The Institute is a nationally and internationally renowned, politically independent centre of expertise in questions of state organisation. As such, it develops the academic foundations concerning the tasks of a state and the conflicts of interests the latter is exposed to: to fulfil state functions in line with the demands and in an economically sound manner; to act with democratic legitimacy; to cope with a pluralistic society and to respect the rights of individuals and minorities.
Through research, services and training offers, the Institute contributes in an academically sound and practical manner to specify and further develop the principles of good governance.
The Institute’s activities focus on the following areas:
- General theory of federal and decentralized state organisation
- Fundamentals and further development of the Swiss federal state
- Comparative federalism
- Fundamental and human rights
- Protection of Minorities
- Conflict prevention and management
- Administrative Law
- Public procedural law
In 1983, the ch. Foundation for Federal Cooperation handed over the earlier research institute for federalism and regional structures to the University of Fribourg. The institute was integrated as «Institute of Federalism» in the then Faculty of Law, Economic and Social Science. When that faculty was divided up, the Institute was assigned to the law faculty.
In its first few years, the Institute focused mainly on researching the basic questions of federalism, and on the documentation of cantonal law, the law of Liechtenstein and of cantonal jurisprudence. It was doing comparative analysis of the law of the cantons especially for the confederation and the cantons. In collaboration with the Conference of cantonal justice and police directors, the Institute later developed the electronic legal act portal «LexFind».
Since the 1990ies, the Institute has become more active at the international level. It provides services and expertise in the areas of constitutionalisation, comparative research on federalism and decentralisation, and democratisation, in cooperation with the Swiss agency for development and cooperation (SDC) and other national and international actors. It provides training, especially through its Summer University, welcomes delegations from states which undergo processes of federalisation and transition and supports a number of projects at home and abroad.