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Women workers checking car parts at a SCORE enterprise in India.
Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises Programm (SCORE) (© IAO )

In the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the Federal Council has set out its vision for a responsible approach to human rights by business enterprises. The Federal Council also aims to raise awareness and improve cooperation with the private sector on this issue.

Business and Human Rights: Swiss National Action Plan 2020–2023 (PDF, 30 Pages, 1.1 MB, English)

FDFA/SECO information platform on business and human rights

Human rights due diligence procedure for Swiss SMEs

National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

Corporate responsibility

The federal government is committed to supporting business enterprises in implementing the UN's guiding principles and taking measures to ensure that they respect human rights and implement existing laws. The state's duty to protect is supplemented by businesses' responsibility to respect human rights.

Human rights due diligence

Business enterprises that are exposed to particularly high human rights risks should develop internal policies and procedures for their human rights due diligence for the business activities concerned. Their precise form will depend on factors such as the size of the enterprise and the nature of their business (sector, geographical scope, etc.). The aim is to reduce the risk of human rights violations.

Access to remedy for victims

In the event that Swiss companies are involved in human rights violations, the people affected should be able to file complaints. The same applies where victims of human rights violations committed by (Swiss) companies cannot bring an action in the host state. The Federal Council considers that the well-functioning Swiss judicial system, along with alternative, non-judicial dispute-resolution mechanisms have a key role to play in this.

Under certain circumstances, Swiss law allows individuals who claim that their rights have been violated by Swiss companies to bring action or file a complaint before a Swiss court. The jurisdiction of Swiss courts and the applicable law must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Commodity trading and human rights

The commodity trading sector, which is based on the mining of natural resources like coal, gold, silver, cobalt and tungsten, is particularly at risk of being associated with human rights violations and environmental degradation, especially in fragile contexts.

The FDFA and SECO have therefore issued, on behalf of the Federal Council, the Commodity Trading Sector Guidance on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, based on existing UN and OECD international guiding and voluntary principles on security and human rights. This document was drawn up in collaboration with a wide range of commodity companies and non-governmental organisations, as well as the Canton of Geneva, where many of these companies are based.

Commodity Trading Sector Guidance on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles

Switzerland and the gold sector

In November 2018, the Federal Council presented its report on the trade in gold produced in violation of human rights. The report takes stock of the gold sector in Switzerland and recommends measures to be implemented by the Federal Administration. It concludes that there is a need for action with respect to transparency and gold supply chains. Traceable sourcing of gold is essential because it is the only way to prevent gold mined in breach of human rights from being imported into Switzerland. The Federal Council also recommends strengthening multi-stakeholder dialogue and expanding development cooperation in the area of responsible gold production.

Federal Council press release: Federal Council report on gold trading and human rights, 14.11.2018

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights are guidelines to help mining, gas and oil companies to identify risks and exercise due diligence. Companies in the extractive and energy sectors can use the voluntary principles to take measures to avoid human rights violations and prevent the escalation of conflicts.

Switzerland joined the Voluntary Principles Initiative in 2011 and holds its chairmanship for the 2019–20 period. It works to ensure the broadest possible participation of governments in the voluntary principles and promotes dialogue among public authorities, the private sector and civil society. Switzerland is also helping to create synergies between the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Swiss strategy to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

Sport and human rights

Switzerland has been working to ensure that human rights are respected in sport at all levels and that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are implemented at major sporting events. To this end, it has developed standards and guidelines together with international sports federations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Football Association (FIFA), as well as with athletes, states, sponsors, NGOs and international organisations.

Centre for Sport and Human Rights

Switzerland played a key role in the establishment of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights (CSHR) in Geneva. The CSHR's primary goal is to promote respect for human rights, particularly at major international sporting events.

The CSHR is supported by governments, the IOC and FIFA, athletes, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, international employers' and workers' associations, human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and international companies that sponsor major sporting events. These stakeholders have come together to develop processes to align major sporting events with human rights.

The CSHR is hosted by the Institute for Human Rights and Business in Geneva. Former Irish President Mary Robinson has chaired the CSHR since its inception in June 2018.

Centre for Sport and Human Rights

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted for the first time a set of international principles on state and corporate responsibility and due diligence to protect human rights.

  1. States have a duty to protect human rights and must apply policies, laws and judicial means to ensure that businesses respect human rights.
  2. Businesses have a duty to exercise due diligence and to take responsibility for ensuring their own compliance with human rights. When human rights have been violated they must provide appropriate and effective remedies.
  3. States must ensure that victims of human rights violations have access to judicial and extrajudicial remedies so that businesses can be held to account.

Last update 20.04.2022

Contact

Peace and Human Rights Division

Bundesgasse 32
3003 Bern

Phone

+41 (0)58 462 30 50

Fax

+41 (0)58 463 89 22