Every year, three Swiss young people take part in international UN conferences as members of the Swiss UN delegation, representing the interests of Swiss youth at the United Nations. This is the idea behind the Youth Rep (youth representatives) project. In addition, the Youth Reps carry out awareness-raising work among young people in Switzerland on UN issues throughout the year. In this way, they encourage young people to actively participate in international politics.
The Youth Reps volunteer for two years. During the first 18 months, they represent Swiss youth internationally, and in the last six months they assist their successors as coaches.
Switzerland has been a member of the United Nations since 2002. In 2003, the Swiss National Youth Council (SNYC) submitted a project proposal to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on youth participation in the UN. Some other countries have already had youth delegates for decades, who often go on to fill important positions in their respective home countries.
Thanks to the support of Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey, the first year of the Youth Rep project was launched in Switzerland in 2003 in cooperation with the FDFA and the Federal Social Insurance Office (until 2006), and the first youth delegates were elected. They were able to actively represent the interests of Swiss youth in the international arena, raise awareness among young people as well as the general public in Switzerland on the topics of the UN and international participation, and gain an insight into the work of UN bodies and institutions.
Youth Reps are elected for a period of two years and commit to playing an active role during this period. During the first 18 months, they take part in conferences and carry out awareness-raising work, and during their last semester they coach and mentor the newly elected Youth Reps. This does not mean that they cannot take part in conferences or awareness-raising events during the second part of the cycle, but priority is given to the current Youth Reps. As such, for six months, the Youth Reps’ engagements overlap within a Junior-Senior system to optimise the handover of the mandates.