Update: 15.07.2015

Switzerland runs for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council 2016-2018

The UN Human Rights Council is made up of 47 elected member states, with seats allocated according to geographical blocks. Switzerland has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council twice, from 2006 to 2009 and 2010 to 2013. Now it is running for a third time for one of seven seats in the Western European block for 2016 and 2018. The election will take place in October 2015.

Swiss image brochure

The FDFA supports Switzerland's candidacy by publishing the brochure «Switzerland: Candidate for the Human Rights Council 2016–2018», which highlights why Switzerland would be an advantageous member of the Human Rights Council. The brochure also emphasises «Switzerland’s pledges and commitments» which can be viewed in full in a separate document. Every country that runs for the Human Rights Council must put these type of binding guarantees in writing. They represent self-commitments with regard to human rights policies on a national and international level as per the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Sensitive issues

Swiss commitments in foreign policy are transparent and generally credible and coherent. The pledges made regarding domestic policy however are sometimes problematic. The following pledges are either worded so as to create loopholes or the commitments are unlikely to be kept:

  • The creation of a federal coordination office to prepare country reports and provide them to the international human rights institutions so that Switzerland can implement international recommendations. Although such a coordination office was in planning in 2014, development has since been stopped due to financial constraints.
  • The implementation of the UPR recommendations accepted in 2012. Interested NGOs still don't know which measures have been decided upon since then.
  • «The creation of a national human rights institution is being considered». This non-binding wording which the Federal Council has been using since the first UPR cycle in 2008 is looking more and more implausible. They cannot continue to «consider» this issue forever.
  • The noble intention to ratify outstanding human rights treaties such as the explicitly mentioned International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. While both of these treaties have come a long way in the political process, it comes at a price - the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Social Charter and the Protocol No. 12 of the ECHR regarding discrimination have not advanced any further.

Discrepancy between domestic and foreign policy

Although it is grat news that Swiss diplomats are trying to take their negotiation skills and commitments to human rights to the Human Rights Council, the country is again showing weaknesses in domestic policy. Switzerland needs to make sure that the progressive human rights positions it takes in foreign policy are mirrored by its domestic human rights policies, which are currently at a standstill.

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