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 56

Support to Dealing with the Past Roadmap implementation in Nepal

01.04.2022 - 31.03.2026

Switzerland contributes to peace and stability in Nepal by addressing the root causes of the conflict. A Dealing with Past Roadmap ensures that actors and institutions fulfill their responsibilities towards the four pillars of Transitional Justice- truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence. The conflict victims will participate in the process and benefit from the delivery of needed services within the federal state structure.


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.


OHCHR - Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the oPt

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

This support to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the oPt aims to contribute to promoting and protecting human rights in the oPt and enhancing prospects for Palestinians to live in dignity, prosperity and peace with the State of Israel. 


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.


Contribution to UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women 2021-2025.

01.12.2021 - 31.07.2026

The purpose of this proposal is to renew Switzerland’s support to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women (UNTF). The UNTF is the only UN system-wide fund and global multilateral grant-making mechanism devoted to local and national efforts to end violence against women and girls (EVAW/G), including in fragile and conflict affected contexts. Promoting gender equality through combatting all forms of gender based violence is a key strategic objective of Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy. The UNTF has the added value of combining systemic engagement (e.g. through global advocacy and legal reform) and outreach to the most at-risk women and girls. 


IIMM - Myanmar – Contribution to the Trust Fund for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

01.12.2021 - 31.12.2023

By contributing to the Trust Fund of the IIMM, Switzerland will actively support the collection of evidence on international law abuses and crimes in Myanmar, for increased accountability and with the aim of deterring future international crimes. The support of the Mechanism complements Switzerland’s Country Program by strengthening accountability for human rights.


Support to the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)

01.07.2021 - 31.12.2024

Gender inequalities persist and are a major barrier for poverty reduction and sustainable inclusive development. SDC supports the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific, a non-governmental organisation working nationally, regionally, and globally towards the achievement of women's human rights, especially through the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) mechanism.


Access to Justice project in Tajikistan

01.07.2021 - 31.07.2025

This exit phase of the Access to Justice (A2J) in Tajikistan will solidify the free public legal aid system to vulnerable individuals with respect to their legal claims (e.g. child allowances, spouse support etc.). It will also entirely transmit the aid system to the state budget and to the institutional management by the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan in order to achieve full financial sustainability of access to Justice for the most vulnerable ones.


Promotion and respect of human rights, gender equality and the international humanitarian law

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2023

Switzerland aims at enhancing prospects for Palestinians to live in dignity, prosperity and peace with Israel, via the respect and promotion of human rights, including gender equality, international humanitarian law and the rule of law by all duty bearers. To this end, SDC supports ten Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian law organizations active in the oPt, which provide legal aid and protection services to the population and advocate for the respect of the international law. 


Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

L’intervention a pour objectifs de renforcer la responsabilisation des acteurs publics pour les violations des droits humains et de contribuer à la réforme de l’environnement institutionnel pour prévenir la torture et réduire l’impunité en Tunisie. Elle offre une assistance directe aux victimes et promeut une meilleure conduite professionnelle des forces sécuritaires et carcérales. L’OMCT travaille aussi en lien étroit avec la société civile pour mener des plaidoyers communs contre la torture et l’impunité des responsables.


OHCHR - Strategic Partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

16.11.2020 - 31.12.2023

Promoting respect for human rights is a foreign policy goal and pillar of Swiss international cooperation, as the denial of human rights is one of the main factors of poverty. With a multi-year contribution to the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, focussing on selected geographic and thematic priorities, SDC will support this organisation to better play its key role in integrating human rights in sustainable development.


PSPET - Programme de soutien au processus électoral en Tunisie

01.11.2020 - 31.12.2024

L’intervention contribue au renforcement de la bonne gouvernance des autorités électorales et à leur résilience pendant les périodes de crise. Elle veille également à assurer l’inclusion des différentes couches de la société dans la participation électorale et politique, à travers des approches innovantes et durables, ainsi que par la diffusion auprès des citoyen.ne.s tunisien.ne.s d’une information électorale fiable et sensible au genre. Le programme sera mis en œuvre par le PNUD et l’IFES.

Object 1 – 12 of 56