Lebanon is an important partner for Switzerland in the Middle East. The two countries have longstanding bilateral relations and they have many things in common: democracy, cultural diversity within a small geographical area, mountains, scarce raw materials and openness to foreign trade.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Given Lebanon’s domestic situation and its regional context, Switzerland is particularly committed to the policy areas of promoting civil peace and human rights. Switzerland also provides a substantial programme of humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
In the context of the signature of an agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Lebanon, Switzerland and Lebanon have launched a bilateral programme of economic cooperation with the aim of strengthening economic standards in Lebanon in order to improve the quality of Lebanese export products.
Switzerland is Lebanon's seventh largest trading partner, and Lebanon is Switzerland's fifth largest trading partner in the Middle East. Switzerland mainly exports precious stones and metals, jewellery and pharmaceutical products to Lebanon. It largely imports precious stones and metals and jewellery from Lebanon.
Cooperation in the field of education
There are many partnership programmes and cooperation agreements between Swiss and Lebanese academic institutions in fields as varied as engineering, hotel management and hospital care, etc. Moreover Switzerland is a particularly popular study destination for Lebanese students.
Scholars and artists from Lebanon can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peace promotion and human security
With its activities in Lebanon, Switzerland aims to help prevent conflict and maintain the country's stability amidst the regional crisis. One of its priorities is to foster peaceful coexistence between the Lebanese population and the refugee community that has found shelter in Lebanon since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria. Switzerland also promotes the democratisation of state institutions such as the security apparatus via political reforms. This should bolster civilian oversight of the security forces and help introduce measures to prevent violent extremism that conform with human rights.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Within Switzerland's cooperation strategy for the Middle East, the SDC's activities focus on protecting refugees and people in need in the region, and providing them with basic necessities. The overarching aim of Switzerland in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq is to contribute to peaceful and secure living conditions for people affected by conflict and other vulnerable groups, to reduce fragility and to resolve and prevent conflict. To this end, Switzerland's involvement encompasses three areas: basic needs and services, protection of the civilian population and water.
It supports Lebanon in dealing with the challenges brought about by the conflict in Syria. In addition to providing aid for Syrian refugees, Switzerland prioritises strengthening the resilience of the Lebanese population. It also works to improve living conditions for vulnerable groups such as Palestinian refugees.
There is a great deal of cultural exchange between Switzerland and Lebanon. The shared French language is an important vehicle for these exchanges. Switzerland takes part in the Salon du livre francophone in Beirut every year. Exchange between visual artists and musicians is also encouraged. In addition, Switzerland takes part in the European Film Festival in Lebanon each year.
Swiss nationals in Lebanon
There were 1'419 Swiss nationals living in Lebanon at the end of 2015.
History of bilateral relations
The state of "Greater Lebanon" was created in 1920 under the French mandate. It won complete independence in 1943. Switzerland opened a consulate in Beirut in 1934. It became a legation in 1949 and later an embassy. Since 1948 Switzerland has provided assistance to Palestinian refugees and other victims of violence in the region through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
During the civil war (1988–1995), the Swiss Embassy remained closed. However, Switzerland offered its good offices and actively supported the national dialogue conferences on Lebanon (1983 in Geneva and 1984 in Lausanne).