Governance and Youth in the Alps

Initiating youth participation

The involvement of young people and the consideration of their needs are of great importance, especially at community level. Young people tend to leave rural areas and migrate to urban regions. A common reason for this is the lack of personal fulfilment, as young people often do not feel represented in their community. At the same time, a lot of decision-makers and politicians are unaware of the benefits a young and active population can bring to a region. 

From September to January, the Governance and Youth in the Alps project (GaYA) initiates participatory processes in different pilot areas - from Kranjska Gora in Slovenia to Chambery in France - to strengthen the participation of young people in regional policy and to learn about innovative approaches of participation.


Map of pilot regions

Safiental - Switzerland

Safiental is a municipality in the Surselva Region in the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland. The municipalities of Valendas, Versam, Safien and Tenna merged on 1 January 2013 into the new municipality of Safiental. The Safien valley is branching off the Vorderrhein valley. Safiental has an area of 15100 ha. Of this area, about 38.8% is used for agricultural purposes, while 31.1% is forested. The rest of the land is settled by 1.2% (buildings or roads) and 29.0% is unproductive land.

Of the agricultural land, 11 ha is used for orchards and vineyards, 1,398 ha is fields and grasslands and 4,683 ha consists of alpine grazing areas. Since 1984/85 the amount of agricultural land has decreased by 416 ha Over the same time period the amount of forested land has increased by 362 ha. Rivers and lakes cover 238 ha in the municipality.

The Municipality of Safiental has overall 900 inhabitants, with 120 young persons between 14 and 25 years old. Therefore it can be considered as the smallest pilot area of the GaYA project.But despite its small size, or even because of that, the community is committed to its young inhabitants.For example, annual events are organised at which representatives of the region and young people meet and innovative approaches to jobs and housing are developed. Intergenerational exchange is also a priority within the community.

Brig-Glis - Switzerland

Brig-Glis sees itself as a service centre of the German-speaking Upper Valais, which borders on Italy in the south and is influenced by the Mediterranean climate. Its role as a service centre and mobility/transport hub came with the construction of the Simplon tunnel, which was inaugurated in 1906 and connects to the European rail network.

The service sector also includes a broad education system with a cantonal middle school based on the tradition of a 300-year Jesuit college, and a tertiary level with a teacher training college, a distance learning university and a private international college for hotel management.

The number of overnight stays is constantly increasing. The tourists appreciate Brig-Glis because of its central location and the possibility for excursions to the region and to Italy. A touch of Italianità also characterizes the old town with its landmark, the Stockalper Castle, named after the Great Stockalper, the merchant and "Fugger of the Alps", who built this largest Swiss representation building in the 17th century.

100 years after the construction of the Simplon tunnel, a new railway age has begun: the NEAT Lötschberg shortens the rail journey to the north by 40 minutes. In addition, in the railway town of Brig, the contact centre of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) employs more than 250 employees, who provide information on electronic communication channels worldwide and issue tickets.

Alta Polcevera Valley - Italy

The Alta Val Polcevera counts five Municipalities (Campomorone, Ceranesi, Mignanego, Sant'Olcese and Serra Riccò) with approximately 28.337 inhabitants.

The valley is characterized by the natural values ​​of the landscape, among which are in particular to highlight the morphological elements, the slopes still considerably covered by woods interspersed with clearings and fields.

Alta Val Polcevera presents an economic system linked to the artisanal activities. There are also important farms both in the dairy sector and in the production of vegetables.

The agricultural sector has always characterized the internal landscape and plays a central role because allows to contrast  the abandonment of the territory, as a means of constant monitoring and maintenance.

The valley floor has always had a strong industrial attitude, favored by its privileged geographical location: kilns, paper mills, glassmakers, marble mining were the first pre-industrial activities of the valley.

Stura, Orba and Leira Valleys - Italy

The Stura, Orna and Leira valleys of the five Municipalities (Mele, Masone, campo Ligure, Rossiglione and Tiglieto), that counts 12.684 inhabitants, has aspects of contiguity and uniformity, not only territorial but also historical-cultural.

The rural area is still lively from an entrepreneurial point of view, for small entrepreneurial initiatives in the "enlarged" tourism industry (farms, crafts); there is good basic potential for the enjoyment of the territory (widespread and well-maintained hiking trails, environmental and natural attractions).

In fact much of the area is affected by the Beigua Regional Natural Park, the largest protected natural area of Liguria, managed by the Beigua Park Authority.

The valleys are historically known for traditional handicrafts (iron, filigree, paper, ...) as well as for remarkable dairy production; still today are also active small and medium-sized industries operating in the field of construction and metallic carpentry. In particular, in the Municipality of Campo Ligure, the companies involved in the processing of filigree are important, with a dedicated museum, while for the Municipalities of Tiglieto and Rossiglione the main activity is agriculture. The economy of the Municipality of Mele is mainly based on industrial activity (wood, paper, food).

