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 42

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.


Burundi – Programme conjoint sur les droits humains

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

La situation des droits de l’homme au Burundi reste préoccupante en raison de la persistance des violations des droits de l’homme et de l'absence d'obligation de rendre des comptes. Le Programme conjoint sur les droits humains est une initiative multipartite (Gouvernement et bailleurs de fonds) qui vise à promouvoir l’application du cadre légal en matière de droits de l’homme par des institutions crédibles et efficaces.


NACP North Africa Cultural Programme Ph2

01.11.2023 - 31.10.2027

By developing a Regional Cultural Program, Switzerland seeks to facilitate intercultural dialogue and exchange as a foundation for peace and conflict sensitive development in North Africa and to foster artistic expression as a driver of change in support to the challenges of transition. This will promote peaceful coexistence, political stability and social cohesion in the region, hence providing alternatives for the fulfillment of North African youth in their own societies.


Human Rights Grants (HRG) program in Tajikistan

01.10.2023 - 30.11.2025

The Human Rights grants program will support local and international organizations working in Tajikistan on acute Human Rights issues. The program will provide cofunding opportunities to selected projects related to child rights, freedom of press, human rights in custody, prevention of gender-based violence and the rights of migrants/refugees.


Contribution to OHCHR capacity strenght

01.10.2023 - 31.12.2025

The project aims to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights in Uzbekistan ensuring justice for victims of human rights abuses, enhancing civic space, integrating human rights principles into development and implementing UN Human Rights Mechanisms recommendation. Upon invitation by the President of Uzbekistan OHCHR has expanded its presence in the country. 


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.


South Sudan: Plan International, Integrated Protection, Skills Building and Learning for Empowerment of Adolescents, Youth, families and communities in Yei, Morobo and Kajokeji

15.06.2023 - 14.06.2025

This project seeks to complement the previous phase of an integrated protection intervention. It will build on key successes, achievements and key lessons learned through the provision of integrated life-saving emergency child protection services, skills building, empowerment of adolescent youth and communities in the targeted locations. 


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. 


Niger KARIA_ phase 1

15.11.2022 - 14.11.2025

Le Niger fait face à une crise de protection qui touche les populations civiles et engendre des déplacements forcés dans les zones frontalières du Mali, Burkina Faso et Nigéria. Dans le cadre du programme KARIA, la Suisse vise à renforcer les services locaux de santé mentale et de protection pour les personnes vulnérables et leur résilience aux menaces de protection. A travers une approche nexus, KARIA contribue à améliorer l’environnement de protection et la redevabilité des autorités et renforcer la cohésion sociale.

Object 1 – 12 of 42