Council of Europe
Switzerland has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1963. The organisation was founded in 1949 as a means of achieving cooperation between parliaments and between member states.
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
The European Convention on Human Rights is the most important instrument to have been drafted by the Council of Europe. Switzerland ratified the Convention, which lists a number of fundamental human rights that states must guarantee everyone can enjoy, in 1974.
Council of Europe: European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Switzerland joined the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) in 1998. The FCNM is a legally binding, multilateral treaty drawn up by the Council of Europe. It prohibits the discrimination of national minorities and guarantees them freedom of opinion, belief, conscience, peaceful assembly and association.
Definition of national minorities
The FCNM does not define which groups constitute ‘national minorities’, but leaves it up to the individual states to do so.
"Switzerland declares that in Switzerland national minorities in the sense of the framework Convention are groups of individuals numerically inferior to the rest of the population of the country or of a canton, whose members are Swiss nationals, have long-standing, firm and lastin ties with Switzerland and are guided by the will to safeguard together waht constitutes their common identity, in particular their culture, their traditions, their religion or their language."
At the time of ratification, Switzerland considered that the following met the criteria set out in the interpretative declaration and were therefore recognised as Swiss national minorities:
- national linguistic minorities, namely the French-, Italian- and Romanchspeaking minorities, persons belonging to the German-speaking minorities residing in the Cantons of Fribourg and Valais,
- French-speakers in the Canton of Bern
- Swiss "Travellers"
- members of Switzerland's Jewish communities
Council of Europe: European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was set up in 1993 by the first Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. Composed of independent experts from each member state, its aim is to reinforce the international legal instruments, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
One of its main tasks is to produce regular reports monitoring member states’ legislation, policies and other measures to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
The OSCE is the currently the world's largest regional security organisation and comprises 56 participating states. Switzerland has been involved since the very beginning and has twice held the Chairmanship: in 1996 and 2014. The OSCE views the ‘human dimension’ together with the ‘politico military dimension’ and the ‘economic and environmental dimension’ as the three cornerstones of security. Several of its bodies address discrimination and human rights issues.
OSCE: Personal Representatives on Promoting Tolerance
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office first began appointing Personal Representatives on Combating Discrimination and Promoting Tolerance in 2004. They focus on antisemitism and on discrimination against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions.
Last modification 15.07.2020