Humanitarian aid, one area of intervention among others

A woman refugee walks in front of a tent.
Unceasing violence in Syria has forced millions of people to flee their homes. © SDC

Faced with the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the region, Switzerland’s activities on the ground rest on three pillars: rendering humanitarian aid to the affected communities, helping to find a political solution to the conflict, and working to ensure compliance with international law. Switzerland's willingness to receive Syrian refugees is a further sign of solidarity towards the victims of the war.

Switzerland, acting in concert with the international community, is committed to relieving the sufferings of the victims of the Syrian crisis. In addition to the SDC, the Swiss diplomatic service and the FDFA's Human Security Division and Directorate of International Law are working on behalf of the Swiss government on three levels:

Humanitarian aid and promotion of resilience

Humanitarian aid of Switzerland focuses on civilians caught up in the conflict, regardless of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation. Aid is provided in accordance with needs and is deployed on the basis of humanitarian principles (neutrality, impartiality, independence, humanity). In the Middle East, Switzerland focuses on four areas: financial contributions and contributions in kind to organisations; implementation of its own projects; secondment of technical experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), and humanitarian diplomacy and the promotion of international coordination of aid efforts.

In doing so, Switzerland not only concentrates its efforts on protecting and assisting the victims of the conflict in Syria and Syrian refugees, but also seeks to strengthen the resilience of the population in Syria and neighbouring countries. In this regard, the SDC supports projects which create a viable path not just based on direct assistance, but aiming toward self-sufficiency and sustainable prosperity.

The search for a political solution to the conflict

Switzerland is working both internationally and locally to create the conditions necessary for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Switzerland supports the efforts of the UN's Special Envoy for Syria. Switzerland is also working closely with Swiss and international NGOs, and with a number of Syrian organisations, to identify and support initiatives to achieve a ceasefire and a lasting peace. In parallel, Switzerland identifies and supports Syrian civil society groups that could potentially become key players in efforts to resolve the conflict.

Defence of international law

With its long tradition of neutrality, providing good offices for conflict parties, Switzerland has unique standing in the international community and is a credible advocate for international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights, dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution. Switzerland is working for compliance with international humanitarian law on the part of all the parties to the conflict.

Switzerland contributes actively to the development of "transitional" justice initiatives, with the aim of documenting violations of IHL and preventing others. To this end, within the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, Switzerland has on several occasions requested that the UN Security Council refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that the perpetrators of war crimes or crimes against humanity do not go unpunished, whatever side they are on.

Welcoming persons in need to Switzerland

In parallel with its humanitarian and diplomatic engagement, Switzerland is making efforts to give shelter to particularly vulnerable refugees from Syria on Swiss territory. Under a pilot project started in 2013 with the UNHCR, 462 Syrian nationals have been able to come and settle in Switzerland (situation on mid-September 2015). On 18 September 2015 the Federal Council reassessed the situation and concluded that Switzerland will take part in the first European programme to relocate 40,000 people in need of protection, decided on by the European Union in July. According to the Federal Council’s decision, Switzerland will take in up to 1500 persons who have already been registered in Italy and Greece. This number will be counted as part of quota of 3000 vulnerable persons Switzerland agreed to take in March of this year.