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 13 – 24 of 54

Support the juvenile justice system in Egypt

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2023

A more independent, impartial, and efficient judiciary is a prerequisite for the current protection of citizens. The juvenile justice system is one avenue where there is both a demonstrated need for engagement and government acceptance. Capitalising on OECD framework agreement with Egypt on rule of law, the proposed intervention will lead to enhanced sector specific governance practices and contribute in increasing trust with government stakeholders.


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.


Governing Health Futures 2030 Youth Network

01.10.2020 - 30.06.2023

Stronger governance of digital technology, data and artificial intelligence is required to maximise the benefits – and mitigate the risks – of health in a digital age for the next generation. To date, young people’s needs and perspectives have been largely overlooked in the design, application and governance of digital health and data. Through this proposal, Switzerland will support greater youth involvement in governing health futures.


Combating Gender-Based Violence in Mongolia

Let's understand and respect each others campaign

01.08.2020 - 31.07.2023

Aiming at sustainable change of behaviour and mental disposition, the 2nd phase of this project seeks to protect the victims of Gender-based Violence (GBV), women/girls and men/boys, and to mitigate the root causes of violence. This follow-up phase focuses on the consolidation and institutionalization of GBV prevention and response mechanism. The project is in line with Mongolia’s and Switzerland’s commitment to combat GBV and gender inequalities.


PAEG - Programme d’Appui à l’Egalité du Genre

01.06.2020 - 31.10.2025

Se basant sur son engagement de longue haleine en faveur de l’égalité du genre au Bénin, la Suisse entend soutenir l’Etat béninois dans la mise en œuvre effective des lois et politiques visant à réduire la vulnérabilité socio-économique de sa population féminine. En jouissant pleinement de leurs droits, les femmes béninoises joueront un rôle plus actif dans le développement de leur pays et contribueront au renforcement de la paix et de la cohésion sociale.


Human Rights in Food Systems

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2025

Realizing the right to food and nutrition is critical for food systems transformation. Building on Switzerland’s strong engagement for human rights-based approaches, the project addresses hunger’s structural causes by ensuring that rights-holders such as small-scale farmers, women and youth can claim their food system-related rights and participate in governance mechanisms, and by supporting duty bearers in the effective implementation of instruments in 14 countries and globally.


Life Without Violence

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2022

The project aims to contribute to reduce domestic violence, which is experienced by 70% of women in Bolivia, be it psychological, physical, sexual or economic. Good practices (in prevention and support) from the previous phase will be replicated and scaled up. Evidence-based advocacy at the policy level aims to improve procedures and the implementation of laws in an integral response model involving central and local state institutions and civil society. In addition, the project provides a comprehensive response towards combating the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence.


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.


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.

Object 13 – 24 of 54