Twenty four year-old Nicole Verillo from Ribeirão Bonito, São Paulo, was still a child when, in 1992, thousands of young Brazilians took to the streets, calling for the impeachment of then president Fernando Collor de Mello. “I watch videos from that era and ask myself how we could mobilize youth in the same way today,” says Nicole, an anti-corruption activist since 2003.
She brimmed with energy after listening to stories of youth who used Facebook and Twitter to incite the beginnings of the Arab Spring. “We can use pictures, videos and virtual leaflets to inform the public, organize protests and find volunteers, just like they did. Brazilians use Facebook a lot and social networks can help to mobilize people that wouldn’t otherwise take interest in issues of corruption.”
As one of 250 participants at the third Global Youth Anti-Corruption Forum this past week in Brasilia, Nicole had the opportunity to interact with some of the social media activists that prompted regime change in Egypt. The event highlighted the important role of youth in the global fight against corruption, a movement that is increasingly creative, wired and motivated.
In countries as diverse as the Philippines, Paraguay and Egypt, youth are using their digital skills to inform and inspire. They monitor the quality of public services with interactive tools, make official data available online and mobilize their peers through messages on Facebook and Twitter.
“Youth are very comfortable using social media to raise awareness, connect with the rest of the world and exchange ideas,” comments Boris Weber, a Senior Governance Specialist at the World Bank.
The event also unveiled various initiatives that hope to inspire imitators in other parts of the world. In the Philippines, for example, an interactive website – checkmyschool.org – allows students to evaluate public schools across the country. In addition, the site permits users to contest official data via Facebook, Twitter and text messages.
“If you look at the demographics, you’ll find that more and more young people are online,” says 27-year-old Filipino anti-corruption activist Marlon Cornelio, from checkmyschool.org.