Switzerland needs its own national youth parliament in order to boost young people’s voices in politics and encourage budding politicians, delegates at a meeting of cantonal and communal youth parliaments have decided.
In the past 20 years, 65 youth parliaments and councils have been formed in Swiss cantons and communes, as well as in Liechtenstein. But there is no overarching national body.
Currently the biggest platform dedicated to representing young people’s political interests was the Youth Session held at the Swiss parliament, which is held once a year.
At the annual general meeting of the Association of Youth Parliaments, held in Lucerne on Saturday, and attended by 150 young people, delegates voted in favour of a national body that would give all young people between 14 and 25 the possibility of taking part in politics on a Swiss-wide level.
The idea is that a national youth parliament should really be able to “get something done” the association’s head Maurus Blumental told swissinfo.ch. The Youth Session is currently more like a forum to get acquainted with politics, he said.
There are national youth parliaments in other countries, but none really have a lot of political clout, he explained. The closest example would currently be the United Kingdom’s Youth Parliament. In Ireland, local youth councils do a lot of good work, and in terms of Switzerland’s neighbours, Germany and France are the most active at a local political youth level, Blumental explained.
“Switzerland can do more in this direction,” Blumental said. “There needs to be a youth development system for politics like you have for football.”
A project group will be founded to decide on the possible structure, aims and frequency of a national youth parliament. This will include members of the Youth Session Forum to ensure that the session and parliament would complement each other rather than overlap.
A report looking into a national youth parliament by the Association of Youth Parliaments found Switzerland could, through its tradition of direct democracy, give young people more opportunity for political participation “and thus become a further example for Europe in terms of democracy”.
However, not everyone agrees with the proposal. The Swiss National Youth Council (SNYC), the umbrella organisation of about 65 youth organisations in Switzerland, said in a statement on Sunday that the Youth Session at the Swiss parliament, which had existed for 25 years, already gave young people a voice at national level.
The annual event allows 200 young people aged 14-21 - including the Swiss abroad - to debate current political issues and pass on demands to the Swiss parliament, the statement said. A national youth parliament would be a doubling up, which is why the SNYC favoured a strengthening of the Youth Session instead.