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 37 – 48 of 55

National Human Rights Program for Afghanistan (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission)

01.02.2019 - 31.12.2023

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has a constitutional mandate to promote and protect human rights in Afghanistan. The Commission continues the journey of building an Afghan society free of fear and discrimination. It lobbies with the government and other actors and contributes significantly to enhance human rights awareness, education, monitoring and reporting, and to empower Afghan citizens to defend their human rights. Switzerland together with other donors provides financial and when required technical support.


She Leads – Women Leadership Programme

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022

Federalism has created a historic opportunity for some 14’000 Nepalese women, over half of them from socially discriminated groups, to serve for the first time as elected representatives at local level. However, most elected women at local level remain excluded from political decision making due to discrimination based on patriarchal norms and values, and lack of resources and networks. The project promotes women leadership to support the peace process and to prevent future conflicts.


EAMRP - East African Migration Routes Project

01.01.2019 - 31.01.2024

With a regional migration program, Switzerland contributes to better protection, provide livelihood perspectives and promote adequate policies for children and youth along the migration route in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Different States and non-States actors are strengthened to better respond to migrant children and youth’ s needs, address their risks to exploitation, abuse and violence. This programme builds on the strategic link between international cooperation and migration policy in a priority region.


Strengthening Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Nicaragua

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2023

The present proposal reaffirms Switzerland’s commitment to foster democracy, protect human rights and restore the Rule of Law in a fragile environment in Nicaragua. As a pillar of its exit strategy towards 2024, SDC supports and strengthens links between national and international human rights mechanisms in a WOGA approach together with the FDFA’s Political Directorate and the Embassies in the US and Costa Rica. SDC continues the dialogue with the government by offering training and advice on conflict transformation and dealing with the past.


Women Deliver Conference and Advocacy

15.11.2018 - 01.07.2022

Women Deliver advocates for gender equality as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights, including through the Women Deliver Conference. Investment cases and concrete solutions developed by Women Deliver and partners are used by a diversity of global actors such as the UN, governments including Switzerland, civil society and private sector. Their evidence-based advocacy contributes to the global movement for gender equality.


Improving the Respect of Humanitarian Norms by Armed Actors in Yemen

01.11.2018 - 31.12.2020

The project aims to contribute to the protection of Yemeni civilian population from the effects of armed conflict. The awareness of Yemeni armed non-state actors’ (ANSA) on humanitarian norms, notably on landmines and explosive remnants of war, and children and armed conflict is raised which positively influences standards, policies and practices of armed groups.


Support to the Juvenile Justice Reform

01.05.2018 - 31.05.2022

Since 2010, the child justice system in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has undertaken a process of reform to which UNICEF, SDC and Sida have greatly contributed. Today the legal framework on juvenile justice is compliant with international standards, but the system for its implementation still needs to be strenghtened. This last project phase will focus on building the human capacity of justice and child protection professionals, and ensuring that adequate financial means are provided by the Government to implement this framework throughout the country. Awareness of children and their families about their rights and demanding access to justice will also be a priority.


Political Empowerment of Women Phase III

15.04.2018 - 14.01.2023

By focusing on women’s political empowerment, the project contributes to enhancing women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making, which leads towards a more inclusive society. With a more equitable governance system at the local level, citizens can hold institutions accountable and voice their needs and interests.


Capacity building for Serbian municipalities

Around 50 parliamentarians in session at the Serbian parliament.

01.01.2018 - 30.09.2022

Switzerland is supporting the Serbian government’s public administration reform, which aims to make it more effective and accessible to both citizens and the private sector. SwissPRO project is being run in 99 municipalities (two-thirds of Serbia) to improve good governance, social inclusion and gender equality.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Serbia
Governance
Human rights
Gender

Decentralisation
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)
Women’s equality organisations and institutions

01.01.2018 - 30.09.2022


CHF  7’990’000



Program contribution to OHCHR for promotion and protection of human rights in the oPt

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2029

Switzerland supports the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to contribute to the effective realization of adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law in the oPt and to influence the behaviour of the relevant duty bearers. OHCHR has an exceptional role both in the humanitarian and development spheres in the oPt’s complex context of multiple duty bearers and harsh political and humanitarian realities.


SDC Contribution to DCAF for an expert of the Latin America/Caribbean Region 2017-2020

01.06.2017 - 31.05.2021

SDC has a strategic partnership with DCAF since 2011 with a core contribution of yearly around CHF 11 million. DCAF works on the interface between security and development policy, a domain of increasing importance for SDC. The expert offered by SDC will focus on developing DCAF’s relationship and cooperation with current and future donors and on building up a Latin America and Caribbean division (LAC), where the fragility of states, governance of security institutions and violence in general is a key challenge for development.


Strengthening Human Rights institutions in Bangladesh

01.01.2017 - 30.06.2022

People in Bangladesh repeatedly suffer from human rights violations which especially affect poor and marginalised people with limited remedy and widespread impunity. The project strengthens (i) the National Human Rights Commission to more effectively promote and protect human rights and (ii) civil society to promote and monitor Human Rights and provide legal aid.

Object 37 – 48 of 55