President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter launches the Democracy Without Borders initiative at the Locarno International Film Festival

Bern, 04.08.2014 - The President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter, will launch the FDFA's Democracy Without Borders initiative as part of the Open Doors section of the Locarno International Film Festival on 10 August. Swiss personalities, who are well-known nationally or internationally, act as ambassadors for Swiss development cooperation projects, increasing their impact on democracy, peace and human rights. The initiative will kick off with an opening speech by President Burkhalter and the screening of the Ethiopian film "Difret", followed by a panel discussion on the issue of impunity for violence against women and girls.

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs aims to strengthen democracy, peace and human rights with this initiative by raising awareness in partner countries as well as among the Swiss public about the challenges faced in countries where they carry out projects, and increasing the impact of such projects.

Project ambassadors are currently involved in three projects in FDFA partner countries:
In Honduras, a high-quality vocational training project for young people from disadvantaged regions aims to help them escape the vicious cycle of poverty and violence. Exchanges between specialists from Honduras and Switzerland are intended to bring added value to the project.
In Tunisia, project ambassadors are working to strengthen the role of women in politics and to improve the quality and independence of the media. Technical expertise should also help promote reform of the judicial and security sectors where possible.
Other project ambassadors are active in the psychosocial programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which provides medical, psychosocial and legal aid to victims of (sexual) gender-based violence in the Great Lakes region, as well as helping them to reintegrate into society. 

The issue of sexual violence concerns women and girls around the world. As shown in the film "Difret", it can arise from a conflict between tradition and modernity, or it can stem from war or other violent confrontations. This kind of violence mainly – though not exclusively – affects women and girls.
Sexual violence is one of the most destructive weapons of war and constitutes a serious violation of human rights and international law.

The event in Locarno and the Democracy Without Borders initiative fall within Switzerland's long-standing commitment to combating sexual violence.
At the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London last June, Switzerland signed the international protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict; last November, Switzerland had already elaborated the third modification to its National Action Plan (NAP 1325) based on the 1325 UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, which obliges Switzerland to take account of the particular needs and concerns of women in all its activities in fragile and conflict-affected states.
Switzerland also supports civil society organisations such as the NGO Geneva Call, which negotiates specific agreements prohibiting sexual violence with armed non-state actors. In addition to its general contribution to UN Women, the SDC has provided around CHF 4.9 million to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women for the 2013-15 period.
Furthermore, Switzerland is committed to preventing the granting of amnesties to perpetrators of sexual violence and to ensuring that victims of such crimes are granted rapid and unhindered access to medical, psychosocial and legal aid. The SDC's psychosocial programme in the Great Lakes region, which forms part of the Democracy Without Borders initiative, is making a significant contribution in this area.

Following on from the film screening there will be a panel discussion on the issue of impunity for (sexual) violence against women and girls with the following speakers: Navi Pillay – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Venantie Bisimwa Nabintu – Executive Secretary of the Congolese NGO “Réseau des Femmes pour la défense des Droits et la Paix”, Danaé van der Straten Ponthoz – Legal Adviser with the NGO TRIAL, Giancarlo De Picciotto – Head of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the Great Lakes Region, Zerezenay Berhane Mehari – the film's director, Mehret Mandefro – and the film's producer.

Journalists who wish to attend the event are requested to contact


Sonja Isella
Spokesperson FDFA Information
+41 (0)58 462 54 88

FDFA Information
+41 (0)58 462 31 53

Address for enquiries

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs