FDFA Human Rights Strategy 2016–19: Switzerland steps up its commitment to human rights

Bern/Geneva, 29.02.2016 - Switzerland has a new human rights strategy for the 2016–19 period which aims to step up its commitment in this area at the international level. Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter presented the new strategy of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) at a high-level discussion as a side-event to the Human Rights Council session in Geneva. The strategy is based on Swiss values, expertise and the opportunities particular to Switzerland in a volatile and ever-changing global context, and sets out the principles and objectives of Switzerland's commitment to human rights.

Fostering respect for human rights is one of Switzerland's foreign policy objectives as provided for in the Federal Constitution. In Switzerland, protecting human rights is essential to direct democracy because it forms the basis for the freedom and security of every individual. At the international level, respect for human rights contributes to peace and global security, to the prevention of conflicts and violent extremism, and to sustainable development and prosperity, thereby serving the interests of our country. "No matter what action Switzerland takes, human rights are an integral part of its policies. The human rights strategy is intended to help us systematise and take this commitment even further" said Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter during his presentation of the new strategy.

The strategy provides Switzerland for the first time with a specific frame of reference for its commitment to human rights at the international level. It also aims to take human rights better into account and establish them more firmly within the overall framework of Switzerland's foreign policy. The strategy is based on the values and opportunities particular to Switzerland such as dialogue, consensus-building, the protection of minorities, solidarity, humanitarian tradition, good offices and mediation. On this basis, it outlines Switzerland's specific contribution to strengthening respect for human rights at the global level.

In spite of the considerable legal architecture, human rights are insufficiently respected across the world particularly in conflict situations and authoritarian states. The continuation of protracted and often asymmetrical armed conflicts breeds violent extremism, which is at an all-time high, and increases migration flows. These trends represent an unprecedented challenge for the protection of human rights. Human rights issues are, moreover, becoming more complex and non-state actors – whether civil society, transnational companies or armed groups – are playing a greater role. The FDFA's human rights strategy is intended to enable Switzerland to transform these challenges into opportunities for action.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs