Swiss organisations answer the call: after hearing the United Nations' perspective on racism in Switzerland from Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene, we took his Report to Switzerland's Service for Combating Racism to see what was being done on the ground.

AuteurRobson, Kati Clinton
Fonction POLITICS - Interview - Report

Kati Clinton Robson, Swiss News: What are the areas of focus and main goals of the Federal Service for Combating Racism?

Michele Galizia, Head of the Federal Service for Combating Racism: The Service promotes and coordinates various activities for the prevention of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia at federal, cantonal and municipal levels. It awards grants for projects that combat racism and promote human rights. It also provides assistance and information regarding other agencies and organisations active in the fight against racism.

In 2007, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mr. Doudou Diene released his Report on Racism, which noted that Switzerland was one of the few European countries without a national institution devoted to human rights. Why is this?

A variety of organisations at the federal level are responsible for the implementation of human rights in Switzerland, including the Commission against Racism, the Commission for Migration, the Service for Combating Racism, the Bureau for Equality of People with Disabilities and the Federal Office for Gender Equality. Furthermore, many aspects of human rights are under cantonal responsibility. All cantons have specialised institutions to deal with the different problems.

We believe that problems must be solved in the field where they occur. The question of whether a human rights institution would provide added value under these circumstances is presently being evaluated, and the Federal Council is expecting a report on the results this year.

Diene's Report concluded that the Swiss government didn't have a "coherent and resolute" political or legal strategy to combat xenophobia and racism. What do you think is the reason for this?

We do believe that it is our manifold, well-established, pragmatic approach that is successful in combating racism.

But from the point of view of communication, it would of course be easier to have a national plan of action against racism, and one national institution carrying it out. Our federal structure is hindering such an approach.

At the federal level, the Commission against Racism and the Service for Combating Racism, in collaboration with the Commission on Migration, stand together for a common federal policy against racism. The Federal Council defined anti-racism and anti-discrimination as a cross-sectional mission of all federal offices. All offices are required to integrate these subjects into their work.

Our common policy also includes the cantonal and communal level where responsibility...

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