Switzerland – DF

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

2.1 Pillar 1: state duty to protect


2.1.3 The State-business nexus

Guiding Principles 4 to 5

Measure 11: Human rights due diligence by public-private development partnerships

As laid down in the Code of Conduct for Contractual Partners of the FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs], respect for human rights and gender equality are two of the values which should be promoted in the interests of Switzerland. All individuals, companies or other entities that work with the FDFA are required to contribute to the promotion of these values and to act in accordance with them, and with the legal order. The Code of Conduct outlines the attitude and behaviour that the FDFA expects from its contractual partners (suppliers of goods and services, consultants, contractors, organisations responsible for implementing projects and/or recipients of contributions, etc.) in Switzerland as well as abroad. The Code of Conduct is binding and forms an integral part of all agreements between the FDFA and its partners.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Risk Assessment for Partnerships with the Private Sector takes into account the impact that these partnerships could have on human and employment rights, government structures and the environment. Consequently, the federal government will not work with partners which have repeatedly been involved in human rights abuses or cannot provide cogent evidence that they have substantially reduced their exposure to human rights risks.

For the purpose of implementing these guidelines, the federal government may work with external providers in carrying out a detailed risk assessment if this can reasonably be required for the partnership in question. The federal government also ensures that it does not enter into any public-private development partnerships with business enterprises which refuse to cooperate with the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.31

The federal government is currently working with other donors on a risk management model for public-private development projects. The outcome of this process, which takes place within the framework of the Private Sector Engagement Working Group of the Donor Committee for Enterprise Development (DCED), could necessitate amendments to the SDC Risk Assessment for Partnerships with the Private Sector.


Objective Indicator Responsibility
Prevent human rights risks in public-private development partnerships. A tangible example that the SDC Risk Assessment guidelines have been implemented, including a human rights risk assessment, prior to entering into a new public-private development partnership FDFA [Federal Department of Foreign Affairs],

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


2.1.5 Policy coherence

Guiding Principle 10

Measure 19: Promotion of respect for human rights and labour standards within financial institutions

As a general rule, an evaluation of the environmental and social risks is integral to the process of approving any project or programme conducted as part of Swiss economic cooperation. The aim is to ensure that any investments Switzerland makes fully comply with applicable legislation and rules, including international human rights standards.

Investments by the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (SIFEM) are subject to full due diligence with regard to its environmental, social (including working conditions) and governance (ESG) responsibilities. The relevant human rights standards are applied in all ESG risk assessments. This means that the risks of human rights abuses are always taken into account in the investment decision-making process. SIFEM partners (fund managers) are required to submit an annual or half-yearly report detailing their ESG activities and any major ESG accidents and incidents. This information makes it possible to improve the monitoring of human rights issues from the initial situation assessment and right through the investment cycle.

As part of its involvement in international financial institutions, Switzerland actively promotes the systematic reinforcement of ESG standards. It supports the strictest transparency standards and helps to mitigate the potential adverse human rights impacts of projects by strengthening the independent inspection committees that handle project-related complaints lodged by the communities concerned. By creating frameworks and exemplary programmes, financial institutions can advance the promotion of ESG standards, respect for human rights at international level and a shared understanding of problems.

Objective Indicator Responsibility
Ensuring that investments and projects supported by Switzerland in relation to its economic development cooperation and international financial institutions do not have an adverse impact on human rights and serve as an example of international best practices. Human rights due diligence as part of SIFEM investments (source: summary report of the Federal Council on the achievement of its strategic goals).

Swiss contributions within international financial institutions to promote ESG standards, transparency and respect for human rights

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