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Thematic Cluster Human Rights and Business

The inclusion of human rights in economic activities stands at the centre of the Human Rights and Business Cluster. Public purchases, the foreign economic policy or investments by companies can have an influence on human rights and their implementation. All the same, the regulatory constraints in this field frequently are insufficient and unclear.
Switzerland as member state of numerous human rights treaties has the duty to protect human rights with respect to its own economic activities but it also has to ensure that human rights are not impaired by economic activities of private enterprises. Various instruments and concepts such as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted unanimously by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 or the United Nations Global Compact are additionally directly addressed to private and public organizations.
In order to make human rights work in an economic environment they have to be put into concrete terms and have to be “translated” for their end users. This is an important activity of the human rights and business cluster and it affects both governmental as well as private actors.
The Human Rights and Business Cluster primarily focuses on the following problems:

  • Substantiation and “translation” of human rights requirements in an economic context
  • Consideration of human rights in activities by the public authorities, for example in public procurement procedures of the Confederation and the cantons as well as in the foreign economic policy.
  • Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: support of enterprises (incl. SMEs) in the analysis of the effects of the own business activities on the protection of human rights, support in the development of a human rights policy at company level, development of extra-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms for human rights violations

Competences

Within the SCHR the Human Rights and Business Cluster is treated by the Centre of Human Rights Studies at the University of Zurich (MRZ). It can profit from the multi-sectoral expertise and experience of its members and can rely on an established network of representatives of enterprises, NGOs and authorities. The MRZ is also strongly networked on an international level thanks to its existing cooperation with foreign human rights institutes.

Services

The SCHR documents and evaluates the implementation of human rights norms in Switzerland on a mandatory basis, provides information on standards and best practices, creates studies with relevance in daily practice and which are application oriented and provides further education and counselling. The SCHR services are addressed at federal, cantonal and municipal authorities, private institutions, enterprises and the civil society.