The UN and human rights

Switzerland plays an active role within the UN for the promotion, protection and implementation of human rights. One of the UN's primary purposes is to promote and encourage respect for fundamental rights and freedoms for all.


Various UN bodies and offices are dedicated to the protection and development of human rights. These include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council – both of which have their headquarters in Geneva – and the UN General Assembly in New York.

Switzerland's priorities

Switzerland firmly believes that enforcing human rights is a precondition for ensuring sustained social and economic development, peace and security and the prevention of conflicts and violent extremism. Based on its Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23, its Guidelines on Human Rights 2021-24 and other strategy documents, Switzerland has set the following human rights priorities:

  • Freedom of expression, assembly and association
  • Abolition of the death penalty
  • Respect for the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment
  • Protection of minorities and vulnerable groups
  • Promotion of human rights in business
  • Promotion of women's rights
  • Human rights for the benefit of peace and security, especially in conflict prevention
  • Action against impunity
  • Dealing with the past
  • Protection of human rights defenders
  • Human rights and the environment
  • Human rights situations in specific countries

Switzerland has ratified all the main UN conventions on human rights.

Switzerland's foreign policy strategy for 2020-23 (PDF, 44 Pages, 4.5 MB, English)

Guidelines on Human Rights 2021-24 (PDF, 28 Pages, 3.9 MB, English)


United Nations Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is one of the main UN institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights. It was created in June 2006, replacing the former UN Commission on Human Rights. It is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and meets at the UN office at Geneva. The Council is made up of 47 member states.

Switzerland actively supported the creation of the Human Rights Council. Switzerland has been member of this body three times (2006-2009; 2010-2013; 2016-2018). The creation of the Human Rights Council has also strengthened the position of International Geneva and its status as a global centre of expertise in human rights. Switzerland is currently running for a next mandate in the Human Rights Council for 2025-2027.

The system of special procedures is one of the human rights instruments available to the Council in fulfilling its mandate. Therein independent human rights experts are mandated to report from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Switzerland has extended a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures and accepts all requests for visits from the relevant mandate holders. 

United Nations Human Rights Council

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The OHCHR, which has its headquarters in Geneva, is mandated to promote and coordinate efforts to ensure respect for human rights within the entire United Nations system. The OHCHR is one of Switzerland's main partners in implementing its human rights policy. For its part, Switzerland is one of the largest donors to the OHCHR. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, OHCHR


Last update 22.03.2023


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