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

2.1 Pillar 1: state duty to protect

 

2.1.2 Operational principles: legislative and information policy measures

Guiding Principles 1 to 3

Measure 2: Security and human rights

Switzerland also helped to establish the International Code of Conduct Association, which requires private security providers to uphold human rights standards. The ICoC Association has a grievance procedure to address claims brought by employees or third parties regarding human rights abuses by companies. It has also produced guidance for private security providers on setting up complaints-handling schemes within their organisation, as well as guidelines on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.

 

2.1.5 Policy coherence

Guiding Principle 8

Measure 17: National human rights institution

With the Swiss Competence Centre for Human Rights (SCMR), a successful pilot project for a national human rights institution (NHRI) has been running since 2011. A core topic of the SCMR is human rights and business.

This pilot project will be replaced by a permanent, legally established institution. The Federal Council approved the corresponding bill on 13 December 2019, parliamentary consultation will begin in 2020. The NHRI will strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in Switzerland. Its independence enables it to cooperate with authorities at all levels of government, but also with non-governmental organisations, the private sector, research and international organisations and to support their human rights activities. Its tasks include information and documentation, research, consultancy, human rights education and awareness-raising, promotion of dialogue and cooperation, and international exchange. In addition to domestic human rights issues, its mandate also includes questions relating to the implementation of international human rights obligations in Switzerland.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Support the establishment of an NHRI that deals with, among other things, business and human rights. Mandates and activities of the NHRI in the business and human rights field. FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs]

 

Guiding Principle 10

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:

– improve access to remediation mechanisms for those affected by business-related human rights abuses.

 

Measure 22: Commitments by Switzerland to the UN Guiding Principles at multilateral level

Switzerland actively contributed to the drafting of the Recommendation 42 on business and human rights adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 2 March 2016. In implementing the NAP, Switzerland is implementing the Committee of Ministers Recommendation. It also supports Council of Europe efforts to improve access to remedy for those affected by human rights abuses, as well as to its online business and human rights platform.

 

2.3 Pillar 3: access to remedy

Many business enterprises have introduced mechanisms that enable their employees and/or business partners to share their concerns about possible human rights abuses and bring claims. Dealing with such claims internally, for example through mediation, often produces satisfactory outcomes for all affected parties. When a constructive solution cannot be found, the State must provide non-judicial and judicial mechanisms which give those affected by human rights abuses access to effective remedy.

 

2.3.1 Foundational principle

Guiding Principle 25

The Federal Council recognises the need to provide access to remedy for those affected by human rights abuses committed on Swiss territory and/or under Swiss jurisdiction. It believes the principal means of doing this is via the well-functioning Swiss judicial system, along with alternative, non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms.

The Federal Council also acknowledges its responsibility to facilitate access to Swiss grievance mechanisms where business enterprises based in Switzerland are involved in human rights abuses abroad, and those affected in the host state have no appropriate access to effective remedy. In such instances, due consideration must be given to a smart mix of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms.

 

Measure 31: Promoting the option of collective redress

The Federal Council intends to make selective amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to improve its applicability. These will focus on removing obstacles to legal redress such as fees and the risks associated with legal costs, strengthening collective redress mechanisms and simplifying the coordination of procedures.

In the process of revising the CPC, the federal government drafted amendments to the provisions governing costs with a view to extending the scope of the conciliation procedure. New rules on group actions and establishing a group settlement mechanism will close a gap in the available legal protection by facilitating class actions in respect of mass and dispersed damage claims. These amendments and new articles bring the draft bill in line with Business and Human Rights Recommendations 39 and 42 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of 2 March 2016. They also meet the expectations of the UN, as expressed in Guiding Principle 26.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Facilitated class actions. Selected amendments to the CPC. FDJP [Federal Department of Justice and Police]

 

2.3.3 Operational principles: state non-judicial grievance mechanisms

Guiding Principle 27

State non-judicial grievance frameworks can be an important factor in ensuring access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses. They often enable the parties to resolve differences through dialogue, therefore avoiding lengthy and costly court proceedings.

 

Measure 33: Visibility of non-judicial grievance mechanisms

Switzerland already has several state and non-state non-judicial grievance mechanisms in place, such as the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and ombudsman services. However, the role they play and the work they carry out are not well known. The Federal Council wishes to increase the visibility of non-judicial individual and collective redress mechanisms. Measures will include the provision of information resources and other tools developed as part of the NAP (website: www.nap-bhr.admin.ch; brochures etc.), as well as activities to promote these mechanisms.

 

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Raise the visibility of non-judicial grievance mechanisms. Provision of information on non-judicial grievance mechanisms in Switzerland. EAER [Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research]

 

Measure 34: National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises include a chapter on human rights. The 48 signatories to the OECD guidelines are required to set up a non-judicial grievance mechanism in the form of a National Contact Point (NCP) to receive and handle complaints regarding the application of the OECD Guidelines. They also serve as an important non-judicial grievance mechanism for business-related human rights abuses.

Measure 5 of the 2020–23 CSR Action Plan deals with the NCP in detail. As well as providing a mediation platform, the NCP should clearly position itself as a point of contact for the prevention of problems in connection with responsible business conduct (e.g. by having a social media presence and participating in stakeholder events).

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Strengthen the position of the NCP as a point of contact for the prevention of problems in connection with responsible business conduct. Evaluation of NCP activities (source: NCP annual report to the OECD and annual report of the NCP Advisory Board). EAER [Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research]

 

2.3.4 Operational principles: non-state grievance mechanisms

Guiding Principles 28 to 31

Swiss business enterprises, especially those with considerable exposure to human rights risks, should have in place appropriate grievance mechanisms to facilitate access to remedy for those affected by abuses. To ensure their effectiveness, these mechanisms must be legitimate, accessible, predictable, fair, transparent and in compliance with Swiss law and constitute a source of learning for all stakeholders. The Federal Council considers the promotion of grievance mechanisms through multi-stakeholder initiatives as an important means of guaranteeing access to remedy.

 

Measure 35 Grievance mechanisms as part of multi-stakeholder initiatives

The UN Guiding Principles underline the importance of multi-stakeholder initiatives and processes led by business associations which are designed to facilitate access to remedy. The judicial authorities and professional legal practitioner associations are not currently represented in such initiatives. In order to improve access to remedy as stipulated in the UN Guiding Principles, the federal government will explore the option of involving these groups in multi-stakeholder initiatives in the field of business and human rights. This could take the form of dialogue within existing multi-stakeholder initiatives. Participants would include representatives from industry, public law enforcement bodies and NGOs, and other key actors such as lawyers and mediators.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Involve legal actors in multi-stakeholder initiatives on business and human rights with a view to improving access to remedy in keeping with the UN Guiding Principles. Participation of representatives from the legal community in a multi-stakeholder initiative meeting on ways to improve access to remedy. FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs],

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

FDJP [Federal Department of Justice and Police].