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Civic rights and integration - understanding citizenship and exercise it fully

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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Over the past decade, between 5000 and 6000 Swiss people and foreigners have taken up residence in the Canton of Neuchâtel. At the same time, between 4500 and 5000 leave it each year. These flows are an inescapable contemporary reality which is part and parcel of the political and economic openness of the Canton to the other regions of Switzerland, Europe and the world. Successfully hosting and integrating these individuals, whatever their origin, is an important cornerstone in the cohesion and social harmony of the cities and municipalities of this Canton.

The Neuchâtel scheme Welcome for Newcomers (ANA) started in 1997, and was set up by the Working Community for the Integration of Foreigners (CTIE) and the Multicultural Cohesion Office (COSM). In 1998, it began a pilot experiment in the municipality of Le Landeron. Following the favourable results, the programme was then gradually implemented in other towns and currently addresses a population of 109,087 people out of 172,000. It covers cities and municipalities with a total of 68.5% of foreign resident populations. The programme is in compliance with the measures provided for in the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals that imposes on public authorities a mandate for information. The programme favours good relations between municipal authorities and local populations, newcomers in particular. It is based on the assumption that a feeling of being welcome is the first step towards a successful integration for anybody – whether they are foreign or Swiss – who settles in a new environment. It includes the delivery of useful documents when newcomers join their new municipalities (in particular a welcoming brochure), a welcome letter signed by municipal authorities and translated, as well as an annual or biannual official welcoming reception. French courses, tours and other services complete the programme. This approach to civic empowerment, consisting of encouraging inhabitants to exercise their civil rights, to reach a better understanding of citizenship and making them aware upon their arrival of the constitutional rules, can easily be adapted to other contexts.

The ‘civic rights and integration’ approach offers an additional perspective, as it contributes towards strengthening citizenship among the immigrants and the population of Neuchâtel. The backbone of the project consists of the Citizens Charter, disseminated systematically by all 53 towns and municipalities of the Canton, in addition to the welcoming programme for newcomers. This charter is made up of five documents, bound together in a kit which is handed over to the newcomer in exchange for a nonlegally binding signature, so as to underline its importance. It includes, among others items, a text translated into several languages on the foundations and essential principles of the democratic organisation of Neuchâtel and Switzerland.

This model inspired other Swiss Cantons and cities to participate in the Programme of Intercultural Cities of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, for which the Canton of Neuchâtel was also retained. In fact the project won the Prize for Excellence in Public services 2010 organised by the IDHEAP.

Award info
Award category: opening up the public sector
Award type: diploma
Award year: 2011
Project type
Sector: Public administration, modernisation, institutional affairs, reform
Type of activity:
Keywords: Integration, citizenship, cohesion, multiculturalism and civic rights
Short English description: This model inspired other Swiss Cantons and cities to participate in the Programme of Intercultural Cities of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, for which the Canton of Neuchâtel was also retained.
Further information
Organisation: Multicultural Cohesion Office
Other applicants:
Homepage: http://www.ne.ch/cosm
Level of government: regional level
Size of organisation: 50-100
Number of people involved: 1-5
Country: Switzerland
EU membership: other European country
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


Civic rights and integration - understanding citizenship and exercise it fully (47.0981041, 6.8217179)
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