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Peace, elections and democracy

The Peace, Elections and Democracy thematic approach of the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) aims to prevent and mitigate violence and conflict by strengthening democratic processes (electoral, constitutional and parliamentary) for the peaceful and legitimate sharing of power. The approach is unique as it combines peace policy tools (dialogue facilitation, preventive diplomacy and mediation) with technical expertise (legal expertise, assisting political parties, democratic processes experts) to promote human security.

Heads of the political parties sign a voluntary code of conduct as a sign of their support for fair election campaigning in Myanmar (June 2015).
Heads of the political parties sign a voluntary code of conduct as a sign of their support for fair election campaigning in Myanmar (June 2015) (© FDFA)

In practice, this means that in states undertaking reforms in the wake of armed conflict or the fall of an authoritarian regime, specialists from the PHRD assist – at the request of the different political parties and other stakeholders – with the holding of elections and with constitutional and parliamentary reforms. The specialists also observe elections and provide support to national parliaments.  The PHRD's work is supported by and complements the efforts of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), whose projects are longer term. Thanks to its long-standing experience and expertise in democracy as well as in providing good offices, Switzerland is viewed worldwide as a credible partner that contributes its know-how in a neutral manner.

Elections to Peace

In collaboration with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and swisspeace, Switzerland organised a "Senior Level Exchange Elections to Peace - E2P" retreat in Geneva in 2018, which focused on the connection between elections and peacebuilding. The event brought together a wide array of national and international representatives. Diplomats, politicians, academics and practitioners from Mozambique, Nigeria, Kosovo, Georgia and Zimbabwe took part in productive discussions on peacebuilding, mediation and electoral assistance. 

Elections to Peace – Publication related to the Senior-Level Exchange "Elections to Peace" – E2P (PDF, 56 Pages, 1.3 MB, English)

Initiatives

Georgia

In response to a request from the Georgian electoral commission, Switzerland supported the negotiations on ethical principles for candidates in the 2018 presidential elections. Switzerland's efforts helped to create a favourable environment for the campaign and to prevent the escalation of tensions during the electoral process.

The exercise also provided an opportunity to raise awareness among candidates and the public about democratic standards. A presentation on ethical principles for the candidates received positive coverage in major national media.

Presentation of the "Ethical Principles" for the Candidates Participating in October 28, 2018 Presidential Election

In 2020, Switzerland supported the Electoral Commission in facilitating negotiations on a Code of Conduct promoting a respectful, transparent and peaceful electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections. Switzerland's work resulted in a Code of Conduct signed for the first time by all major political parties.

 

Mandated by Switzerland, the Georgian Institute of Politics presented in 2021 the results of the implementation of the code of conduct and recommendations to the different actors for future elections. This greatly contributed to placing the issue of ethical conduct of political parties on the public agenda.

With Swiss support: Political parties in Georgia sign code of conduct for peaceful elections, Press release, 14.09.2020

Georgian Institute of Politics report on the implementation of the Code of Conduct by political parties in Georgia

Myanmar

In 2015, Switzerland facilitated a voluntary code of conduct for fair election campaigning during the first free parliamentary elections in Myanmar. The historic code set out basic rights and rules to avoid hate speech and the instrumentalisation of religion during the campaign. Switzerland supported the parties by introducing examples from other countries, and assisted with the preparations and implementation of the code. 

Following decades of military dictatorship, restricted freedoms and armed conflict involving ethnic minorities, agreement on this code of conduct built trust between the parties and encouraged a culture of democratic compromise. 

Press release on the code of conduct agreed in Myanmar, 2015

At the request of political parties and the electoral commission, Switzerland facilitated the revision of the Code of Conduct for the 2020 parliamentary elections. The code was signed by the majority of the 93 political parties and contains innovative commitments regarding election campaigning and hate speech on social networks.

Switzerland also facilitated meetings of the inter-party mechanism on the implementation of the code and established a direct channel between Facebook and the signatory parties to deal with complaints related to the code. Civil society initiatives have also been supported by Switzerland to prevent digital threats and internet blackouts during elections.

Press release on the signing of the revised 2020 code of conduct

Nigeria

Switzerland worked to prevent violence in the run-up to the last two presidential elections in Nigeria. 

In 2015, Switzerland supported the Electoral Integrity Initiative of the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF). Working with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Switzerland also supported the establishment of a National Peace Committee (NPC) bringing together statesmen, traditional leaders and members of civil society to ensure peaceful elections. 

In the 2019 presidential elections, Switzerland reiterated its support for the NPC. The latter succeeded in convincing the main candidates to sign the Abuja Peace Agreement, in which they renewed their commitment to ensuring peaceful presidential elections and promoting post-election peace.

Switzerland working to prevent violence in Nigeria's upcoming presidential elections, Press release, 13.02.2019

Swiss television RTS article and video on Nigeria's 2019 elections

Tunisia

Since 2011, Switzerland has assisted Tunisia in its constitutional reform and election processes to support the development of the country's new democracy. An Arabic-speaking Swiss expert on constitutional law was engaged by the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) to assist parliamentarians in search of a compromise to help the new Tunisian constitution achieve majority approval in parliament. This culminated in the entry into force of the new constitution on 27 January 2014. Switzerland continued this support in 2016, when it organised a high-level visit for members of the Tunisian Assembly of the Representatives of the People to deepen their knowledge of parliamentary processes. 

In the run-up to the 2011 and 2014 elections, the PHRD also supported the reform of the system to elect members of the National Constituent Assembly. With the NGO Democracy Reporting International, it contributed to the drafting of a study on the advantages and potential impact of the changes to the system. A federal judge from Switzerland took part in a high-level seminar on electoral dispute procedures organised by the PHRD, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

In 2014, together with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva and a group of election experts from Switzerland and Tunisia, Switzerland provided support in terms of content and financing for the inter-party dialogue on a code of conduct (the Tunisian Charter of Honour) aimed at preventing outbreaks of violence during the elections.

During the 2019 presidential and legislative elections, the PHRD supported a Carter Center project to mitigate digital threats to democracy and increase participation among young people and women.  Finally, the PHRD also supported the Munathara Initiative, which organised the first televised electoral debates in Tunisia and the Arab world. 

Tunisian Charter of Honour

Tunisia: Support for the democratic transition (Democracy Without Borders)

Press release on Tunisian parliamentary delegation study trip in Switzerland in 2016

Zimbabwe

In 2017, prior to the first elections of the post-Mugabe era, Switzerland was invited by the Zimbabwean political parties and affected institutions to provide support and technical expertise in negotiations which led to the adoption of a code of conduct between political parties.

The code, which was incorporated into the Electoral Act, was intended to prevent pre-election violence and enable peaceful dispute resolution. International observers welcomed the code of conduct as a fundamental contribution to a peaceful pre-election environment, although many challenges remain. 

Press release on Zimbabwe's 2018 presidential elections


Last update 07.03.2022

Contact

Peace and Human Rights Division

Bundesgasse 32
3003 Bern

Phone

+41 (0)58 462 30 50

Fax

+41 (0)58 463 89 22