100 years of the OSA and six priorities for the future

2016 will remain in the memories of members and friends of the “Fifth Switzerland” as the centenary year of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). The celebratory year was marked by events, exhibitions and publications. But what will be the legacy at the end of it?

Sarah Mastantuoni (left) and Ariane Rustichelli, directors of the OSA.

Having officially begun on 2 March, a day before the issue date of the special stamp commemorating 100 years of the OSA, the anniversary year had two highlights. Firstly, the ceremony marking 25 years of the Area for the Swiss Abroad in Brunnen attended by Johann Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation, during which a permanent exhibition of posters on the history of Swiss emigration was officially opened. The second memorable moment was the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Berne. On 5 August, the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) delegates had the honour of sitting in the Federal Palace. This shows just how important the 762,000 Swiss Abroad are to the Swiss Confederation. The presence and speech by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter on the Bundesplatz during the official part of the event in front of hundreds of people and 170 young Swiss Abroad who had come especially for the occasion further underlined this message. With free concerts and activities for everyone, the celebrations were a huge success.

Under the motto “Switzerland in the world”, the anniversary year set out to look back on 100 years of history of Swiss emigration and the OSA. However, this reflection on the past primarily sought to look to the future. The international migration of our fellow citizens continues to increase and to take new forms. What will be the specific requirements of future emigrants? Questions are consequently also raised about the role of the OSA and the services it will make available. To provide answers, a questionnaire was sent to the delegates of the CSA. The results were made public at the CSA meeting on 5 August in Berne. On this basis, six development priorities were defined and adopted by the Council’s members. They represent a roadmap for the OSA in the years to come and to some extent a legislative programme. Their aim is to:

  • improve information for the Swiss Abroad, above all through the “Swiss Review”, but also through other existing OSA information channels.
  • better integrate young people in the OSA’s structures, ensuring in particular a minimum number of seats for young people on the CSA.
  • open up the electoral base of the Council of the Swiss Abroad so that all Swiss Abroad can elect their delegates to the CSA.
  • encourage the political participation of the Swiss Abroad by introducing electronic voting.
  • increase contact between the Swiss societies worldwide through an information and exchange of expertise initiative undertaken by the OSA.
  • raise the profile of the OSA in Switzerland and abroad through promotional campaigns.

These goals, some of which are already in progress, are certainly ambitious. However, it is vital that they are achieved in order for the OSA to ensure its services meet the challenges of future migration and the specific requirements involved. This is crucial if it is to continue to carry out its mission in an optimal way which involves representing and protecting the interests of the Swiss Abroad.

The detailed results of the questionnaire and further information about the future development priorities are available at: aso.ch/en/about-ourselves/the-osa/aims.

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