The Association of Swiss Communes has launched a campaign to get more young people to serve as local councillors in their villages and communities. Many places are already finding it hard to find the next generation of politicians, it said.
“Young politicians are credible ambassadors for showing their peers the advantages and benefits of holding office in a municipality executive,” Hannes Germann, head of the board of the Association of Swiss Communes, and himself a national parliamentarian, told a meeting in Olten on Friday.
The gathering, attended by young local councillors, more experienced politicians, and representatives from the Swiss business federation Economiesuisse, was aimed at exchanging experiences and drawing up strategies to encourage younger people into local politics.
Under Switzerland’s federal system, authority is shared between the Confederation, the cantons and the more than 2,000 smaller local communes or municipalities.
Cities, towns and villages often enjoy a great deal of autonomy in running their own affairs. Around a fifth of Switzerland's communes have their own parliaments, and local laws relating to matters such as streets, school buildings, water and energy prices, as well as parking regulations. Communes are governed by their own elected representatives.
Participants in Olten called it a “win-win” situation when councillors under 40 were involved. The community gained new ideas and approaches, the councillors gained management and communication skills.
Swiss public television SRF spoke to 33-year-old Lukas Fus, a local councillor in Niederrohrdorf in canton Aargau.
“I want to give something back to the community,” he said, adding the role also helped the village to make progress.
The father-of-two takes holds the 20% post addition to his full-time job in a consultant in an IT firm. In addition to growing his network, he also gained experience in management very early on: “learning by doing”, as he called it.
A particular target of the campaign: companies. Communes depend on people giving up their free time to hold political office. This militia system can only be successful “if there is cooperation between communes and the economy,” the Association of Swiss Communes said in a statement.
Economiesuisse director Monika Rühl told SRF that the organisation supported these dual roles. She called on companies to offer flexible working conditions, or even time off during work hours for councillors to prepare their political work.
Reto Lindegger, director of the Association of Swiss Communes, said there needed to be more recognition in society for local councillors who were all “working every day for the good of our communities”.
swissinfo.ch and agencies