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 68

FDHAS - Strengthening Social Audits and Economic, Political and Civil Rights

01.05.2020 - 30.04.2024

The program contributes to the functioning of the Rule of Law by strengthening five civil society organizations and the United Nations Development Program that jointly fortify the social movements and organizations in the regions of the Gulf of Fonseca and the Muskitia, carrying out actions in favor of human rights, transparency and the fight against corruption, diminishing the high levels of polarization in the society. 


SDC BRAC Social Cohesion Fund for Cox’s Bazar District

01.04.2020 - 30.09.2024

This fund strengthens social cohesion in Cox’s Bazar by mitigating the negative consequences of the refugee influx on the most vulnerable segments of the local population. It will strategically upscale projects of BRAC, the biggest Bangladeshi NGO, through a series of medium-term contributions, adapted to the volatile context and emerging needs. The first two projects will support over 60’000 poor people to claim their rights and obtain legal redress and place 4’500 poor people in gainful employment. The intervention complements the engagement of Swiss Humanitarian Aid.


Program Contribution to the Independent Commission for Human Rights

01.03.2020 - 31.12.2022

The ICHR is the Palestinian national Human Rights Institute and ombudsman, dedicated to supporting Palestinian citizens’ rights. It monitors independently the performance of the government and its compliance with its legal and human rights obligations. Using mediation and dialogue, it advises the authorities to improve respect of human rights and to support victims of violations. Support to the ICHR with institutional development as well as with program funding contributes to the democratic state building agenda of Switzerland.


Routes Migratoires Afrique Ouest et Nord

20.01.2020 - 31.03.2025

Le projet « Enfants et Jeunes sur les Routes Migratoires de l’Afrique de l’Ouest et du Nord» contribue dans 5 pays pilotes à la protection des enfants et jeunes migrants face aux risques d’abus, et à l’insertion socio-économique. Le projet (1) propose une prise en charge et un accompagnement direct pour 11’500 bénéficiaires selon leurs besoins, (2) contribue à l’amélioration des lois et systèmes nationaux et régionaux de prise en charge légale, psychologique et éducative, et (3) facilite des opportunités d’éducation de base et d’insertion.


Civil Registry System Reform Project in Tajikistan (CRR)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

SDC assists the Ministry of Justice in its efforts to replace the paper-based civil registry system with a more efficient electronic civil registry system. This new system and the planned outreach activities will help people across the country in obtaining their vital documents faster and in better quality from the civil registry offices; this will help them to protect and claim their rights in relation to schooling, alimonies,  migration, healthcare and even voting. Moreover, the new civil registry system will also help the government to better plan and monitor its services provided to the population including in the education, health and labor sector.


International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential for social and economic development. Only 76% of women of reproductive age have their need for modern contraception satisfied. The International Planned Parenthood Federation a leading global advocacy organization whose member organizations in over 165 countries provide sexual and reproductive health services at local level and context-specific policy solutions that mainly benefit the poor and vulnerable.


Water Integrity : Core contribution to the Water Integrity Network (WIN)

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

Water Integrity and fight against corruption allow for effective governance in the water sector. Water integrity is a prerequisite for the efficient achievement of safe water and adequate sanitation for all (SDG 6). The support to WIN’s strategy contributes to increase transparency, accountability and participation in the water sector at global, regional and local level. WIN has developed a set of tools to diagnose corruption and to improve governance in the water sector. Through WIN’s advocacy work at global, regional and local level, and implementation of country initiatives in Kenya, Benin and Bangladesh capacities to assess the status of governance and prepare for action are strengthened. Right holders are empowered to claim better water management, equitable and sustained access to water and sanitation, and to hold duty bearers accountable.


AQJS - Access to Quality Justice Services

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022

Despite significant progress, Afghan justice institutions face challenges in the delivery of justice services, especially to vulnerable populations, such as women, children and prisoners. This project implemented by the United Nations Development Program provides support to both institutional and citizen engagement to increase access to quality justice for all citizens and particularly to vulnerable groups and strengthen the justice institutions to fulfil their constitutional and human rights obligations.


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.


Culture for Development - Myanmar

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2023

The project aims (i) to support freedom of expression and cultural identity, (ii) to promote skills and jobs in arts and culture. This will contribute to support socio-economic development and to strengthen social cohesion. Covid-19 has massively eroded livelihoods and carries a further risk for fundamental freedoms and civil society participation. The support to the culture sector is a relevant complement and leverage to Switzerland’s current interventions for peace, democracy and sustainable development in Myanmar.  


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.

Object 25 – 36 of 68