The Legal Affairs Committee (“the Committee”) of the Swiss Parliament’s Council of States has acknowledged that human rights violations perpetrated by Swiss based multinational companies are of great concern. Unlike the Swiss Federal Council, the Committee assents the need for action and calls upon legal measures. The Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice welcomes this decision, which allows for a substantial debate and paves the way to an effective solution at the parliamentary level. However, this is only a first step. The specificities of the counter-proposal as well as the position of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Swiss National Council remain uncertain.
Dick Marty, co-president of the Responsible Business Initiative’s Committee, has commented on the decision: « The Committee admits there is a need for binding measures against human rights violations perpetrated by Swiss-based multinationals. For the time being, the Committee has merely set the key points of such rules. We will have to see if the content of the indirect counter-proposal allows for an effective improvement of the situation. »
What is a counter-proposal?
Popular initiatives such as the Responsible Business Initiative are commonly discussed in Parliamentarian Committees. If Committees of both chambers agree to put forward a counter-proposal to the initiative, the Council of States and the National Council then have to agree on the latter. An indirect counter-proposal comes as a response to the initiative, in which the Parliament puts forward a legal amendment rather than a constitutional amendment (as is requested by an initiative). A counter-proposal is adopted in the event that the initiative is rejected by the Swiss citizens .
The Responsible Business Initiative
The initiative seeks to compel Swiss-based companies to respect human rights in all their business activities. In order to ensure proper implementation of this obligation by companies, consequences are foreseen in cases of abuses. Multinational companies will be liable for human rights abuses caused by their subsidiaries abroad.