Municipality Salorno/Salurn - Italy

The Municipality Salorno/Salurn consists of the principal town Salorno and the two villages Buchholz and Gfrill, with a total population of 3.849 (approx. 62% Italian speaking and 38 % German speaking). It is the southernmost village in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/South Tyrol and is located on the German- Italian language border. The municipality covers about 3.320 hectare and is located between 207 and 1787m above sea level, which explains the scenic, morphologic and demographic characteristics. One third of the area is used for viniculture and orcharding, the rest is covered by forests, which are part of the “Monte Corno Nature Park“. Due to the municipality’s special historic, cultural/societal, geographic characteristics, central issues are: The conservation of the forests and the mountain landscape and its settlements as well as the preservation of traditional farming and agricultural practices, the control of the river Etsch/Adige, i.e. through the construction and maintenance of dykes, and the preservation and best possible use of the historical village center.

Bregenzerwald - Austria

30 000 very hospitable people live in the Bregenzerwald. In 24 ancient villages with a farming tradition and an interesting mixture of old and new architecture. The Bregenzerwald with its 24 municipalities borders on the Lake Constance region in the Rhine Valley in the west, on Germany (Bavaria – Districts of Lindau and Oberallgäu) in the north, the Kleinwalsertal in the northeast, the Tannberg and the Arlberg region in the east and the Großes Walsertal in the south.

Agriculture, tourism and craftsmanship play the most important roles in economy. The three branches traditionally cooperate closely – for the profit of the inhabitants and the tourists. The Bregenzerwald landscapes are a nicely shaped combination of hills, wide plains, romantic river valleys and impressive peaks. Perfect for exercise freaks and nature lovers.

In the Bregenzerwald region, there are a large number of institutions which actively contribute their share to develop the living environment Bregenzerwald in various fields. It is their aim to work on a common impetus for a sustainable and deliberate development of the region. These regional partners are for example “Regio Bregenzerwald”, “KäseStrasse Bregenzerwald”, Werkraum Bregenzerwald”, „Offene Jugendarbeit Bregenzerwald”. Here you can find more information on the region:

Großes Walsertal - Austria


The Großes Walsertal is characterized by steep sparsely populated mountain sides, which gives the region its unique aspect. The REGIO Großes Walsertal counts six municipalities with approximately 3 400 inhabitants: Fontanella/Faschina, St. Gerold, Raggal/Marul, Sonntag/Buchboden, Thüringerberg and Blons. With 18 inhabitants per km2, the Großes Walsertal is exceptionally sparsely populated compared to other regions in the province. Visiting the mountains or the villages you won't find any industrial chimneys but grazing cattle instead.

Almost 180 agricultural businesses clearly show that cattle and dairy farming continues to be the main source of income of the Walser population. Apart from that, tourism with 180 000 overnight stays per year and trade are important sources to earn a living. Since there are no industrial companies in the valley, a lot of Walser people commute to work in the Walgau and the Rhine Valley every day. In 2000, the Großes Walsertal became UNESCO Biosphere 

Municipality of Kranjska Gora - Slovenia

The Municipality of Kranjska Gora lies in the far northwest of Slovenia, bordering Italy and Austria. The area is 256.3 km2, with parts being included in the protected green belt of the Triglav National Park (TNP) and 56.66% in NATURA 2000. The largest and most developed town as regards tourism is Kranjska Gora, where the administrative centre of the Municipality is also based.

Tourism is the most important form of industry – Kranjska Gora is an winter tourism resort, maily oriented towards families. Due to good connections with central Slovenia, many Slovenians from urban areas own a weekend house in Kranjska Gora (leading to very high real estate prices). Beside winter tourism (skiing in Kranjska Gora, ski jumping in Planica), summer tourism is developing fast, especially with regards to active holidays (hiking, mountaineering, cycling, summer sledding, climbing, …).

Despite growing tourism sector, the region is experiencing a demographic decline and outmigration of youth to other regional and national centers where grammar schools, universities and diverse jobs are.

Municipality of Idrija - Slovenia

The Municipality of Idrija is located in south-eastern foothills of the Alps. It is well known for 500-year old history of mercury mining, craftsmanship of Idrija lace and traditional dish Idrija žlikrofi. In 2012, the mercury mining heritage of Idrija was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List after a joint nomination with Spanish mercury mine of Almaden. With 5957 inhabitants in the city and less than 12.000 inhabitants in the municipality (SURS, 2014) it is a small- to mid-sized town in Slovenian context and a rather small town in European context.

In spite of its small size, remoteness, difficult road access, absence of train, airplane or water connection, mining and industrial history, soil pollution, and geomorphological disconnectedness from neighbouring regions, Idrija has developed into an important global and regional node, with growing economy (notably multinational corporations Kolektor and Hidria), and with one of the lowest levels of unemployment in Slovenia.

The Municipality of Idrija has a clear vision for the future and is constantly working to achieve settled goals: to be environmentally-friendly, socially just and high-tech developed. This goal can only be achieved by actively involving young citizens and encouraging citizen participation in general.

