Switzerland establishes a national human rights institution

The 'Swiss National Human Rights Institution' (NHRI) was founded in Bern. The independent institution is to protect and promote human rights in Switzerland. With it a 20-year political process comes to an end.

On December 13, 2019, the Federal Council adopted its message on the creation of a National Human Rights Institution. Parliament followed it in October 2021, and now the founding assembly has taken place, with over 100 members attending. «The creation of this institution is a historic moment for Switzerland and a milestone, after the issue has been on the political agenda for over twenty years», the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) says.

Around 120 states have such an institution

Today, around 120 states, including almost all European countries, have such an institution, which is based on the Paris Principles in accordance with the 1993 UN General Assembly resolution. In accordance with these principles and the Federal Law on Measures for Civilian Peacebuilding and Strengthening of Human Rights, the institution will pay attention to a broad social diversity of its members.

A working group has prepared the foundation

The establishment of the NHRI was prepared by a working group that accompanied the entire process. It was tasked with the necessary preliminary work in spring 2022 and coordinated by the FDFA. Representatives of the federal government, extra-parliamentary commissions, the cantons, civil society, and the business community were involved. Their task was to draw up statutes for the NMRI and to convene a founding assembly.

The institution is guaranteed full independence

With the foundation, the federal government and the cantons guarantee full independence to the board and its president, Raphaela Cueni. The institution's tasks include information and documentation, research, consulting, as well as human rights education and awareness-raising work in Switzerland. The NHRI alone decides how it will fulfill its tasks and use its resources. It will cooperate with federal and cantonal authorities, but also with non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia, and international organizations.

In addition, the NHRI will be responsible for exchanges at the international level. In addition to domestic human rights issues, its mandate also includes questions relating to the implementation of international human rights obligations in Switzerland. The institution thereby also strengthens the credibility of Swiss foreign policy.