Research projects

Swiss pandemic governance (NRP 80) 

  • The research project

    At first glance, Switzerland seemed well prepared for a health crisis. Both the federal and cantonal constitutions and the Epidemics Act regulated who had to decide what in the event of an emergency. However, the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic showed that the Swiss legal framework was not designed for a prolonged and comprehensive crisis. The research project «Improving Swiss Pandemic Governance – How to Strengthen Democracy, Federalism and Human Rights Implementation in Times of Crisis» of the Institute of Federalism therefore aims to improve the constitutional, legal and institutional framework of Swiss crisis governance.

    To this end, we first examine the legal framework and its application during the pandemic, and then identify weaknesses, gaps and ambiguities in the system. Based on the premise that improving crisis governance requires aligning with the structural principles of the constitution even under (time) pressure, we work in the following research fields:

    • Democratic legitimacy and the rule of law,
    • Federal separation of powers, and
    • Respect, protection and implementation of human rights.

    Based on the analyses, we develop recommendations on how parliaments, governments, administrations and courts can better prepare themselves for future (health) crises. In doing so, we work closely with political decision-makers and also draw on the lessons learned by other countries from the pandemic.

    The research project will run from 1 March 2023 to 28 February 2026.

    It is one of 25 sub-projects of the National Research Programme «Covid-19 in Society» of the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. Further information on the project can be found on the NRP 80 website.

  • The research team
    • Eva Maria Belser, Project Leader
    • Andreas Stöckli, Project Leader
    • Bernhard Waldmann, Project Leader
    • Johanna Jean-Petit-Matile, PhD student
    • Luis A. Maiorini, PhD student
    • Stefanie Rusch, PhD student
  • Scientific advisory board

    The project is accompanied by a scientific advisory board. The advisory board is made up of people from politics, the administration, the judiciary, intercantonal bodies, academia, and civil society. It will thus play a decisive role in embedding the research results in the broader institutional framework.

    Members of the Scientific Advisory Board: 

    • Marianne Aeberhard, Dr. phil. hum., Executive Director of
    • Frédéric Bernard, Prof. Dr. iur., Professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Geneva
    • Andrea Caroni, Dr. iur., member of the Council of States of the Canton of Appenzell A.-Rh., attorney-at-law, lecturer
    • Raffaele De Rosa, Dr. rer. pol., Councillor of State, Director of the Department of Health and Social Affairs, Republic and Canton of Ticino
    • Anna Gamper, Univ.-Prof. Dr., University Professor at the Institute for Public Law, Political and Administrative Science at the University of Innsbruck (AT), Substitute Judge of the State Court of the Principality of Liechtenstein
    • Kaspar Gerber, Dr. iur., LL.M., Postdoc, Lecturer at the Centre of Competence Medicine - Ethics - Law Helvetiae (MERH) of the University of Zurich, clerk at the Federal Administrative Court
    • Kathrin Huber, lic. rer. soc., MPH, Deputy Secretary General of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors (GDK)
    • Andreas Kley, Prof. Dr. rer. publ. Dr. iur. h. c., Professor of Public Law, Constitutional History and Philosophy of State and Law at the University of Zurich
    • Daniel Kübler, Prof. Dr. ès sciences politiques, Professor of Democracy Research and Public Governance at the Institute of Political Science of the University of Zurich and Head of the Department of General Democracy Research at the Centre for Democracy Aarau (ZDA)
    • Jörg Künzli, Prof. Dr. iur, Professor of Constitutional and International Law at the Department of Public Law of the University of Bern
    • Susanne Kuster, Dr. iur., Deputy Director of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) and Head of the Public Law Division
    • Thomas Minger, Deputy Secretary General of the Conference of Cantonal Governments (KDK) and Head of the Domestic Policy Division
    • Francesco Palermo, Prof. Dr. iur., Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law, University of Verona and Head of the Institute for Comparative Federalism Research, Eurac Research, Bolzano (IT)
    • Christian Rathgeb, Dr. iur., attorney-at-law, former cantonal councillor of Graubünden, former President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, lecturer at the University of Zurich
    • Mark Schelker, Prof. Dr. rer. pol., Professor of Finance at the Department of Economics of the University of Fribourg
    • Jean-Marc Verniory, Dr. iur., Vice-President of the Court of Justice, President of the Court of Public Law and President of the Constitutional Chamber of the Canton of Geneva


    Former members of the Advisory Board

    • Michael Jordi, Secretary General of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors (GDK)


  • Research findings

    Article «Stärkung des Parlaments in Krisenzeiten» by Luis A. Maiorini (description to follow)

    The experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic have shown that the judicial protection of emergency law de lege lata is incomplete. Under the influence of the pandemic, many proposals for more effective legal protection have been made, but none have yet been pursued further. The article «Judicial control of emergency law» analyses the challenges to legal protection using specific case law examples. Based on this, the second part takes up various suggestions for improvement and emphasises necessary adjustments to judicial legal protection for a crisis-resilient constitutional state.

    Amidst the lively discussion of the federal emergency law clause of Art. 185 para. 3 Cst., the cantonal emergency law systems remain almost unnoticed. This is unjustified, as they demonstrate remarkable diversity and inventiveness. The article «Cantonal emergency law systems - A comparative overview of intra-constitutional emergency law in the cantons» by Stefanie Rusch and Bernhard Waldmann analyses the diversity of cantonal emergency law and emergency clauses – particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and other extraordinary situations.

    Protocole Atelier «Loi sur les épidémies 2.0» 26.01.2024

    Other publications and research findings are available at: Data Portal SNSF

  • Connection to the Horizon Europe project «LEGITIMULT»

    There are synergies in terms of content with the project «Legitimate Crisis Governance in Multilevel Systems» (LEGITIMULT), a Horizon Europe project. The Institute of Federalism, which is involved in the project together with ten other research institutes, is leading the scientific part of the project.

Legitimate crisis governance in multilevel systems

Comparitive Fiscal Federalism

Federalism (especially fiscal federalism)

Verfassungsrecht der Schweiz

2nd edition: Contributions on Swiss Federalism (Eva Maria Belser/Bernhard Waldmann)

  • Concluded Projects

    Project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation: Thea Bächler, Die verfassungs- und völkerrechtlichen Vorgaben der Sozial- und Nothilfe – Eine Einbettung der Unterstützung Bedürftiger in den föderalistischen und grundrechtlichen Kontext (The constitutional and international law framework of social and emergency aid – embedding the support of the needy in the context of federalism and fundamental rights)

    Project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation: Fabrizio Crameri, Transitional Constitution-making – The Role of the Judiciary under the Rule of an Interim Constitution

    Participating in the «Interdisciplinary Advisory Board» of the Swiss National Science Foundation Research project «The Swiss Confederation: A Natural Laboratory for Research on Fiscal and Political Decentralization» (Director: Prof. Marius Brülhart, University of Lausanne)

    Academic advisory group for the research project «Federalism and Competitiveness» (Conference of Cantonal Governments, 2015–2017)

    Sharing of Tasks and Competences in the Swiss Confederation (2015–2016). Expertise opinion (2015) and guidelines (2016)