Community of communes of the Baronnies in the Drôme provençale - France

The vast and sparsely populated territory of the Baronnies provençales is located between the Rhône valley and the Hautes Alpes, in the Southern French Pre-alpes (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region). The territory is dominated by the mountain range of the Baronnies. With strong climatic contrasts, the landscape is a mosaic of traditional forms of agriculture (e.g. wine, olives, lavender, fruits such as abricots), steep forested slopes, abrupt cliffs and historic rural villages and town centres. Classified as less favored region, the weight of agriculture for the local economy is much higher than elsewhere, and the region has little industry. The community of communes (CCBDP) has been created in January 2017 in the framework of the ongoing territorial reform. It merged several older communities into a single entity comprising now 67 municipalities. It is located within the larger perimeter of the Regional Nature Park of the Baronnies Provençales (created in 2015). The two small towns Nyons (the only true urban center of the area) and Buis-les-Baronnies (where activities are strongly linked to agriculture and tourism) alone account for nearly half the population of the area (21,700 in total). Most other municipalities are rural mountain municipalities, of which some are located far away from the major transport axis. Youth services as well as youth associations and clubs are quite developed. These are, however, rather concentrated in the two major towns. Also, these are fragile and depend very often on small groups of volunteers; themselves becoming more and more scarce. The ambition of the community is to stronger involve young people in order to obtain an informed opinion on issues dealt with by the community of municipalities (strategic planning, housing, economic development), or at least at a first stage on those directly affecting them (steering committee and technical committee on youth policy).

Community of communes:

Préalpes d’Azur Regional nature park - France

Between the Mediterranean sea and the high summits of the Alps, the peri-alpine mountain range of the Préalpes d’Azur in the Southern French Alps benefits from a variety of unique types of climate and relief. Agriculture and livestock farming have millennial tradition… and still play a significant role. From olive trees to mountain agriculture (vegetables), from flower cultures to aromatic herbs and cheese and meat production (ovine-bovine-caprine). The Regional nature park of the Préalpes d’Azur consists of 45 municipalities, has 31,270 inhabitants and can be divided into the densely populated coastal hinterland of the Côte d’Azur (cities of Grasse and Vence, within the metropolitan area of Nice) and the sparsely populated and mountainous Haut-Pays (high land). Four communities of communes, the department of Alpes-Maritimes and the region Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur have all signed the park’s development programme (charter). The local development council, an association consisting of citizen volunteers, actively promotes the participation of inhabitants and associations regarding development challenges and projects, encouraging the participation of everyone in order to meet the objectives of the Park’s charter. The younger population is mainly concentrated in the peri-urban municipalities in the coastal hinterland, and does not yet participate actively in local policy-making or in the park’s development project.

Regional Nature Park:

Local development council:

Chambéry - France

Chambéry is the main town of the départment of Savoie, in the French Region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. It is located between the Bauges and Chartreuse mountains, at the gateway to the Alps and on the shores of the largest lake in France, Lake Bourget. Chambéry benefits from an exceptional position at the crossroads between France and Italy and between Northern and Southern Europe. It benefits from a mountain climate attenuated notably by its low altitude (270 m).
As the capital of the House of Savoy during three centuries, the city kept from this prestigious past an imposing ducal castle and picturesque old districts. Crossed by a majestic street lined with "piedmontese" porticoes, they are largely pedestrian and restored. The many private houses, built between the Renaissance and the Revolution, are rich in spiral staircases, beautiful ironwork and optical illusion decors. They are served by a mysterious maze of passages under and behind the houses.
Chambéry is a city between lakes and mountains that offers numerous possibilities and high quality equipments for numerous sport types, including water and winter sports, cultural activities, very active associations. On the competition side, the handball team, Chambéry Savoie, is one of the best French clubs, and its team of professional cyclists AG2R is very successful.
These assets have not failed to attract a growing number of students, including foreigners, to Chambéry. The University of Savoie has its heart in the city center of Chambéry, with three decentralised sites in Annecy-le-Vieux, le Bourget-du-Lac and Jacob-Bellecombette. It has very specialized training adapted to its alpine environment.


The Chiemgau

Another pilot area in Germany is the region around Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria, the so-called Chiemgau . The area covers the districts of Traunstein and Rosenheim and extends around Lake Chiemsee for about 50 km in a north-south and west-east direction.
Lake Chiemsee, also referred to as the Bavarian Sea, is the largest lake in Bavaria with an area of 79.9 km² and the third largest lake in Germany after Lake Constance and Lake Müritz. According to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the Chiemgau covers an area of 784 km².
The Chiemgau is a cultural landscape rich in tradition with a strong rural-farming character and for this very reason one of Bavaria's preferred tourism regions. Besides tourism, agriculture, services, industry and trade are among the main pillars of the economy in the districts. The population is approx. 400,000 inhabitants. Our partners in the region are Rimsting, Amerang, Bad Endorf and Grabenstätt.