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Switzerland: Govt. publishes human rights guidelines for commodity sector; NGO calls for binding regulation

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29 November 2018

Swiss publish human rights guidelines for commodity sector

Author: Swissinfo

The Swiss government has published human rights guidelines - claimed to be the first of its kind - for firms operating in the commodity sector. 

The documentexternal link entitled “Guidance on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” was released on Wednesday at the 7th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. 

It calls on companies involved in the commodities sector to be mindful of their impact on human and social rights, which includes safety of workers, the impact of mining on local communities and doing business in countries “where governance is weak”. 

The report states that firms should conduct proper due diligence of their impact around the world, develop policies that clearly state their commitment to human rights, review existing business relationships and take steps to mitigate harmful impacts of their activities...

However, the guidelines are not legally binding and are only meant to serve as a tool for companies that do not wish to fall foul of regulations. The voluntary nature of the guidelines was criticised by the Swiss NGO Public Eye... Public Eyes states that the commodity sector [...] is relying on the Responsible Business Initiative to ensure compliance from companies.

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29 November 2018

Switzerland: NGO report calls on govt. to introduce binding human rights regulation for the commodities sector

Author: Public Eye

The Federal Council is due to release its latest assessment of the state of the Swiss commodities sector in the coming days, five years on from its “Background Report: Commodities.” Despite the countless scandals that have hit Swiss commodity trading companies, the government has failed to take effective measures to mitigate corruption and other risks. Public Eye is issuing an advance “shadow report” analysing the government’s “sins of omission” and outlining feasible ways in which Switzerland can and must fulfil its responsibility to help combat the resource curse...

On the topic of human rights, recommendation no.11 in the Background Report was to set up a multi stakeholder working group comprising representatives of trading companies, their lobby group, non-governmental organisations and the authorities. The group was tasked with providing guidance on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the commodities trading sector... [The] guidance was published [today]. Yet here too the Federal Council opted for a voluntary approach: commodity trading companies are free to decide whether and how they wish to implement the UN Guiding Principles. In contrast, the Responsible Business Initiative would oblige companies to implement those Principles...

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Download the full document here