Swiss youth associations have unveiled a new project aimed at giving young people a chance to serve the community.
Details of the national project, which is expected to involve more than 10,000 youngsters, were revealed ahead of the United Nations International Youth Day on Thursday.
The Swiss Council of Youth Associations said the 72-hour initiative would run from September 15 to 18, 2005, and would focus on small-scale projects to benefit communities across the country. Participants would be involved in a race to complete their projects by the deadline.
In a statement, it said there was great interest in the project from Switzerland’s youth groups. The idea is being copied from Germany and Austria where similar schemes have proved successful.
Every group taking part in the project will be presented with an envelope containing details of the project they will have to complete within the three days. Neither money nor equipment will be made available.
In Germany, projects have included turning an old swimming pool into a beach volleyball field, and building a half-pipe for skateboarders.
“This initiative is aimed at making the world a little bit better and, of course, also at generating publicity for the youth organisations,” said council general secretary Julien Jaeckle.
The Swiss Council of Youth Associations is an umbrella organisation representing around 500,000 youngsters. It is mainly concerned with influencing policy towards children and young people.
Four members of the council were elected last weekend to serve as official youth representatives to the Swiss delegation at the UN General Assembly.
One will serve at UN headquarters in New York while the other three will be active in youth matters in Switzerland.
“The youth representation at the UN is the Swiss government’s way of thanking the youth groups for the part they played in influencing people to vote for UN membership in March 2002,” council president Lucie Waser told swissinfo.
The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has said she believes the campaign organised by the council of youth associations, which included parties and information events, influenced the outcome of the vote.
Since 2003 she has ensured that a representative of the council has responsibility for youth matters within the Swiss UN delegation.
Apart from Switzerland, only Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Australia have a youth affairs delegate at the UN.
Switzerland’s first youth representative was Karolina Frischkopf, who served for a year.
“I was amazed at how much respect I got from the members of the Swiss UN delegation,” the Geneva student told swissinfo.
“It was a different story in some of the other country delegations, where the youth delegates seemed to just be there to keep up appearances.
“Within the Swiss delegation, all decisions were taken together. I was always accepted as an expert on youth matters and my opinions were taken seriously,” said Frischkopf.
During her time in New York, Frischkopf was involved in discussions on a youth resolution, which put forward specific action plans.
“The idea came from Switzerland, and was endorsed by the European Union,” she said.
According to Frischkopf, the resolution expressed the importance of creating and implementing national youth policies and giving youth organisations a voice in matters that affected them.
swissinfo, Urs Maurer
The Swiss council of youth associations was formed in 1931.
It represents around 50,000 young people belonging to 80 organisations.
It defines "young people" as those between the ages of 12 and 35.
The council's main concern is influencing policy towards children and young people.