Nuku’alofa, Tonga (11 March 2020) - Nuku’alofa is riveting with excitement and anticipation today as 28 participants aged between 14 – 34 arrive for the Fale Alea To’utupu (Tonga Youth Parliament), which aims at engaging and educating Tongan youths about their parliamentary system and developing their leadership skills.
Organised by the Fale Alea o’ Tonga (Legislative Assembly of Tonga), the 10-day programme will involve a five-day orientation on Tonga’s political system and history, development and social issues, such as drugs, climate change, youth unemployment, civic education and others.
According to the official population census conducted in 2016, Tonga has a relatively young population with a median age of 22 years and youths account for 39 percent of the total population.
This is the second youth parliament organised since the political reform in 2010 with the first one organised in 2018.
“Our first youth parliament was a success as for the first time in Tonga’s history, a special steering committee was formed to ensure youth perspectives were appropriately integrated into the framing of relevant national policies,” said the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, Lord Fakafanua.
“Global trends have shown that there is a disconnect between youth and politics, characterized by their low participation in elections and other political processes. Through this series of youth parliaments, we expect to shift this trend in Tonga.”
He added, “A vibrant democracy thrives on active citizenship and engagement of its citizens, including its youth. Therefore, the youth parliament is vital step for fully consolidating democracies in our country.” “We are thankful to our development and corporate partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Real Tonga Airlines and other relevant Government ministries.”
The theme for this year’s youth parliament is ‘Our Parliament: Bringing Parliament to You’. Selected participants from the 2018 youth parliament are now part of a steering committee that took the lead in organising the programme and activities for the 2020 participants.
“I really found the 2018 Tonga Youth Parliament useful for me as I was able to learn about our political system and the importance of involving young people in development efforts,” said 2018 Nobles Representative Number 2 for Tongatapu, Samiuela Halahala.
He added, “As someone that works with young people, I have a greater appreciation for the influence that young people can make, and we need to encourage more young people to actively engage in the parliament process.”
The selection process of the youths was done through a competitive process which also stipulated that all applicants must be a citizen of Tonga and between the ages of 14 – 34. The participants represent all electoral constituencies.
The Fale Alea To’utupu 2020, will be held from 12 – 20 March at the parliament Chamber. The programme includes an eight- day orientation and ends with a two-day Sitting which will feature debates on petitions and motions. The topics to be debated on will be finalised during the orientation programme.