2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23

2.1 Pillar 1: state duty to protect

 

Guiding Principles 1 to 3

2.1.2 Operational principles: legislative and information policy measures

Measure 2: Security and human rights

The federal government should ensure that business enterprises which are subject to the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad (PSSA) meet their human rights obligations. The PSSA prohibits security firms based in Switzerland from participating directly in hostilities in the context of an armed conflict, and from engaging in activities that could facilitate human rights abuses.

Switzerland and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] were the driving force behind the Montreux Document on private military and security companies.17 The purpose of the intergovernmental document is to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights by private military and security companies (PMSCs) operating in situations of armed conflict.

 

Measure 7: Reduction in human rights risks associated with gold extraction and trading

Switzerland will continue to support the implementation of OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas and other relevant guidelines. As recommended in the above report, it will explore the possibility of granting the Central Office for Precious Metals Control wider responsibilities, including with respect to transparency on the provenance of gold imported to Switzerland.

 

2.1.4 Business respect for human rights in conflict-affected areas

Guiding Principle 7

Given the heightened risk of human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas, States should help ensure that business enterprises operating in those contexts are not involved in such abuses or lead State entities to commit human rights violations. The federal government expects companies operating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas to conduct due diligence in a way that takes local circumstances into account. This requires the adoption of a conflict-sensitive approach based on human rights and observance of the ‘do no harm’ principle (consideration of problems intrinsic to fragile contexts).

 

Measure 13: Guidelines on human rights due diligence in conflict-affected and high-risk areas

Guidelines on human rights due diligence in conflict-affected and high-risk areas have been drawn up at international level and adopted by various OECD members. The Federal Council works at international level to advance the development, promotion and implementation of global standards. Switzerland also supports the implementation of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. It is also a member of the multi-stakeholder group that manages the implementation, dissemination and continued development of these guidelines. The OECD Due Diligence Guidance is aimed primarily at companies involved in the extraction and trading of commodities in conflict-affected and high-risk areas, but it also applies to manufacturers of products containing minerals which operate in the downstream value chain and are required to exercise due diligence.

In addition, the federal government supports a project led by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights that aims to clarify the practical steps that companies, investors and States should take to prevent and combat business-related human rights abuses in conflict, post-conflict and fragile contexts.

The EU adopted Regulation 2017/821 of 17 May 2017 laying down supply chain due diligence obligations for Union importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. The relevant provisions will take effect on 1 January 2021. In accordance with the Federal Council decision of 14 August 2019, the FDJP is mandated to examine the introduction of a mandatory due diligence in the area of “minerals from conflict areas”. In the meantime, on 18 December 2019, the Council of States adopted a regulation on this issue as part of the preparation of an indirect counter-proposal to the popular initiative for responsible businesses. The National Council has not yet commented on this. The Federal Council is of the opinion that it should await the end of the parliamentary debates.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Develop, promote and implement specific guidelines in respect of high-risk, conflict-affected areas.

Explore possible measures that are consistent with international rules, including a bill to be submitted for consultation.

Example of the federal government’s contribution to organisations developing these guidelines.

Explore possible measures that are consistent with international rules, including a bill to be submitted for consultation.

FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs],

EAER [Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research],

FDJP [Federal Department of Justice and Police].

 

Measure 14: Advisory and support services provided by Swiss representations abroad

Swiss representations abroad are well placed to raise awareness of human rights issues among businesses and provide country-specific advice. A number of representations in conflict-affected areas have developed innovative initiatives based on the UN Guiding Principles – largely on an ad hoc basis –to promote respect for human rights by Swiss business enterprises. The federal government will involve Switzerland’s representations abroad more closely in its efforts to raise awareness of and provide support for the implementation of human rights by business enterprises. Such efforts may include training and awareness-raising for embassy staff, encouraging the sharing of experiences between representations and with the relevant federal agencies in Bern. …

 

Measure 21: Support for UN bodies in charge of promoting the UN Guiding Principles

The federal government will continue to lend political and financial support to the UN Working Group, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. It will work with these bodies on several projects that: …

– clarify the practical steps that States, business enterprises and investors should take to prevent and combat business-related human rights abuses in conflict and post-conflict situations;