The interactive website www.activate.ec is in full use after the project got started some four months ago. The website promotes the participation of youngsters in Ecuadorian politics and functions as a social platform to discuss politics and related topics. It also educates youngsters on the basic principles of democracy. The project is an initiative of NIMD’s partner in Ecuador, Ágora Democrática (NIMD-IDEA), and was made possible with the help of the Canadian Glynn Berry program. Although youth participation is steady making its way towards the vanguard of Ecuadorian politics, its history is brief.
With the project in full swing it is a good occasion to look at the phases the youth participation in Ecuador has been through. Ecuador economically prospered during the 1970s and ridded itself of the military government with a return to democracy in 1979. The first student movements entered the scene with protests and mobilizations against the junta. Despite their protests and social involvement, the student movements where not able to build on their momentum. A new constitution was formed and approved in the 1980s and student movements were replaced by youth movements with specific themes like music or sports. They were also involved in the indigenous protests for more constitutional rights.
The 1990s were dominated by neoliberalism and its free market system. Like in every ‘neoliberal’ country, it influenced the youth a great deal. The market decided the style of the youth in art, music, clothing and preferences. Although poverty was striking, the youth and its organizations became more visible in this decade. Youth organizations were recognized for the first time as a, albeit minor, player in the political arena. They did however play an important role as an intermediary between indigenous populations and the government during the end of the 1990s when Ecuador went through a period of political instability.
The new millennium did not bring Ecuador new prosperity. The US dollar was incorporated as the national currency due to a collapse of the Sucre and poverty levels were very high. The role of the youth however did prosper. Youth movements played an active part in the collapse of different governments during the middle of the 2000s. They played a role in the vanguard when it came to new and fresh ideas and the implementation of public policies.
Although the role of student and youth movements from the 1970s onwards can not be underestimated, it was still a select group of people. The political participation of youngsters was not yet widespread. With initiatives like activate.ec and other projects aimed at the political participation of youngsters, the goal is to lay a steady foundation for a widespread and inclusive political participation of young Ecuadorians. The next step is then for politics to open there gates for ‘activated’ youngsters.