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 1 – 12 of 37

Contribution to Medicus Mundi Switzerland (MMS) Network

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

Medicus Mundi Switzerland is a Network of 49 Swiss non-governmental organisations, foundations and scientific institutions involved in health advocacy at global level and health programmes in lowand middle-income countries. Taking a multisectoral approach and fostering open dialogue with relevant actors, decision-makers and the broader public, the Network facilitates the exchange of knowledge and experience and contributes to finding solutions to global health challenges.


Central Asia Arts and Culture Programme 2.0. (CAACP 2.0.)

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2027

The objective of the Central Asia Arts and Culture Programme (CAACP) is to foster the further development of a vibrant and open art and culture scene that contributes to preserving freedom of expression and enhancing social cohesion in the region. The CAACP offers cultural institutions and artists opportunities to create a platform that enables people, including left-behind groups, to address issues affecting their lives and contribute to positive social change.


Geneva Call: From Rhetoric to Reality: Strengthening Protection of Conflict Affected Civilians in Yemen

01.05.2023 - 30.04.2026

The project aims at strengthening the respect of humanitarian norms and principles by armed actors, generating awareness, knowledge, policies and behaviour change to promote the protection of civilians. The project will build on earlier phase and strengthen dissemination of humanitarian norms, enhance the capacity of community-based organizations and networks to engage with armed actors and finally generate evidence-based studies to inform appropriate actions and advocacy.


CARE International: Breaking the Silence

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2024

The proposed project seeks to address key drivers of GBV, promote help-seeking behaviour, access to quality services for survivors and promote economic empowerment of vulnerable women and girls. Some key activities will include the provision of health, psychosocial, and protection support in one (1) existing safe house and three (3) women and girl-friendly spaces (WGFSs), the provision of unconditional emergency cash support to vulnerable survivors and livelihood opportunities. Through the partnership with WIDO, a local women-led organisation, CARE will work to transform negative masculinities and social norms.


Exiting partnership with PNGO: Strengthening Advocacy, Policy and Communications Capacity on nexus

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2024

Switzerland aims to exit its partnership with the network of Palestinian NGOs (PNGO) while ensuring consolidation of PNGO’s leading role in service delivery applying nexus approach to strength coherence between humanitarian, development efforts while preserving the viability of the 2-states solution, to effectively reduce people’s needs, risks and vulnerabilities while supporting prevention efforts. The contribution continues to enhance the prospects for Palestinians to live in dignity, prosperity and peace. This support is in line with the Swiss Cooperation Programme Near East 2021 - 2024 by promoting protection of the Palestinian population by all duty-bearers.


Programme Contribution to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2027

ICHR, is dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in Palestinian controlled territories. It focuses on strengthening the legislative, institutional and legal environment and on monitoring, investigating and handling complaints on human rights put forward by Palestinian citizens. It further aims at promoting accountability measures and consolidating human rights culture. Switzerland’s support to ICHR contributes to the democratic state building agenda, to peace building and dialogue towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation, promotion of rule of law and sustainable development, therefore contributing to stability in the region. 


UNICEF: Strengthening Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to prevent and respond to grave violations against children in Yemen

25.10.2022 - 24.10.2024

Accountability for grave child rights’ violations in Yemen will be strengthened through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children and Armed Conflict. Support will be provided for the collection, analysis and reporting on grave violations against children and the use of evidence and data for advocacy. Additionally, implementation of the Action plans signed by two parties to the conflict will be supported. 


Small Project Credit for the Swiss Cooperation Office in Moldova

01.06.2022 - 31.05.2025

This credit line provides the Swiss Cooperation Office in Moldova with a flexible instrument to provide direct support for local partners to help them respond to the changing context and to build social cohesion, affected by multiple crises. It contributes to further strengthening civil society in both rural and urban areas of Moldova. The support, provided to interested applicants through an open competition of small grants, has a countrywide coverage and includes the Transnistrian region.


Gender Mainstreaming 2022-2025 Phase 7

01.03.2022 - 28.02.2025

In collaboration with selected strategic partners, the SDC will promote gender equality and women’s rights in 3 priority areas that correspond to the SDC’s strategic interests and where it can promote innovative approaches: Peace building and crisis response, data driven advocacy and policy influence, and mobilising quality investments for gender transformative change. This will contribute to accelerate the implementation of the SDG 5 and to reduce its current funding gap.


Civil society resilience strengthening

18.02.2022 - 17.02.2027

This project, in delegated cooperation with USAID, supports democratic development in Serbia by fostering an enabling environment for civil society and strengthening its resilience. It improves capacities of civil society to perform its monitoring and advocacy roles, to facilitate citizen’s engagement and to engage in constructive dialogue with the government. Ultimately, this leads towards a more resilient, inclusive and pluralistic society.


GVCD - Gaza Vulnerable Communities Development Programme

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

Through the Gaza Vulnerable Communities Development Programme, Switzerland contributes to covering basic needs and fostering social cohesion in the Gaza Strip. The successful intervention model applied in the 1st Phase is extended and scaled up under this 2nd Phase. Small infrastructure projects addressing basic needs of vulnerable communities serve as an entry point for a local dialogue on development priorities, enabled through building the capacities of both duty bearers and right holders, including youth and women.


Support to Safe Spaces for Women, Youth and Children in Gaza Strip

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

Switzerland promotes social cohesion and civic peace through creating safe spaces for women, youth, and persons with disabilities in the Gaza Strip. By fostering local capacities and promoting community-led initiatives Safe Spaces strengthens the resilience of vulnerable groups. This second phase puts a stronger accent on skills and economic empowerment for youth in line with the Cooperation Programme 2021-24. By advocating for inclusive societies it contributes to mitigate the spread of extremism and radicalization.

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