The economy and human rights

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

The Federal Council expects the private sector to respect human rights in Switzerland and abroad. To help companies put the UN's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international guidelines into practice, it has adopted a dedicated action plan and set up an information platform.

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.

National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

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.

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.