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

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United Nations World Bank „Humanitarian Development Peace Initiative“ (formerly „UN – World Bank Fragility and Conflict Partnership Trust Fund”)

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2021

The “Humanitarian – Development - Peace Initiative” (HDPI) is a joint effort by the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank aim to increase aid efficiency in contexts affected by fragility, conflict and violence through working closer together across the humanitarian – development – peace nexus. For the past eight years, Switzerland has been supporting the UN – World Bank partnership both politically and financially and is in a good position to promote further institutionalisation and scale-up


Women Deliver Conference and Advocacy

15.11.2018 - 14.11.2020

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 - 31.10.2020

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.


Strengthening spaces for the protection and participation of children affected by conflict and armed violence in Tumaco

01.11.2018 - 30.04.2020

After the sign of the peace agreement with the FARC, new dynamics of violence have raised in the territories. The expansion and reconfiguration of the non-state armed groups, post-demobilization armed groups, dissidents and other armed groups have increased the humanitarian impact, particularly in rural areas. The deterioration of humanitarian indicators since 2016 evidences the need to continue with the humanitarian response and the protection initiatives, particularly for vulnerable populations such as boys, girls, adolescents and youth as well as afro and indigenous communities.


Support to the Juvenile Justice Reform

01.05.2018 - 30.04.2021

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.


Support to Israeli and Palestinian HR/IHL CSOs

01.05.2018 - 31.12.2019

Switzerland, through SDC, will support Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian law organizations active in the oPt as part of its engagement to contribute to a just and lasting peace and to the establishment of an independent, viable and democratic State of Palestine. The promotion of HR and IHL is a major concern in the oPt and a goal of Switzerland’s foreign policy.


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.


Support to strengthening Social Inclusion in Serbia

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

The programme is a contribution to improve the design, coordination and implementation of social inclusion policies of the Government of Serbia within the mandate of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit (SIPRU), which is affiliated to the Prime Minister’s Office. The quality and the capacities for implementation of the required social reforms, in the Europan integration process, will be improved and state institutions at national and local level will be able to better respond to the needs of vulnerable citizens.


Programme Psychosocial dans la Région des Grands Lacs

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

Le programme contribue à la diminution des violences envers les femmes et à l’amélioration de leur statut au Burundi, Rwanda et République Démocratique du Congo. Cette nouvelle phase consolidera les acquis de la prise en charge communautaire et holistique, tout en renforçant les capacités de réponse d’ONGs locales et d’une organisation régionale. Elle mettra aussi l’accent sur le plaidoyer politique, la lutte contre l’impunité, la recherche et la gestion des savoirs.


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.


Strengthening the Right to Adequate Food, FIAN International

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

With 815 million undernourished people in 2017, the right to food as laid in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still not realized. For the past thirty years, FIAN International has raised awareness about people’s right to food worldwide and expanded spaces for civil society to hold governments more accountable. This project will promote effective participation of rights holders in food security and nutrition policies and governance mechanisms and be complemented by SDC support  to the mandate of the UN Special rapporteur on the right to food.


Non-earmarked contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied Palestinian territory

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Siwtzerland supports the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to carry out its mandate to provide capacity building for the Palestinian Authority and civil society as well as to monitor and report on human rights situation and policy development. This program is in line with Switzerland’s strong commitment in support to OHCHR and contributes to reinforce Switzerland’s policy dialogue with OHCHR Geneva office and to pursue Swiss human rights program in the oPt.

Object 25 – 36 of 73