On a political, social and economic level, we shape a differentiated discourse on minorities and indigenous peoples, and advocate the observance of collective and individual human rights, as defined in international conventions.
What we do
- We document human rights violations.
- We inform the public and raise their awareness of human rights issues.
- We draw attention to the violation of collective and individual human rights, and call for clarification, punishment and compensation in this regard.
- We support local efforts to strengthen the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.
- We protect the interests of those affected in dealings with the authorities and decision-makers, in cases where they cannot do so alone.
How we work
- The concerns of those affected by human rights violations are central to our work. We work together with these people as partners.
- We work nationally and internationally with organizations and people who share our values.
- Our staff identify with the values and goals of our organization.
- We use our resources carefully, purposefully and efficiently.
- Our work is funded by our members.
The Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland is committed, efficient and goal-oriented. Here are some examples of our successes. See the individual campaigns for more information.
- Research “UBS co-finances controversial agribusinesses”: The STP revealed how UBS, through its Brazilian investment bank, has provided two agricultural corporations with money from global investors. Both companies are involved in illegal deforestation, environmental destruction and human rights violations. With a report, a web story and an explanatory video, the STP was able to make this accessible to the public and contribute to the broader discussion on corporate responsibility.
- Uyghur survivors of the detention camps give testimony: At the invitation of the STP, the two Uyghurs Gulbahar Jalilova and Gulbahar Haitiwaji visited Switzerland. They spoke at several panels about the situation of the Uyghurs in East Turkestan and called on politicians and civil society to take action. Their statements and demands were picked up in several high-circulation newspapers in Switzerland.
- Indigenous people speak in Geneva about human rights in Russia: Some of the STP’s partners were forced to leave Russia due to increasing state repression. By founding the exile organization “International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia” (ICIPR), they are now also campaigning for indigenous rights in Russia from their exile. This was also the case in Geneva, where they spoke at a panel organized by the STP together with the ICIPR. The panel functioned as a public side event to the session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), where several STP partners spoke about indigenous rights in Russia.
- Gold industry speaks out for indigenous rights: Following the visit of a delegation from the Brazilian Amazon, five major gold refiners and the Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Traders in Precious Metals released a landmark statement: they condemned illegal mining and advocated that indigenous and local communities must have a say in projects.
- Norway: The country’s Supreme Court ruled that the Fosen windfarm is illegal because it threatens the Sami’s way of living and their reindeer herding. The involved Bern-based energy company BKW agreed to respect indigenous rights from now on. Starting point was a complaint by STP filed at the National Contact Point of Switzerland and the subsequent mediation process with BKW. Since the court ruling, STP demands that rhetoric is turned into action and the windfarm will consequently be dismantled.
- Brazil: The STP-produced movie “Threatened Tapajós” directed by Thomaz Pedro was met with enthusiasm at film festivals and has won several accolades. It shows the perspective of indigenous people, whose environment is threatened by infrastructure projects. These projects do mainly push ahead the exploitation of the region. Further, a report by STP clarifies who is affected and which Swiss financial institutions are allegedly involved.
- China: In 2018, STP and swiss-based Tibetan Organisations brought in a petition together, centered around the demand for more protection of Tibetan people in Switzerland. The pressure on politics was successful and the National Council supports the foray: now the Federal Council has to make a report on the situation of Tibetan people in Switzerland and finally evaluate its human rights dialogue with China.
- December: Credit Suisse complies with a demand by Sami communities and the STP, terminating its business relationship with the mine operator Nussir ASA. The mining company plans to operate two copper mines on the Repparfjord in northern Norway.
- December: Ethnic Kazakh Sayragul Sauytbay travels to Switzerland for a panel discussion as well as for talks with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) and with members of parliament. On International Human Rights Day, Sauytbay, the Uyghur and Tibetan communities, Campax and the STP hold a vigil to demand a revision of Switzerland’s China policy.
- November: The STP contributes to the broad mobilisation of the population in the campaign for the Corporate Responsibility Initiative. Despite disappointment over the initiative being rejected due to the majority of the cantons, it is gratifying that the broad discussion over the years has led to changing attitudes among the population.
- November: A new handbook by the STP provides indigenous peoples with an overview of existing international legal instruments and is intended to serve as a basis for civic education workshops in Brazil.
- November: The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council followed a petition by Tibet organisations and the STP by issuing two postulates. These now require a detailed report from the Federal Council on the situation of Tibetans in Switzerland and an evaluation of the human rights dialogue with China.
- September: Together with over 23,000 signatories, the Uyghur Association of Switzerland, Campax and the STP submit a petition to the Federal Council demanding the renegotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with China.
- September: During the national climate camp in the federal square, the STP raises awareness of indigenous rights in connection with the energy transition.
- August: Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the STP contributed financially to a coronavirus emergency fund run by the Brazilian indigenous umbrella organisation APIB and supported the Tupinambá and Mundurukú communities in the demarcation of their lands.
- March: The STP accompanies Davi Kopenawa Yanomami to the UN headquarters in Geneva, where he speaks of the multi-faceted threats Brazil’s uncontacted communities are facing.
- February: Bernese voters say Yes to the credit for a transit site in Wileroltigen. The new transit site will help to reduce pressure due to the lack of space for foreign travellers in Switzerland.
