For young Swiss living abroad, direct democracy offers citizens greater opportunities to integrate their ideas within a political agenda, says Francisca Espinoza.
The 17-year old student who is part of a vast community of expats, is a founding member of the Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad (YPSA). In a series of interviews, swissinfo talks to the group’s committee members.
swissinfo.ch: What do you want to achieve as a member of the new youth parliament of the Swiss abroad – first of all in Switzerland, and second in your country of residence?
Francisca Espinoza: My proposal for Switzerland is that young people in the country should gain a better understanding of our countries, and help, as much as possible, other young people with social issues who lack the means of advancement.
Also I would like to see young Swiss travel more and mix with those of us who are also of Swiss origin but who live elsewhere.
My proposal for Chile is that young Chileans of Swiss origin be able to improve their understanding of Switzerland, its culture and life, and that they get to know others of the same origin through special activities.
The aim is that all of us would join together under a common cause – which is Switzerland - and that we could stay in touch through online platforms.
swissinfo.ch: What does direct democracy look like in your country of residence? Are there options that you especially appreciate? And ones that you miss having?
F.E.: Unfortunately, in Chile, we lack the tools for direct democracy. In some communities, popular consultations among neighbours have begun.
In Chile, we have a representative democracy, where citizens do not participate in decisions taken in Congress.
In my view, representative democracy does not help encourage youth participation in decision-making. Chile lacks the type of democracy Switzerland enjoys.
swissinfo.ch: In most countries young people vote less often than people of other age groups. Isn’t direct democracy a prime agent for young people to communicate their political needs and ideas?
F.E.: In my opinion, direct democracy is not the reason for which young people would vote less.
Low voter participation by young people exists in other countries, too, as in Chile, where there is a different type of democracy.
In most countries, you have the same problem, and the reason, I believe, is that young people are generally not interested in politics and are more concerned about things that they consider more relevant to them.
Personally, I believe that direct democracy is the form of democracy that offers citizens greater possibilities for the inclusion of their ideas into a political agenda – unlike in a system of representative democracy.
swissinfo.ch: Since the attacks in Paris, Europe has been obsessed with the terrorism of the Islamic State group. Is the fight against Islamic extremists, which has led to the restriction of individual freedoms, a danger for democracies?
Platform for young Swiss expats
The youth parliament of the Swiss Abroad was set up only a few months ago and is still in its infancy.
It’s primarily an online platform which brings together the about 350 members across the world for debates and other exchanges of ideas via social media and skype.
swissinfo.ch interviewed 11 young Swiss expatriates who are leading members of the youth parliament. Our questions focus on issues of participatory citizenship in their countries of residence and in Switzerland.
F.E.: Absolutely. The fight against terrorism restricts individual freedom and subjects citizens to countless security requirements.
In areas where many people come together, such as in airports, stadiums, and not also in theatres and entertainment venues, measures have to be taken to avoid future attacks.
We need to take into account that the Islamist terrorists are suicidal and that when they carry out an attack, they don’t care about distinguishing between victims, and whether they are men, women or children.
The situation is a great threat for democracy. The danger of a potential terrorist attacks restricts freedom of movement and individual freedom of people.
People are scared to carry out their normal daily activities. That affects growth and the economy of a country, because an attack affects all citizens, not only those that suffer directly from the scourge of terrorism.
As a result, the Muslim community has unfortunately been stigmatised, in spite that those responsible for the bloody attacks represent only a tiny, fanatic fraction of that population.
Translated from Spanish by Paula Dupraz-Dobias