Thematic Cluster Institutional Issues

This SCHR Cluster analyzes the institutional issues that arise from the implementation of international human rights obligations in Switzerland. The multi-layered state structure in Switzerland and the close interdependence of duties and responsibilities between the Confederation, cantons and municipalities always present a significant challenge for the implementation of human rights standards in Switzerland. In addition the peculiarities of the Swiss political rights and the limited constitutional jurisdiction often create tensions in connection with the obligations arising from international human rights standards.

In the Institutional Issues Cluster the SCHR deals with risks and opportunities resulting from the Swiss federal state structure and the semi-direct democracy, highlights the difficulties in the implementation and conflicts with human rights obligations and identifies possible solutions.

This Cluster will mainly focus on the following questions:

  • Difficulties in reporting and implementation of recommendations of international bodies and the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights;
  • Cantonal (and municipal) differences and peculiarities with regard to human rights topics (e.g. law concerning foreigners, emergency aid, protection of religious or linguistic minorities);
  • Coordination and cooperation in the human rights field (e.g. inter-departmental cooperation, round tables);
  • Handling of initiatives and federal laws that infringe human rights;
  • Direct democracy in the application of the law (e.g. naturalization decisions);
  • Institutional aspects of the implementation of economic, social and cultural human rights.

Competencies of the Institutions

The Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg will manage the Institutional Issues Cluster for the SCHR. The bilingual and inter-disciplinary institute has been dealing with questions of state organizations, the vertical separation of duties and powers, the cooperation in the federalist state as well as with the rule of law, democracy and human rights for many years. It has been active in research, education and documentation and has gained valuable experience as service provider on a national as well as international level (expert reports, consultation, continuing education, monitoring, etc.). It closely works with cantons, municipalities and inter-cantonal institutions as well as with the SDC and various academic partners abroad.


The Institutional Issues Cluster will take on mandates from interested circles (e.g. federal administration, cantons, municipalities, NGOs or other) and offer services that will facilitate the institutional aspects of the implementation of human rights obligations in Switzerland. In doing so the central actors will be assisted in their efforts to correctly implement the human rights standards in Switzerland. Depending on the mandate various forms of cooperation may be considered, such as documentation and evaluation of implementation practices, consultative services, development of application-oriented studies relevant to the professionals in the field, continuing educations and research.