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Reviving the citizen legislature policy

With its concept of government by actively contributing citizens, Switzerland has created a success model that is unique in the world. Nonetheless, it is not always easy to combine work, family and politics. Particularly in the municipalities, many positions are vacant or difficult to fill. A fresh input of new ideas is planned in the hope of changing this.

9 March 2019, text: Samuel Wernli, photo: Swiss Re, Deniz Kenber

Headlines such as «Desperate hunt to find a municipal councillor» have unfortunately become a reality in Switzerland. Is the Swiss citizen legislature system facing its imminent end? At Helvetia we firmly believe that political work though the citizen legislature, as an integral part of direct democracy, is one of Switzerland’s greatest successes. Therefore, in cooperation with the Swiss Association of Municipalities and as part of the Year of Citizen Legislature, we launched the idea-generating competition «Sustainable Citizen Legislature System 2030». Nineteen new ideas for a vibrant, modern citizen legislature system were presented, and three of these were recognised with an award by the public in a pitching session.

Positive interactions tend to be underestimated

The pitching session was accompanied by a discussion panel with municipal, cantonal and federal politicians. Michaela Huser was one of those taking part. She is a member of the Aargau Grand Council, a member of the Wettingen Residents’ Council, and at Helvetia she heads the Department for Development of Occupational Pension Provision Switzerland. She will also be running for the Swiss National Council in autumn 2019. She knows from her own experience the challenges of combining one’s profession with one’s political commitment. «It’s a question of planning and organisation on my part, as well as a degree of trust on the part of my employer», she says. She appreciates the openness and flexibility of Helvetia as an employer in allowing her to perform her mandate, «but at the end of the day, I will also be judged by my professional performance».

Michaela Huser is convinced that her experience gained in politics is useful in her professional work environment and vice versa. Thus, she affirms that the citizen legislature system promotes mutual understanding between politics, society and companies. According to Michaela, this is often underestimated today. For a forward-looking citizen legislature system, these aspects must again be more highly valued. She explains that to do this, the dialogue and thus the spreading of awareness about the significance of our citizen legislature system is crucial. It is also key to have exemplary individuals as accessible role models at all political levels: people who perform their duties in office with pleasure and justifiable pride and who harmonise their job and politics in a successful manner – all the while benefitting from the positive interactions.

Awakening people's interest, making public offices more attractive, using the benefits of digitalisation

Awards were given by the audience at the pitching session for three exciting ideas: Regularly held political get-togethers at schools, ECTS points creditable towards continuing education for the work and effort spent in the political citizen legislature office, and easily accessible electronic resources, for example a digital signature for the municipal executive. All the ideas submitted are presented on the website of the idea-generating competition, with the option to add comments. There is no shortage of new, inspiring suggestions for a sustainable citizen legislature system – the task is now to discuss , refine and implement them as quickly as possible. In this way we continue developing this unique Swiss success model for the benefit of all.

Citizen legislature system
The citizen legislature system: dedicated commitment of Helvetia to Switzerland
As an attractive employer, Helvetia would like to do more than just offer good salaries and provide flexible working hours. Helvetia therefore also promotes the citizen legislature activities of its employees, i.e. the harmonisation of work responsibilities and dedicated service in public office. Helvetia also supports young people involved in politics in Switzerland, for example by sponsoring the platform promotes the participation of young people in political planning and participation processes under the umbrella of the Swiss Youth Parliaments. In 2018, we launched the focus day #jugend_diskutiert (#youth_discusses) for vocational students at our Basel location in collaboration with other insurance companies. The intention is that trainees should overcome their reluctance to be involved in politics and be given the tools to take part in political discussions.
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