- December: The Bernese High Court confirms the conviction of the co-presidents of the JSVP (Junge Schweizerische Volkspartei/Young Swiss People’s Party) for violating criminal law against racial discrimination. The reason for the lawsuit was a post on the Facebook page of the JSVP that discriminated against Roma and Sinti. The STP supported the lawsuit.
- November: The STP accompanies an indigenous delegation of more than 10 people from Brazil in Switzerland. The aim of the delegation is to draw attention to the situation of indigenous people in Brazil under President Bolsonaro and to warn of the possible consequences of a free trade agreement with the Mercosur states
- October: Following a mediation procedure between the STP and Credit Suisse, the bank commits itself to incorporating indigenous rights into its internal policies on project financing.
- June: Metalor – one of the world’s largest gold refineries based in Neuchâtel – announces its withdrawal from artisanal mining. The STP welcomes this step as a short-term solution. In the long term, however, better conditions in gold mining are necessary for the many people who depend on artisanal mining for their survival, as for example in Colombia and Peru.
- April: Thousands of indigenous people in Brazil protest against the erosion of their rights under President Bolsonaro. The STP travelles to Brasília to participate in the biggest mobilisation of the indigenous community in Brazil.
- March: The Peruvian public prosecutor’s office suspects a former supplier to the Swiss refinery Metalor of money laundering and illegal gold mining. A year earlier, the STP had pointed out questionable gold imports from Peru to Switzerland.
- January: After the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner’ data protection and public relations officer supported the STP’s request for access to detailed statistics on the gold trade, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (EZV) also agrees to grant the request. The gold refineries file an appeal with the Federal Administrative Court.
- November: The Data Protection and Public Relations Officer calls on the Federal Customs Administration to comply with the STP’s demand and provide detailed insight into gold transactions. Transparency would be an important step towards finally obtaining more clarity about the origin and mining conditions of gold processed in Switzerland. The recommendation is a small sensation. The refineries are incorrigible: They announced an appeal against it.
- September: Together with Tibet organisations, the STP presents the Federal Council with a petition for the rights of Tibetans in Switzerland. More than 11,000 people signed the petition and call on the Federal Council and parliament to do more to promote human rights in Tibet.
- June-August: In the summer of 2018, over 1500 caravans of travelling Roma were on the road in Switzerland. Thanks to the project initiated by the STP and the Sinti and Roma Switzerland Association to mediate between travelling Roma, landowners and authorities, conflicts could be avoided and a positive summer balance drawn.
- July: Following the publication of a STP report on dubious gold from the United Arab Emirates, exports to Switzerland fell sharply. While the Emirates were still Switzerland’s largest gold supplier in January 2018 with over 21 tonnes of gold, six months later not a single gram was imported from this country.
- May: For years, the Sri Lankan Navy occupied the small island of Iranaitivu as a military base. The population tirelessly protested for a return to their beloved island, supported by the STP. With success: In the middle of May the people finally got the right to return to the island. As a result, the people can fish again, collect seafood and thus have access to a secure source of income.
- March: In its gold report, the STP criticized the trade relations between Metalor and the Peruvian supplier Minerales del Sur. Not only the STP, but also the Peruvian government wants to put an end to money laundering and illegal gold production. In March the Peruvian customs authorities confiscated 91.42 kg of gold from the controversial supplier Minerales del Sur, which was destined for the Swiss refinery Metalor, and stopped the exports of this company. Meanwhile, Metalor has banned the most controversial gold suppliers in Peru as customers – hopefully forever.
- October: the National Contact Point (NCP) of the OECD processed the appeal against Credit Suisse, filed by the STP in April. The Swiss bank had participated significantly in financing the construction firms of the controversial North Dakota Access Pipeline, which passes through the indigenous reserve of Standing Rock and thereby creates huge risks of water pollution for the local Sioux.
- May: after a long-running dispute over her land rights, the indigenous smallholder Máxima Acuña de Chaupe was acquitted. The biggest mining company of Peru, Yanacocha S.R.L., had accused her of land grabbing and had used violence against Máxima. The STP supported the activist in her combat against the gold giant.
- April: in Sri Lanka, the STP informed people affected by land grabbing about their rights. Approximately 50 participants from different regions and ethnic groups adopted their common demands directed towards the government in the “Nallur Declaration”.
- End of 2016: a first draft of the “Action Plan Yenish, Sinti und Roma” is available. The STP had asked the Confederation to improve the situation of these three minorities in Switzerland with targeted measures.
- Autumn: the STP drew attention to the fact that the two Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse are playing a major role in funding the construction of the controversial North Dakota Access Pipeline in the US. This triggered numerous protest campaigns and further research by Greenpeace in Switzerland.
- May: the Chechen Archive went online thanks to the cooperation of the STP, PeaceWomen Across the Globe and Reporters Without Borders. It is the most important video archive of the two wars in Chechnya and serves the legal processing of the war crimes.
- In late 2013, the Swiss gold refinery Metalor stopped the purchase of gold from two producers who purchased gold from the highly problematic Madre de Dios region. And in spring 2016, Yanacocha, the largest goldmine in South America, withdrew from the planned Conga project, against which the local population fiercely resisted. In several reports, the STP drew attention to the human rights violations committed by this company and supported the indigenous movement.
- Autumn 2013: the STP revealed in a report that several Tamils who had been forced back to Sri Lanka had been arrested and tortured upon their arrival. For almost a year, no more people were forced back under compulsion, and even today the practice is strict.