The journey of youth participation in the EUSALP (European Strategy for the Alpine Region) has been a dynamic and evolving process, driven by the recognition of the importance of engaging young people in shaping the future of the Alpine region. To shape the future of the Alpine Region, the ideas of young people are needed. EUSALP is therefore working to embed the voice of young people in EUSALP activities in the long term.
Initially, youth participation in the EUSALP was limited, with minimal representation and involvement of young people in decision-making processes. However, recognizing the potential and energy of youth, efforts were made to integrate their voices and perspectives into the strategy. In November 2017, the Bavarian EUSALP presidency organised a Youth Congress at the 1st Annual Forum in Munich. The Tyrolean EUSALP presidency took over and made the topic of youth involvement its priority.
It invited young people to the 2nd Annual Forum in Innsbruck under the motto “shaping.future.together. with the next generation”. Based on the initiative of the Tyrolean presidency, the EUSALP General Assembly committed on its meeting on 20 November 2018 in Innsbruck to involving young people in the activities of EUSALP - Joint declaration on the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), Innsbruck, 20 November 2018
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Initiated by the Tyrol and supported by the Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development, the Office for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, the Association Alpine Town of the Year and CIPRA International, the process “youth.shaping.EUSALP” was kicked off. True to its motto, co-determination is taken seriously from the very beginning. In the context of two workshops on 19 November 2018 in Innsbruck and on 29 and 30 March 2019 in Liechtenstein, 30 young people from all seven EUSALP states developed together with EUSALP representatives concrete proposals on how they want to participate in EUSALP.
The young people elaborated three proposals:
Young people see the need for communication that reaches them through various channels. They propose direct information in schools, an interactive online platform on EUSALP (“WikiAlps”) and communication via social media (especially Instagram).
Young people want to meet to share common experiences. EUSALP should therefore offer meeting opportunities related to EUSALP projects and topics.
Young people do not only want to discuss or participate in meetings, but also act together and with EUSALP stakeholders to create tangible results.
EUSALP Youth activities:
Based on these proposals, the following activities were organized:
- a EUSALP Youth Camp,
- a EUSALP online platform,
- the “Pitch Your Project” contest and
- a EUSALP Youth Council.
These activities are now implemented in the Interreg Alpine Space Project “Support EUSALP”together with the decision-makers of EUSALP, the technical structure support, the region Bourgogne Franche-Comté and with the support of the European Commission.
EUSALP Youth wants to develop ways to involve young people in the activities of EUSALP, to raise awareness for EUSALP and to encourage young people to think about their connection to the Alpine region. This will is based on the idea that young people know best what they need to live in a prosperous and ecologically intact Alpine region in the future. Involvement should not be reduced to a passive role, but young people should take on an active part in the discussion of Alpine issues and on the future of their own region. Moreover, EUSALP can be a laboratory and a flagship for the practical implementation of the often raised, but rarely realized call for a stronger voice of young people.
Main aims of youth participation within EUSALP:
From the perspective of EUSALP, the aims of EUSALP Youth are to:
- enable innovative, visionary ideas
- bring EUSALP closer to the needs of the Alpine citizens
- foster constructive collaboration and interaction
- stimulate concrete actions and projects
- create links to motivated and informed young people
- make young people think about their connection to the Alpine Region
- reflect diversity in the Alpine Region
- increase the visibility of EUSALP
- find young multipliers
- make EUSALP fit for the future
- ensure long-term sustainability of EUSALP
From the perspective of young people, the main aims are to:
- enable raising of awareness and communication
- appreciate the commitment of young people
- connect young people from all over the Alpine Region
- take up the ideas of young people
- support the realisation of concrete actions and projects
- offer a space for exchange, interaction and joint work
- help young people develop and improve skills necessary for cooperation
EUSALP Youth Council
One of the key milestones in youth participation was the establishment of the EUSALP Youth Council in 2021. The political General Assembly officially adopted the creation of the EUSALP Youth Council in its meeting on 10 December 2020 and the first Youth Council was constituted in July 2021. The Youth Council brings together young people from the Alpine regions, providing them with a platform to express their ideas, concerns, and aspirations for the future of the region. It serves as a space for dialogue, collaboration, and the development of innovative solutions to address the challenges faced by the Alpine area.
Overall, the journey of youth participation in the EUSALP has witnessed significant progress, transforming young people from passive observers to active contributors in shaping the future of the Alpine region. Their involvement has brought fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a commitment to sustainable development, making the EUSALP a more inclusive and effective platform for addressing the challenges faced by the Alpine area.