Empowering Youth Voices: My Experience as a Youth Representative at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C

Testimony of Vaishnavi Goboodun Fellow 2023, YABT

As a youth representative of the YABT, I am honored and privileged to share my experience and insights on a subject matter that is crucial for the proper functioning of our society today—ensuring information integrity in democratic processes.

Information is the lifeblood of society. The manner in which it is conveyed or transmitted influences the way individuals think and perceive the world. These narratives, in turn, dictate our life decisions. 

During my time as a fellow at the Young Americas Business Trust, I had the opportunity to interact, share perspectives, and learn from a diverse group of knowledgeable individuals on this topic. One of them was Ambassador Hugh Adsett, the Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States, who served as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility in safeguarding the democratic process through collaborative efforts.

On June 20th, 2023, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C hosted an Ad Hoc Expert Discussion on the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance, and I had the honor of to be the Youth Representative of the Americas. It was amazing to share the experience and inputs provided by the process. It helped shape my deliberations in emphasizing the significance role that Youth play in addressing information integrity challenges and countering disinformation in the electoral process. 

Involving young people in discussion forums such as the YABT’s Young Americas Forum at the Summit of the Americas, the Cities Summit of the Americas, and the Summit for Democracy and the OAS General Assembly empowers them to drive positive change in society. Indeed, the Ad Hoc Expert Discussion on the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance emphasized the importance of collaboration, media literacy, and youth engagement, which aligns with the mandates established at the IX Summit of the Americas. Providing such opportunities to young individuals enables them to identify, and question misleading content, promote a culture of fact-checking, and be responsible digital citizens.

I also underscored that failure to address the dissemination of false information could have detrimental effects on democratic societies. It may lead to the erosion of public trust, the creation of divisions within communities, and undermine the very foundations of democracy. Therefore, addressing the challenges of disinformation and promoting information integrity is vital to ensuring a robust and trustworthy democratic process. It is essential to take collective action to tackle these threats. 

Governments can contribute by formulating policies and regulations that promote transparency and media accountability. Civil society organizations can participate by launching educational initiatives and promoting media literacy. Tech companies, on the other hand, have a responsibility to develop algorithms and platforms that prioritize the dissemination of accurate information. 

Overall, I must say that engaging with high-level officials, experts, and fellow advocates and being part of the conversation on information integrity and countering disinformation in elections was an incredible experience. I share the common dedication to upholding the principles of democracy while reaffirming the importance of youth engagement, collaboration, and media literacy in countering disinformation and safeguarding democracy. 

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