Governance Capacity


Situation and Challenges

Most Alpine regions have experienced remarkable demographic, socio-economic and cultural changes throughout the last few decades. To a certain extent, these processes correspond with general patterns of modernisation, globalisation, enhanced mobility, accessibility or new openings of tele- and mass-communication. The most important aspects can be described as follows:

The Alpine population has grown between 1981 and 2001 by almost 1.2 million, from 11.1 million to 12.3 million. That is an increase of approximately 10.6%. By comparison, population growth in the EU-25 during the same period is only 6.1%. This is a good indication for the high attractiveness of the Alps as a living space.

However, the demographic situation is very heterogeneous:
  • Two thirds of the Alpine population live in urban areas.
  • Population growth is taking place mainly in cities and urban areas.
  • High population growth also took place in the suburban and peripheral municipalities (15,5 %). This means there are also significant population increases where the economic conditions are not as favourable, indeed because people can commute.
  • Those municipalities that do not have a close interconnection with urban areas experienced only a small or negative growth in population.
  • More than one quarter of all Alpine municipalities experienced a population decrease over the last 20 years, especially in Piemont, Friuli, Dauphiné, and in some areas of the Grisons and the Styrian and Lower Austrian Limestone Alps (CIPRA 2007).
Change in population in the Alps from 1950 to 2000 (Source: EURAC). Click on the image to enlarge it.
Further Readings & Links

CIPRA 2007
In the new Alpine Report, a complementary final chapter gives a good insight into current spatial development trends in the Alps, including many tables, graphs and maps.

Furthermore, big flows of immigration have dramatically changed local societies, especially in and near Alpine and peri-Alpine cities, and in tourist regions. This sometimes brought about very innovative social and political dynamics, sometimes conflicts between social groups (especially in peri-urban areas and in big ski resorts).

Out-migration and abandonment causes problems in many areas in the alps, such as in the Valle Blenio in Switzerland (Source: L.ULRICH).

Huge out-migration produced marginalization and abandonment in some regions (Southern French Alps, Alpine Piedmont) and a disequilibrium and distortion of the social structure to such an extent that one could not talk about "local societies" any more.

During the same period most Alpine countries - federal or not - adopted decentralisation and administrative acts which gave new competencies or official frames for action to municipalities. The Swiss "Mountain Investment Act", the Italian "Comunità Montane" and the French "Loi d’Orientation sur l’Aménagement et de Développement Durable des Territoires" et "Loi sur l’Intercommunalité" encouraged local people and municipalities to discuss and implement policies at a regional scale. Despite the lack of related mountain specific programmes in Austria, both the "Mountain Farmers Special Programme" addressing solely mountain farmers and the programme for "Independent Regional Development" which puts its emphasis on regional development in general (not exclusively in mountain regions), prove to have a positive impact on the promotion of local governance.

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The involvement level and modes of the local population in tourist development are often very unequal. By means of the examples of French Alpine ski resorts, the publication underlines the relevancy of the notion of governance to analyse the social and political relations within instable touristic localities.