Federalism training for young professionals launched in Switzerland

Young professionals have been assigned to work in six Swiss cantons (above in green) and learn how federalism works in Switzerland, a long established federation. The interns are from Algeria, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A new six-week internship program for six young professionals from six different countries in Asia and Africa was recently launched in Berne, Switzerland, by the Forum of Federations, the Conference of Cantonal Governments and the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg.

The participants are being hosted by six different cantonal governments in French- and German-speaking parts of the country, as well as in urban and rural regions of Switzerland. The purpose of the program is to offer an opportunity to young persons from developing and middle income countries to experience federalism, and to test and expand their knowledge of the subject by experiencing the daily political and administrative realities of an established federation.

An initiative of the Forum, the program takes advantage of the summer program of the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg. The program provides practical training and finds internships with governments of Swiss cantons for the high achievers from the institute’s international students.

The training began with two half-day events in Berne, the capital city. The leading organizations were represented by Dr. Werner Thut, Vice President of the Forum; Professor Eva Maria Belser, of the Institute of Federalism; and Sandra Maissen, the Executive Director of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, an interstate body acting on behalf of the cantons.

The six interns attended an introduction to the day-to-day intercultural challenges of work life in Switzerland, and then met their future supervisors from their host cantons.

The participant young professionals are from Algeria, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (They were chosen for their excellent academic or professional credentials from a group of around 40 participants who had recently attended the 22nd Summer University of the Institute of Federalism.)

The students will work in very different cantonal administrative units. (Cantons are similar to states or provinces.)

One intern will work in a cantonal police department on airport-related matters. Another will work in a cantonal department for external relations (and this with respect to interstate relations and European Union-related matters). One intern will be working in the office of the Chief of Cantonal Health Services. Another of the interns will serve in the management level of a university of applied sciences (which falls under cantonal jurisdiction in Switzerland). Another will work for a cantonal government in a staff unit in charge of promoting economic development and urban planning.

The internship program, launched on Sept. 13, 2010, is a pilot project that will be evaluated at the end of the process. It is funded by the Swiss Federal Government, with significant in-kind contributions by the six participating cantons as well as the Conference of Cantonal Governments.

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