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Youth Parliament at the Alpine Convention adds its voice

YPAC 2013: young people demand for instance an international "eco-university" for the Alpine town of the future. © Caroline Begle

YPAC, the Youth Parliament at the Alpine Convention, met in Sonthofen in mid-March to agree ten demands for the "Alpine Town of the Future", generating valuable publicity in the process.
Wearing suit and tie, they debated complex topics in English and in four days compiled ten demands for the "Alpine Town of the Future". Some 80 young people from every Alpine country gathered in Sonthofen from 12 to 15 March to discuss how municipalities can be made better places for future generations. Among other things they demanded a "Mobility Package" for young people and families to promote environmentally-friendly travel and access to the cultural heritage of the Alpine regions, as well as more space for leisure and park facilities to allow people to spend more time in nature and make towns more attractive. Another proposal was for developing Alpine towns to establish an "eco-university" to concentrate on environmental protection and ecological matters: it should have an international outlook and allow for exchange programmes between the Alpine countries.

Projects instead of paper tigers
Ajda Kocutar from Maribor, one of the presidents of the Parliament, began her inaugural address by saying: "This year's YPAC is like a jigsaw puzzle". The topics of previous Youth Parliaments were this time addressed in a united manner: working in four committees, the young people at Sonthofen discussed issues of consumer behaviour, mobility, living and working in towns, plus tourism and leisure. It became clear not just from the speeches that these young people do not want to leave the development of their "Alpine Town of the Future" to the politicians alone. The 16- to 19-year olds have published around 30 articles in various newspapers and magazines and were invited to Berlin for to discuss matters with Peter Altmaier, the Germany environment minister. "YPAC should not now be seen just as an annual conference, but as a permanently active organisation", says Florian Gstöhl from Liechtenstein, expressing the wish of many of the pupils. A "Future Platform" was therefore also established at YPAC 2013: this is a group of young people whose particular aim is to create an interface to politicians.

From theory to practice
"YPAC should not just simulate politics in the Alps, but provide new impulses for youth participation and urban policy, as well as making joint projects possible", says Hubert Buhl, Mayor of Sonthofen and chairman of the "Alpine Town of the Year" association. Representatives of the "Alpine Towns", politicians from the surrounding Allgäu region and young people all managed numerous exchanges during the YPAC. The latter's assessment was that youth should participate in politics as young people, not as adults, as only in this way can they contribute new and innovative ideas. One opportunity has already occurred at the meeting of the "Alpine Town of the Year" association, held in Lecco on 6 April 2013. On 5 May the Liechtenstein delegation will present its ideas publicly in Schaan. Herisau and Trento have each invited the relevant national delegations to attend the presentation of the demands to their local councils in May.
YPAC 2013 was organised by the Sonthofen High School, the town of Sonthofen and the "Alpine Town of the Year" association, with technical support from CIPRA. The Youth Parliament is made possible thanks to the support of the European Union "Youth in Action" programme and the German, Bavarian and Austrian environment ministries.
YPAC resolutions and further information: www.ypac.eu, www.cipra.org/en/alpmedia/news-en/4817, www.alpenstaedte.org/de/aktuell/news/4797 (de/fr/it/sl)