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 37 – 48 of 65

Gaza Vulnerable Communities Development- GVCD (Phase 1)

01.10.2017 - 31.12.2020

In the first phase of this project, SDC will support selected Municipalities in the Gaza Strip to improve the delivery of services through the Municipal Development and Lending Fund (MDLF): small-scale infrastructure projects targeting vulnerable communities and capacity development activities to enhance the participation of these communities in local decision-making processes will be implemented. This project is aligned with Palestine National Policy Agenda (2017-2022), and Swiss Cooperation Strategy for the oPt (2015-2018).


RNEC: provide legal identity for vulnerable people located in areas of FARC Demobilization

15.06.2017 - 31.10.2020

SDC will support the National Institution for the Registry of Civil Status (Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil RNEC in Spanish) in the process of registration of vulnerable population located in areas where the demobilization of FARC will be carried out. Access to legal registration is a measure of protection of communities at risk or affected by armed conflict, and will also allow access to other basic and social services, such as health and education.


Albania: Leave No One Behind

01.06.2017 - 31.05.2021

320'000 marginalised and vulnerable population of Albania, primarily Roma and people with disabilities, will benefit from improved social services. Currently, the needs of these people are not met by the social protection system. The project supports the implementation at municipal level of the national policy framework developed with Swiss support. So, the entire population will benefit from equal and dignified access to services and resources.


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

01.06.2017 - 31.05.2020

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.


Solidar Suisse (Kredit Süd)

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2018

Solidar Suisse oriente son programme de développement sur les besoins et les droits des personnes vulnérables et défavorisées dans les pays les plus pauvres et dans les pays émergents et en transition où les inégalités sont profondes. Solidar Suisse développe des programmes qui renforcent les mouvements sociaux et promeuvent l’intégration active de la société civile dans les processus politiques. Le « travail décent » est devenu l’élément phare de Solidar Suisse qui a développé une véritable expertise dans cette thématique.


Strengthening Human Rights institutions in Bangladesh

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

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.


Strengthening of Representative Bodies in Mongolia (SRB)

People actively participate in the bagh meeting

15.12.2016 - 31.12.2020

The project aims to make Mongolia’s sub-national local assemblies (khurals)[1] more responsive and accountable to citizens, ensuring youth participation and realising the rights of the poor and marginalised. A comprehensive capacity-development strategy will be implemented that addresses the legal and institutional environment, the organisational capacity of local councils and the competencies of locally elected politicians. Gender equality and pro-poor approaches are mainstreamed in the project’s design and in its results framework.


Access to Justice in Tajikistan

A lawyer sits at her desk and discusses with a woman.

01.12.2016 - 30.11.2020

Through this project, Switzerland will accompany the Government in realizing a state system providing free legal aid, which will allow the vulnerable (poor) individuals in Tajikistan to better protect their rights and in particular to claim various benefits (e.g. pensions, child allowances). This system will replace the current NGO provided legal aid services. A space for dialogue between civil society and state authorities will also be preserved and will contribute to addressing further legal challenges faced by the population.


Support to International Women’s Right Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW), Phase 2

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2020

Despite many advances in the law and policy environment towards recognition of gender equality and new mechanisms for promotion and protection of women’s human rights, women worldwide still experience multiple forms of discrimination. SDC supports the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific, which is an international non-governmental organisation working nationally, regionally, and internationally towards the achievement of women's human rights.


Contribution to UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

01.12.2016 - 30.11.2021

Switzerland is renewing its contribution to the system-wide United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UNTF). As the only global multilateral grant-making mechanism exclusively devoted to supporting local and national efforts to ending violence against women and girls (EVAW/G), including in fragile and conflict contexts, the UNTF has the advantage to possess a global overview of the legal provisions and practices, methods of prevention and types of support services needed. Dissemination of good practice will be strengthened to inform policy and programming.


TUR CONCERN Capacity Strengthening of local NGOs for Effective Refugee Response in Turkey

01.12.2016 - 31.01.2018

Civil Society (CS) in Turkey only recently has developed a humanitarian focus. INGOs, donors and the UN rely on a few natinal NGOs to compleent the governmental refugee respone, which is increasingly strained as the Sate is undergoing a severe crisis. Humanitarian CS initiatives have also emerged at local and provincial level, but there institutional and operational capacities are still weak. This project will stregthen the capacities of 10 local NGOs to conduct refugee assistance. 


Support to Village Councils in the West Bank with a focus on Area C

01.11.2016 - 31.12.2020

SDC will support local government units to improve the delivery of basic services in marginalized rural areas of the West Bank with a focus on Area C. This intervention is consistent with the State-building agenda which forms the basis for SDC development programme in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the promotion of human rights/international humanitarian law and the alleviation of poverty. It is aligned to the Palestinian Authority’s policy framework for Area C. Its operating modalities are harmonized with like-minded donors in the local governance sector.

Object 37 – 48 of 65