Commentary: Swiss Federal Council lacks "political will" to legally enforce human rights due diligence in gold supply chain, says academic

Author: Mark Pieth, swissinfo.ch, Published on: 20 November 2018

"Switzerland’s golden opportunity for responsible business", 19 Nov 2018

[G]old mining comes with its fair share of risks and problems.

Severe environmental damage [..,] [f]orced labour, child labour, sexual exploitation, organised crime, corruption and money laundering are [...] side effects, along with the expropriation of land from indigenous peoples. Conflict gold is possibly the most horrifying of all...

Under pressure from NGOs and parliamentarians, the Swiss Federal Council (executive body) published a report on the “Trade in gold produced in violation of human rights”... At first, [...] the analysis of the problem reads like an NGO report. But by proposing that refineries purchase gold primarily from multinational mining companies, the authors place the entire blame for environmental and human rights violations squarely on the shoulders of artisanal and small-scale miners...

[T]he Federal Council is lacking the political will to actually legally implement globally-recognised best practices and recommended measures such as the OECD’s detailed guidelines on human rights in the gold supply chain...

[T]he Federal Council is sticking to the position it has already taken toward the Responsible Business Initiative: self-regulation is better than state regulation. 

Although there are easy opportunities within existing law [...], and despite the glaring risks and weaknesses in self-regulation of the industry, the Federal Council refrains from adopting a clear position...

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