The UN and human rights

Switzerland plays an active role within the UN for the promotion, protection and implementation of human rights. One of the UN's primary purposes is to promote and encourage respect for fundamental rights and freedoms for all.

Various UN bodies and offices are dedicated to the protection and development of human rights. These include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council – both of which have their headquarters in Geneva – and the UN General Assembly in New York.

Switzerland's priorities

Switzerland firmly believes that enforcing human rights is a precondition for ensuring sustained social and economic development, peace and security and the prevention of conflicts and violent extremism. Its human rights priorities are in the following issues:

  • Action against impunity

  • Dealing with the past

  • Abolition of the death penalty

  • Application of the ban on torture

  • Respect for human rights in the context of peaceful protests

  • Freedom of expression and association

  • Protection of human rights defenders

  • Respect for the rights of women and children

  • Respect for the rights of migrants

  • The role of human rights in preventing conflicts

  • The specific human rights situation in certain countries

Switzerland has ratified all the main UN conventions on human rights.

United Nations Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is one of the main UN institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights. It was created in June 2006, replacing the former UN Commission on Human Rights. It is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and meets at the UN office at Geneva. The Council is made up of 47 member states. 

Switzerland actively supported the creation of the Human Rights Council. Switzerland has been member of this body three times (2006-2009; 2010-2013; 2016-2018). The creation of the Human Rights Council has also strengthened the position of International Geneva and its status as a global centre of expertise in human rights. 

The system of special procedures is one of the human rights instruments available to the Council in fulfilling its mandate. Therein independent human rights experts are mandated to report from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Switzerland has extended a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures and accepts all requests for visits from the relevant mandate holders. 

United Nations Human Rights Council

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The OHCHR, which has its headquarters in Geneva, is mandated to promote and coordinate efforts to ensure respect for human rights within the entire United Nations system. The OHCHR is one of Switzerland's main partners in implementing its human rights policy. For its part, Switzerland is one of the largest donors to the OHCHR. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, OHCHR