Switzerland in Afghanistan

Cooperation between Afghanistan and Switzerland did not just start in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. In the early seventies, the SDC had already sent specialists to northern Afghanistan to teach farmers how to produce cheese. At the same time, other Swiss specialists were involved in water projects. After the invasion by Soviet troops in 1979, however, the SDC withdrew from Afghanistan, and resumed its work in the early 1990s from its base in Pakistan.

During the eighties and nineties, Switzerland provided humanitarian aid assistance to mainly internally displaced persons and Afghans refugees in the country as well as in Pakistan and Iran through multilateral channels such as UNHCR, WFP and ICRC. Starting in 1997, Switzerland actively participated in the Afghanistan Support Group (ASG), a donor aid coordination mechanism that existed until 2001.

In 2002, the Government of Switzerland established the Cooperation Office in Kabul to support the stabilization and reconstruction of the war-torn country. Today, the Swiss Cooperation Office is running and supervising a development and humanitarian aid programme with an annual turnover of 26 million Swiss francs (2017). Switzerland’s commitment in Afghanistan is guided by the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Afghanistan 2015-2018 (PDF, 675.8 kB, English).

A new Swiss Country Strategy for Afghanistan 2019-2022 is currently under elaboration.

Swiss Cooperation Strategy Afghanistan 2015-2018: Staying Engaged

In the Swiss Cooperation Strategy for Afghanistan 2015-2018, Switzerland aims at sustaining and enhancing accountable institutions on the subnational level, thus contributing to good governance, the respect of human rights and the rule of law. It is also contributing to the promotion of an inclusive and sustained socioeconomic development in the country.

To achieve these goals, Swiss interventions are aligned on two interconnected domains: a) inclusive governance and human rights and b) sustainable socioeconomic development. The simultaneous interventions on both the socioeconomic as well as on the governance level are crucial to address the linkage between peace and development, thereby supporting the efforts of Afghanistan to reduce poverty and fragility.

Domain of intervention 1: Governance and human rights

Given the importance of legitimate politics for stability and peace, the Swiss Cooperation in Afghanistan aims at strengthening the subnational institutions on the community, district and provincial level as well as the links between institutions and the people. Swiss programs also contribute to the promotion of human rights in the country by supporting civil society stakehold­ers and state institutions in their work to advance human rights and the rule of law. A particular emphasis is placed on the elimination of violence and discrimination against women and children.

Through its interventions, Switzerland contributes to the following outcomes:

  • Men and women of all ages participate in political decision making

  • Governance institutions at all levels are more accountable, transparent and participatory

  • Key Afghan human rights bodies contribute to the Government of Afghanistan’s increased respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights

Domain of intervention 2: Socio-economic development

Given the high levels of poverty, the second domain of intervention focuses on inclusive socioeconomic development, especially of marginalized rural households. Natural resource management, including disaster-risk reduction modalities, and the promotion of agricultural value chains are the principal lines of intervention. Switzerland contributes to improved livelihoods through increasing agricultural productivity as well as through labor-intensive rural infrastructure projects in poor and remote mountainous areas.

Switzerland is also engaged in the education sector. Quality formal education services for girls and boys are a key investment in the long-term development of a very young Afghan population. Switzerland contributes to the social protection of Afghans that particularly struggle to access services and income, such as the internally displaced, returnees and young people in urban areas.

As a result of Swiss contributions, the following outcomes are planned for the domain of inclusive socio-economic development:

  • Men and women, girls and boys, especially from poor families living in rural areas, improve their livelihoods.

  • Government Institutions, especially at the sub national level, provide more and better demand-driven basic services in the targeted areas.

Humanitarian aid

Through its support to multilateral humanitarian aid actors (ICRC, WFP, UNHCR and IOM), Switzerland targets the most vulnerable population groups and aims to address their basic humanitarian needs in terms of protection, health and food security. Switzerland also directly contributes to life-saving assistance for children, women and men and the relief of the most urgent and constantly fluctuating humanitarian needs by supporting the Afghanistan Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF).

Switzerland also provides support to the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), a regional initiative developed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran in partnership with the UNHCR in 2012 to facilitate the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of the refugees in Afghanistan, and to assist refugees and hosting communities in Iran and Pakistan. 

Approach and partners

Switzerland uses a coherent and comprehensive approach by working closely with different actors: government authorities, civil society organizations, other donor countries, international and multilateral organizations. The SDC combines mandated bilateral projects and multi-donor programs while taking a long-term approach to development by working in close coordination with local governance institutions.

All of Switzerland's programmes integrate the principles of good governance, gender equality and inclusiveness. In a fragile context such as Afghanistan, an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the context are crucial while Switzerland’s systematic implementation of a context-sensitive approach based on human rights principles in all its intervention avoid negative effects.