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Switzerland, a federation of 26 cantons

Bern Council Hall

Scale up Bern Council Hall

Modern Switzerland is a union of 26 states, or cantons, which was established in 1848. The Swiss call this national union “the Confederation”.

Switzerland is a federal state and ”the Confederation”, in a narrower sense, also refers to the federal government. But federalism in Switzerland is founded on the principle that the cantons, as states within the State, have considerable legal and political sovereignty.

A modern cantonal constitution

The canton of Bern, like the other cantons, has its own executive and legislature, and its own judiciary.

The Bundesverfassung (Swiss constitution) provides clearly that all areas and powers that are not expressly delegated to the federal government are the responsibility of the cantons.

Bern is a democracy with one of the most modern cantonal constitutions in Switzerland. It was also the first canton in Switzerland to enshrine freedom of information in its constitutional law. The authorities and public services are required to provide information actively and openly to the public.

Constitution of the Canton of Bern in English (PDF, 209 KB, 33 pages)

Cantonal administration

The cantonal administration carries out a wide variety of tasks for the benefit of the canton’s citizens. Many important aspects of the administration’s duties are determined by voters in referendums.

The central administration includes Bern Canton’s Chancellery and the following seven departments (German/French):

Construction, Transport and Energy



Health and Welfare

Justice, Communal and Ecclesiastic Affairs

Police and Military Department

Economic Affairs


Further information

Informations of the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH

Video «Behind the scenes»

The Rathaus in Bern – Behind the scenes at the seat of parliament and government


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