend credence to the role itself, and the best elections are the ones that mirror adult elections, giving young people a real flavour of what adult voting feels like.
Code of conduct for MPs
As MP, you have the responsibility to uphold the following ethos and principles:
- MYP is an independent national body which seeks to represent no party political view.
- MYP discussions are to be solely issue-based.
- MYP will ensure that the young people of Mauritius are given a voice on any issue that affects them.
- MYP will ensure that every young person who participates in the work of MYP has their rights respected and protected.
- Any young person up to and including the age of 30 has the right to have their view heard and listened to by MYP.
- As an elected MP, your duty is towards the young people who voted for you, those who didn’t vote for you, and everyone in your constituency.
As MP, you must comply with the following expectations:
- Read and understand the MP Terms of Reference and undertake your term of office accordingly.
- Take your role and duty seriously when representing MYP in and outside MYP meetings.
- Communicate with others (adults or young people) within the framework and philosophy of equal opportunities.
- Promote MYP in a way that will not harm the organisation’s reputation.
- Actively engage with young people in your constituency and represent their views at a local, regional and national level.
- Attend MYP National Assemblies and arrive on time. Three absences would lead to automatic release from your membership with MYP.
- If you cannot attend an MYP meeting, you should inform the National Assembly Clerk and apologise to the meeting.
- When communicating in writing, e.g., via a letter or email, an MP should remember to respect the views of others, be courteous at all times and consider equal opportunities legislation. When using the e-groups, MPs should only post messages which are in accordance with the MYP Terms of Reference.
- If the elected MPs feel that a member has broken the guidelines in the Code of Conduct or Terms of Reference, MYP’s Disciplinary Procedure will be applied.
How does the Mauritius Youth Parliament benefit young people?
Power and influence – a high-profile elected representative, raises the profile of issues that matter to young people and influences local opinion formers. Additionally, control or influence over a budget and funding community projects translates that influence into action.
Getting their voices heard – MYP schemes ensure that young people are more informed about and involved in local decision-making. They can see that they are being listened to and their concerns are being acted on.
Understanding and development – young people gain new skills and develop valuable experiences. Representation promotes the knowledge of local democracy and political processes.
Positive representation – MPs represent young people in the media, countering negative stereotypes and promoting positive images.
New skills – confidence, campaigning, presentation, running consultations and political education are a few skills MPs say they learn when being involved in MYP.
How does the Mauritius Youth Parliament benefit local authorities?
Informing policymakers – an MP helps elected members, local officers, and their more comprehensive partners understand the issues that affect young people and their needs and opinions, leading to better-informed decisions.
Developing civic identity – participating in politics at a young age can become a lifelong habit that leads to greater participation in the democratic process and broader civic society. More will be interested in local council elections – voting or even standing as candidates.
Increasing legitimacy – MPs provide a voice for a section of the population that often goes unheard. Representation of young people lends credence and focus to their work with adult politicians.
Improving services – youth representation acts as a catalyst to strengthen local accountability and improve services for young people, making them responsive, user-driven and cutting costs long-term.
Fulfilling statutory duties – local authorities must inform, consult, and involve people in the running of some local services and a commitment to promote democracy – particularly to young people.
Helps recruit a diverse group of young people – MYP schemes raise the profile of youth participation and youth democracy in local areas. They help encourage young people to participate in consultation or other engagement mechanisms.
From participation to representation
Traditional youth involvement in decision-making has taken the form of youth participation. Representation for young people goes even further. It comes with a democratic mandate and a model of accountability. Youth representation allows adult politicians to reasonably delegate authority to democratically elected young people, giving them real influence and power to make decisions.
The democratic mandate of an MP provides the credibility to represent young people. This mandate enables them to act on the issues that matter to young people.
Why does the Mauritius Youth Parliament need a budget?
Technically it doesn’t. An MP could act purely as an advisor or consultative advisor; however, experience shows us that MPs who have control over a specific budget are more successful than those who do not. Providing the MYP with a budget empowers young people, teaches a sense of fiscal responsibility, and allows them to spend money on things they want rather than things that adult ministers think they want.
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