Promoting human rights and basic freedoms

Respect, protection, promotion and further development of human rights are the cornerstones of Switzerland's international cooperation. In 2017, Switzerland helped to improve human rights situation in Asia and elsewhere.

Human rights integral to peacebuilding in Nepal

There have been some encouraging developments in the human rights situation in Nepal over the last ten years: a peace agreement in 2006, a new constitution in 2015, the creation of two independent commissions to investigate crimes against humanity committed during the conflict and election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2017. These efforts are important milestones in the road to lasting peace and inclusive societies in which people can live their lives in dignity. 

The SDC is assisting Nepal in this process by providing support to the National Human Rights Commission, which has been experiencing a pivotal moment since Nepal's move towards a federal system of government. Promoting human rights is a priority for the SDC, especially in fragile contexts and conflicts. Long-term engagement is decisive for peacebuilding and statebuilding efforts. By failing to respect human rights, countries run the serious risk of a return to violence, the collapse of their institutions or the outbreak of humanitarian crises – but they also jeopardise their development prospects. 

A key actor

"If the people who were responsible for my daughter's death are brought to justice, my struggle will give courage to the families of other victims". A father's words bring home the importance of the commission's work in helping vulnerable groups gain access to justice. The independent commission is a key actor in Nepal's human rights architecture. Armed with its investigations, the commission confronts the Nepalese government on its shortcomings and issues recommendations urging it to meet its obligation to uphold the human rights of its own citizens. Regarding the forced disappearances during the conflict, one of the commission's tasks is to conduct an inquiry to press the government to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and their victims’ families receive reparation. This is crucial for the mourning process in the victims' families and for the transition to national reconciliation. 

Encouraging results

Alongside other agencies, the SDC has been supporting the efforts of Nepal's human rights commission since 2001 to ensure that Nepalese citizens' rights are respected. In addition to technical assistance, the SDC is supporting the training of commission members and promoting  collaboration with other institutions. It was encouraging to see the number of complaints increase by 40% between 2016 and 2017, most of which led to an investigation. The number of cases resulting in a reconciliation increased by over one third. Nevertheless, the commission is struggling to get its recommendations adopted by the authorities and parliament.  

Transition to federalism

Nepal is on its way to a federal system having held local, provincial and federal elections in 2017. The eight regional offices opened by the commission ensure better access for the people they support. The challenge for the commission is to adapt its structure to the new legal framework, which is as yet ill-defined, and to engage well with the authorities while responding to growing needs at regional and local level.

No development without human rights

Better working conditions

A garment factory in Vietnam supported by Better Work.

In 2017, SECO stated it would continue to support the Better Work programme for the next four years.

Preventing domestic violence in Tajikistan

Two young men talk to a passer-by and hand him a leaflet.

Switzerland is helping Tajikistan in the prevention of domestic violence by supporting legal reforms and nationwide awareness campaigns.