Switzerland’s human rights policy commitment

Promoting respect for human rights is a foreign policy objective enshrined in the Swiss Constitution. This objective is based on the belief that the realisation of human rights is an indispensable condition for genuinely sustainable economic and social progress in a manner that benefits every individual. Respect for human rights contributes to peace and international security, to the prevention of conflicts and violent extremism, to sustainable development and to prosperity hence it is also in Switzerland’s interest.

The principles, objectives and instruments of Switzerland’s human rights foreign policy are defined in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Human Rights Strategy 2016-2019. In its human rights activities, Switzerland follows three global goals:

  • Defend and promote the universality, the interdependence and the indivisibility of human rights. Switzerland seeks to ensure effective realization of the human rights of every individual and actively opposes relativism and the instrumentalisation of human rights.
  • Establish a coherent international frame of reference and strengthen existing human rights institutions and mechanisms. Switzerland works to establish an adequate international normative framework and endeavours strong international, regional, and national human rights institutions. Switzerland supports global monitoring and implementation of human rights.
  • Strengthen the commitment and inclusion of key human rights actors. Switzerland works to strengthen cooperation with other states and is actively committed to strengthening the civil society. Switzerland promotes respect for human rights by the private sector and works to ensure that the responsibility of non-state actors in armed conflicts is adequately taken into account.

The Swiss political model and the values deeply anchored in its historical tradition and legal order lend legitimacy to Switzerland’s human rights commitment. Among the specific values that Switzerland considers as fundamental are the rule of law, direct democracy, dialogue, consensus-building, the protection of minorities and solidarity.  Switzerland’s neutrality, its non-membership in permanent military alliances, and the absence of a colonial past or of a hidden political agenda provide our country with additional opportunities for making a unique contribution to strengthening the respect for human rights.


This commitment is implemented by bilateral and multilateral instruments, as well as with projects, programmes and initiatives with key actors in the field, namely states, international organisations, civil society, private sector or in collaboration with them. These activities accompany, reinforce and influence the implementation of the political instruments. Furthermore concrete measures can be determined depending on particular objectives in corresponding areas, in countries or regions, where Switzerland is active and depending on fixed priorities.