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Youth as Change Agents to Curb Corruption in Latin America

Ledda Macera's picture
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In the development world, children are often seen as the powerless victims of poverty, hunger, and social inequality, but research suggests that young people can often be powerful forces for change. From disease prevention and improved hygienic habits, information presented to children in school and through social and other media is often then passed on to parents, households, and even communities, thus encouraging positive change from the ground up. And fortunately, it appears that development experts are catching on!
 © Curt Carnemark / World Bank
Young girl in Mexico. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

A new pilot program supervised by the World Bank’s Governance Adviser working in Latin America and the Caribbean and through support from the Governance Partnership Facility seeks to promote social values, specifically ethical and anti-corruption values, among school-aged children. An interactive, educational curriculum and facilitator guide is being developed that includes a variety of didactic methods (videos, games, songs, media tools, and lectures) and lesson plans on various topics such as rules, respect, moral obligation, deterrence for wrongful behavior such as corruption. This manual, paired with teacher workshops, will be implemented in pilot schools in Latin America to evaluate whether encouraging children to think and act against corruption will also have a positive effect on the behaviors of their parents and households, expecting to create a domino effect that may reduce corruption in future generations and perhaps even the present one.

Similar inter-generational approaches to combating corruption, often under the umbrella of civic and moral education programs, have already begun to gain momentum across the globe. In Mumbai, India, for example, some schools have begun organizing “clubs of integrity” to teach moral values and encourage children to speak out against and prevent corruption. In Cameroon and Spain, websites and social media channels offer a space for children to engage in games and creative activities centered on uncovering and fighting corruption In Mexico, programs have been established to instruct children in civic responsibility and the values of good governance; however, these programs have tended to focus more on children’s perceptions of corruption than on encouraging the values and actions needed to stop such behavior. In China, the Independent Commission on Anti-Corruption has designed and now distributes cartoons with an anti-corruption message to kindergarten and primary school students.

Why focus on children? Youth undergo significant cognitive development between the ages of 10-12, as this is when they fully develop a respect for rules and the construct of “justice.” It is also during this period that children begin to experience intense emotions such as shame, pride, guilt, and remorse, which influence the way they think and act. Furthermore, youth comprise 40% of the world’s population and make up an even higher percentage in most developing countries. They represent both a hope for a better, less corrupt world and an often untapped, yet powerful force for change. By developing and cultivating an awareness and negative affiliation toward corruption at an early age, we can positively impact future generations by building a society that values integrity and clearly identifies corruption as a dangerous behavior.

To learn more about how youth can be change agents against corruption and advocates for more Open Governments, check out the World Bank Group’s Youth Summit 2014: The Need for Open and Responsive Governments.

Follow the event LIVE on Tuesday, Oct. 7: The morning session of the World Bank Group Youth Summit will be live-streamed on World Bank Live. Subscribe now to receive a reminder before the event starts: