Positive Youth Development: A Bridge to Connect Civic Education and Sustainable Development


  • Ashley Law International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • Virginia Atkinson International Foundation for Electoral Systems




civic education, youth participation, international development, Sustainable Development Goals


Young people are not consistently or adequately valued by other global and community actors as contributing members and leaders. Given the current political context of democratic backsliding, school closures, and social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are facing increased barriers to developing their democratic identities, learning how to be active citizens, and exercising their rights to participate in civic and political life. Now more than ever, development practitioners and the international community need to shift their approach to engaging young people in democracy and governance programs from one that views them as recipients to one that treats young people as partners and considers the unique environments in which they live. This paper argues that civic education programs that apply a positive youth development (PYD) approach can inform and shape how young people develop democratic identities and habits and directly link these identities and behaviors to building and sustaining democracies. The paper illuminates good practices and lessons learned through an exploration of global civic education programs demonstrating the utility of a PYD approach. The final section identifies areas to consider for the expansion and future of civic education programs to ensure their effectiveness and better link them to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Author Biographies

Ashley Law, International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Ashley Law is the Youth Specialist at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. https://www.ifes.org/people/ashley-law

Virginia Atkinson, International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Virginia is the Senior Global Advisor, Inclusion at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. https://www.ifes.org/people/virginia-atkinson


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