Locarno International Film Festival marks end of FDFA Democracy Without Borders initiative

Press releases, 03.08.2018

Four years after its launch at the Locarno International Film Festival, the FDFA's Democracy Without Borders initiative will be concluded on Sunday 5 August 2018 in Locarno. An array of Swiss celebrities contributed to the initiative by raising public awareness of Swiss development cooperation issues and projects. The Afghan film 'Laila at the Bridge' will be screened to mark the occasion, followed by a panel discussion on civil society participation, film-making and freedom of expression in Afghanistan, a partner country for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The event will be introduced by Marco Solari, president of the Locarno International Film Festival and project president of Democracy Without Borders, and Pio Wennubst, assistant director general of the SDC.

Scene from the film «Laila at the Bridge». A man and a woman are sitting in a bus in Afghanistan. They laugh. In the background mountains can be seen.
Scene from the film ‘Laila at the Bridge’. The film, directed by the Afghan director Elizabeth Mirazei, will be shown at the end of the initiative Democracy Without Borders. © SDC

The Democracy Without Borders initiative was launched in 2014 by then Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter. To raise public awareness of SDC projects and key development cooperation issues, the initiative enlisted the help of Swiss celebrities, known as 'project ambassadors', including some 20 former politicians and artists, journalists and entrepreneurs. The project ambassadors attracted large audiences to a variety of public events held under the Democracy Without Borders banner since 2014.

The Democracy Without Borders initiative is being wound up on schedule this year four years after it was launched. Through its activities on issues like the promotion of democracy, support for civil society, vocational education and training, and the fight against violence against women, the initiative has enriched the public discourse on Switzerland's cooperation with developing countries. Ten Democracy Without Borders events have been held, mainly in Switzerland, but also in SDC partner countries. A major highlight of Democracy Without Borders was a concert given by Swiss pop star Bastian Baker with Egyptian musicians in Cairo in 2016 under the banner of cultural exchanges. During his tour of Egypt, Bastian Baker also visited Swiss water projects on the Nile. Another Democracy Without Borders milestone was a visit by Honduran partner organisations of the SDC to the International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Winterthur and to several Swiss industrial enterprises. The Honduran delegation gained insights into the Swiss dual vocational education and training system, which has now been introduced in the Honduran construction and hotel sectors with adjustments to local circumstances. Another highlight was an event organised with the University of Zurich on the possibilities for and limits to the promotion of democracy in developing countries.

To mark the end of the initiative and as part of the Open Doors section of the Locarno International Film Festival, the Afghan film 'Laila at the Bridge' will be screened at the Teatro Kursaal in Locarno on Sunday 5 August at 11am.   After the film, the SDC will host a panel discussion at 2pm in Spazio Magnolia (owned by Swiss Radio International's Italian-language service), featuring the film's director, Elizabeth Mirzaei, the lead actress, Laila Haidari, the head of the SDC's South Asia Division, Derek Müller, and Diana Saqeb, a Kabul-based film-maker and producer. The panel discussion will focus on the experiences of film directors and producers in Afghanistan, the challenges faced by civil society organisations and the issue of freedom of expression.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a third of the population living below the poverty line. The country is highly dependent on foreign aid, and the inadequate infrastructure and poor security situation are hampering the country's economic development. In Afghanistan as in many other partner countries, Switzerland supports civil society initiatives and the work of artists and culture professionals. A space for civil society participation, cultural expression and freedom of speech is an essential component of the just, democratic and peaceful society promoted by the Democracy Without Borders initiative and thus also of Switzerland's international cooperation programmes.

Further information:

SDC - Democracy Without Borders
The SDC's activities in Afghanistan

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs