No development without human rights

Rohingya children playing with a doll at a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
The SDC gives high priority to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups such as the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. © Anna Dubuis / DFID

Sustainable development is only possible if fundamental human rights principles such as non-discrimination, participation, and the rule of law are respected. These rights form the basis of international cooperation. This is why the promotion of human rights is a key issue for the SDC.

SDC focus

The realization of human rights is a foreign policy objective anchored in the Federal Constitution. Swiss human rights foreign policy focuses on the following three priorities:

  • The protection and promotion of civil and political rights, for example access to justice free of discrimination and participation in political processes
  • The protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education or health
  • The protection of the rights of especially vulnerable groups.

The SDC contributes to the implementation of the human rights policy by promoting the rights of the poor and supporting governments in their efforts to respect, protect and promote these rights. SDC's programmes on fighting poverty actively promote human rights.

Working with the human rights approach

The SDC works with a human-rights-based approach. In addition to international standards, which give legitimacy to development cooperation, the SDC promotes the following human rights principles:

  • Equal rights and non-discrimination
  • Participation and support in asserting human rights (empowerment)
  • Responsibility for human rights violations, accountability and redress
  • Indivisibility and universality.

The SDC undertakes to systematically include questions of rights, for example in the fields of migration or labour law, in its programmes in all its partner countries. It uses a human rights approach to help people ("rights holders") to exercise and demand their rights. At the same time, it assists state and non-state institutions ("duty bearers") in their efforts to adhere to their obligation to ensure respect for and the protection of human rights.

Strengthening state institutions and promoting the rights of vulnerable groups

Fragility, armed conflicts and human rights violations – which tend to become mutually reinforcing like in a vicious cycle – hinder the fight against poverty. In most cases, fragile states cannot guarantee basic services, including protection against human rights violations. For this reason, the SDC helps its partner countries strengthen their state structures, thus enabling them to better fulfil their human rights obligations.

In Tajikistan, for example, the SDC supports reforms to strengthen rights-assistance services, the main beneficiaries of which are women whose husbands have gone to other countries to work. In Albania, with the assistance of the SDC, a comprehensive and sustainable social-protection system has been put in place to improve the social integration of the Roma community. In Bolivia, the SDC supports the national ombudsman's office for human rights, and seeks to address the concerns of the indigenous populations. In Afghanistan, the SDC assists women's organisations, and in Honduras it helps protect human rights defenders.

With these projects, the SDC promotes the rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, strengthens civil society and promotes the establishment of state institutions.

Examining states' human rights commitment

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the most important human rights conventions of the United Nations together form a broad-based regulatory framework for international human rights protection. One of the strengths of this frame of reference is its universality: human rights are valid worldwide. The majority of states have ratified the most important human rights conventions. Nevertheless, many states do not adhere to their obligations.

For this reason, the UN has set up a number of monitoring mechanisms. In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN member states are obliged to report regularly on their current domestic human rights situation. Through the UPR, civil society now has a voice at the international level and can reach the general public. The SDC supports these efforts. For example, it has enabled Pakistani journalists to express their positions on the Pakistani government's state report. In Afghanistan, it supports the justice ministry in implementing the UN's recommendations.

Current projects

Object 25 – 36 of 54

Appui aux médias dans la région des Grands Lacs

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

Dans la région des Grands Lacs, les médias jouent un rôle central dans le processus de démocratisation. Cependant, ils sont fragilisés par un contexte politique sensible et des limites d’ordre professionnel et légal. Grace à son engagement à long terme, la Suisse a une grande crédibilité dans ce secteur. Le programme vise à renforcer la cohésion sociale à travers l’amélioration des capacités des médias, à fournir une information de qualité et à offrir une plateforme de dialogue entre acteurs. L’intervention sera faite au travers des partenaires locaux, régionaux et internationaux. 


CASE - Culture, Art and Social Engagement

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

This project aims at promoting the role of people as agents of change in the occupied Palestinian territory. Culture and artistic creativity are used to enhance democratic debate, promote social inclusion and active participation of youth and women within marginalized communities and between the community and the local authorities. Local authorities will be influenced so that local development better reflects the needs of these groups.


