UPR review of the human rights situation: Switzerland receives 251 recommendations
On 9 November 2017, Switzerland underwent a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the implementation of human rights before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Two previous reviews were conducted in 2008 and 2012. No less than 111 UN member states issued a total of 251 specific recommendations on how to improve human rights in Switzerland.
Switzerland prepared itself intensively for this review and submitted its official report in the summer of 2017. The Swiss NGO Platform Humanrights actively participated in this process by submitting a critical report and its own recommendations. In the run-up, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights made NGO inputs and other documents on Switzerland accessible to the other countries.
The review before the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
On 9 November 2017, 251 recommendations were issued by the states as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s working group. Switzerland earned praise for its relatively high human rights standards and its commitment to human rights within the UN and the UN Human Rights Council.
The Swiss delegation presented its perspective on the human rights situation in various areas. The delegation was led by State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl. The fact that no Federal Councillor led the delegation as part of their duties as minister was perceived as a clear flaw. Pascale Baeriswyl emphasised the close cooperation with the cantons and the greater public. The UPR review should be used as a jumping off point for human rights discussions within Switzerland.
Some of the main topical issues and repeated recommendations were:
- The creation of a national human rights institution, the improvement of non-discrimination protection, in particular in with regard to racism, LGBTI issues, and issues affecting people with disabilities
- Gender equality, especially regarding the gender wage gap, representation in public authorities, and in the economy
- The prevention of domestic violence
- The legal betterment of migrants, especially minor asylum seekers, stateless persons and undocumented persons
- The human rights responsibility of Swiss companies abroad
- The increase of funds for development cooperation
- The necessary compatibility of the right to submit initiatives with human rights obligations
- The ratification of human rights treaties and additional protocols of which Switzerland is not yet a party
Positive overall image with gaps
The number of recommendations in the UPR review on Switzerland is exceptionally high. More states than usual participated in the dialogue. Switzerland positions itself as a country with an excellent human rights track record, and is perceived that way by other countries and often consulted on human rights issues. Switzerland must therefore provide more human rights cohesion, including between domestic and foreign policy.
Almost three quarters of the issues mentioned in the NGO report by the NGO Platform Human Rights, in particular the key human rights requests by the Swiss civil society reappear in the recommendations by the member states in one way or the other. This provides a generally favourable overall picture. The third-cycle UPR recommendations could be an important instrument for both human rights and political organisations to further improve human rights in Switzerland.
But there are some clear gaps. For example, no recommendations were made regarding the controversial Dublin deportations in the area of asylum. There were also few recommendations in the fields of right to privacy, big data, and the fight against terrorism.
What are the next steps?
During the March 2018 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Switzerland will have to take a definite position on which recommendations it is willing to accept and which it refuses. Until a decision is taken by the Federal Council intensive discussions will be needed with the cantons. Human rights organisations will also contribute their positions; in December 2017, the NGO Platform Humanrights will publish a comprehensive analysis of all 251 recommendations.
The implementation of the accepted human rights recommendations will be implemented as of March 2018. The NGO Platform Humanrights will then take specific positions on the methodology of the implementation and on priority objectives.
On 13 November 2017, the working group of the UN Human Rights Council published the draft of its review of Switzerland of 9 November 2017. It contains three categories of recommendations: a) "support" (cf. recommendations 6.1. et seq.), b) "will be examined" (cf. recommendations 7.1. et seq.) and c) "noted" (cf. recommendations 86.1. et seq.).
- Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review 13 November 2017, A/HRC/WG.6/28/L.7, 19 pages
Review of 9 November 2017
- Switzerland Review - 28th Session of Universal Periodic Review
Video UN web TV, 9 November 2017
- UN Human Rights Council reviews human rights situation in Switzerland
FDFA media release, 9 November 2017
- Die Schweiz bekommt 250 Empfehlungen zur Verbesserung der Menschenrechte
Article in the NZZ newspaper, 9 November 2017
- Switzerland urged to improve discrimination record
Article on Swissinfo, 9 November 2017
- Bei den Menschenrechten geht es nach oben
Article on the Swiss television website, 9 November 2017
- Universal Periodic Review Switzerland
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website
- UPR Switzerland - Review on 10 November 2017
Documentation by UPR Info
- The Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review
- NGO reports for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Switzerland
Article on humanrights.ch, 3 May 2017
- Dritte UPR-Überprüfung der Schweiz: die Zivilgesellschaft ist wachsam
NGO Platform Humanrights media release, 7 November 2017 (pdf, 2 pages in German)