An Examination of Multinational Corporations’ Accountability in the Light of Switzerland’s Failed Responsible Business Initiative in the Covid-19 Pandemic Era

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Ikechukwu P. Ugwu


This article examines the efforts made so far in holding multinational corporations (MNCs) liable for human rights and environmental violations in the light of Switzerland’s failed referendum in November 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also looks at other international law instruments that have the potential to hold MNCs accountable. While these other laws have failed to achieve the desired result of holding MNCs accountable, the referendum, if it had succeeded, would have triggered a binding vote on a constitutional amendment to introduce compulsory human rights due diligence for companies incorporated in Switzerland, the first of its kind in Europe. The consequencewould have been that victims of Swiss MNCs’ violations would have had the right to bring claims in Switzerland against a defaulting Swiss MNC. Unfortunately, the referendum failed, and to some extent the Covid-19 pandemic negatively affected the referendum outcome, because it was greatly politicised. It became a lost opportunity on what would have been “one small step for [Switzerland], one giant leap for the [international community]”.


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Ugwu, I. P. (2021). An Examination of Multinational Corporations’ Accountability in the Light of Switzerland’s Failed Responsible Business Initiative in the Covid-19 Pandemic Era. Przegląd Prawniczy Uniwersytetu Im. Adama Mickiewicza, 13, 119-155.


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