Health Promotion and System Strengthening

Women with their babies wait at the Hombolo Health Centre in Dodoma

01.11.2019 - 31.10.2023

The Health Promotion and System Strengthening Project is a SDC flagship project in Tanzania. In this third and exit phase, the project will strengthen the efficiency of national institutions to scale up policy reform processes that have been introduced based on the successful health innovations financed by SDC. The institutional capacity of 187 district councils will be enhanced to improve access to social protection, medicines supply, medical equipment maintenance and health promotion through technical assistance, digitalized solutions and researches for policy dialogue.


Somalia - UN Joint Programme Saameynta: Scaling-up Solutions to Displacement (UNJPS)

01.11.2019 - 30.06.2025

Displacement contributes to Somalia’s rapid and unplanned urbanization. 2.6 million people are displaced with little prospects for durable solutions. Switzerland, in a whole of government approach and through a UN Joint Programme Saameynta (UNJPS) will contribute to durable solutions for displacement-affected communities by improving their protection environment, socio-economic inclusiveness, self-reliance and fit-for-purpose land governance, thus leading to sustainable (re)integration.


Strengthening Governance and Human Rights in Central America

Natural Resources Governance Dialogue

01.10.2019 - 30.09.2022

The program strengthens the capacities and the presence of the Inter-American Human Rights System in Central America in order to ensure the follow-up on court judgements and recommendations, to educate employees of the justice sector, to report on the Human Rights situation and to strengthen the protection of Human Rights defenders. The program further promotes dialogue on natural resource management among governments, the private sector, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants.


ELECT – Elections libres et crédibles en Tunisie

15.08.2019 - 30.06.2021

The project supports the orderly conduct of the 2019 Electoral process in Tunisia (legislative and presidential elections). It aims at ensuring International and African observation missions and enabling local NGOs to co-lead the process. This short term project completes and facilitates Switzerland’s support to democratic processes in the field of accountability and citizen participation since 2011.


DEAR Foundation contribution Madaa

15.07.2019 - 31.12.2021

Switzerland, through Dear Foundation active in the oPt, will contribute to the provision of educational, cultural and psychosocial services for children, women and youth in the most sensitive neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem. A particular focus is given on reducing vulnerability and creating opportunities for jobs and income generation. Enhancing protection framework and strengthening the resilience of Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem are in line with Swiss Cooperation Strategy for the oPt (2015-2019).


Strengthening Civil Society in Myanmar (Paung Ku)

01.07.2019 - 30.06.2023

By supporting Paung Ku, SDC contributes to more participation of vulnerable communities and women in decision-making processes and equitable access to public services. Paung Ku is a local non-governmental organization, unique in the reach of its network in Myanmar’s civil society that advocates for the rights of ethnic and marginalized people and strengthens civil society to drive positive social change towards a development that is pro-poor and environmentally sustainable. 


Support to Dealing with the past roadmap implementation in Nepal

01.06.2019 - 31.03.2025


The program aims to support a new inclusive and equitable mechanism of dealing with the past with the purpose to address the root causes of the conflict which remains an uncompleted process in Nepal. The implementation of a comprehensive national roadmap will guaranty to be victim-centred and a government-driven process. This program provides a solid basis for strengthening an inclusive federal state


National Human Rights Program for Afghanistan (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission)

01.02.2019 - 31.12.2023

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has a constitutional mandate to promote and protect human rights in Afghanistan. The Commission continues the journey of building an Afghan society free of fear and discrimination. It lobbies with the government and other actors and contributes significantly to enhance human rights awareness, education, monitoring and reporting, and to empower Afghan citizens to defend their human rights. Switzerland together with other donors provides financial and when required technical support.


She Leads – Women Leadership Programme

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022

Federalism has created a historic opportunity for some 14’000 Nepalese women, over half of them from socially discriminated groups, to serve for the first time as elected representatives at local level. However, most elected women at local level remain excluded from political decision making due to discrimination based on patriarchal norms and values, and lack of resources and networks. The project promotes women leadership to support the peace process and to prevent future conflicts.


EAMRP - East African Migration Routes Project

01.01.2019 - 31.01.2024

With a regional migration program, Switzerland contributes to better protection, provide livelihood perspectives and promote adequate policies for children and youth along the migration route in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Different States and non-States actors are strengthened to better respond to migrant children and youth’ s needs, address their risks to exploitation, abuse and violence. This programme builds on the strategic link between international cooperation and migration policy in a priority region.

Object 25 – 36 of 54