Update: 18.01.2017

Critical feedback on the Swiss National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

On 9 December 2016, the Federal Council passed a national action plan (NAP) to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The report met the demands of the postulate “Eine Ruggie-Strategie für die Schweiz (A Ruggie strategy for Switzerland)” which was submitted by the National Council at the end of 2012. The publication of the NAP has repeatedly been delayed for two years.

The NAP describes how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011 are to be implemented using 50 ‘political instruments’. The national plan sets lofty targets: increase human rights protection in economic activities, communicate the Federal Council’s expectations for the economy, and strengthen the coherence of government activities.

Fierce criticism from NGOs

The same day the NAP was released, the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice (SCCJ) - an association of interested NGOs - called the action plan disappointing in every respect, since only six of the fifty listed measures were new. And the 6 new measures deal only with promoting and improving existing measures.

Although the SCCJ was contacted numerous times during development of the NAP, none of its main suggestions calling for the plan to be more binding were taken into account.

First impressions were proved true in an in-depth analysis of the NAP published on 22 December 2016. Compared to other countries that already have action plans on how to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights such as Italy, the United Stated and Germany, Switzerland has fallen far behind. While other countries have included assessments of legally binding measures into their plans, the Swiss NAP is still focused on voluntary action.

In summary, the international trend towards the mandatory assessment of due diligence is not yet common practice in Switzerland. Switzerland is still far from being labelled a “smart mix” with credible subject matter.

Parliamentary queries on the NAP

On the last day of Winter Session, five interpellations were submitted related to the national action plan (NAP) on how to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:

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