Occupied Palestinian Territory

Switzerland is committed to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a negotiated two-state solution. Its strategy focuses on protection and resilience, and seeks to mitigate the negative effects of the occupation and the internal Palestinian division. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), Switzerland is currently active in the fields of rule of law, local governance, and agro-economic development.

Map of the occupied Palestinian territory

Two decades after the Oslo agreement of 1993, a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a distant prospect. This stalemate prevents the creation of an independent, contiguous, viable and democratic Palestinian state. The ongoing Israeli occupation and the limited powers of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have prevented sustainable development. The internal Palestinian division has exacerbated the situation, undermining unity, economic development, the rule of law and good governance. 

The overall goal of the Swiss cooperation strategy is to enhance the prospects for a negotiated two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to contribute to creating an independent, contiguous, viable and democratic Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. The strategy focuses on protection and resilience, and seeks to mitigate the negative effects of the occupation and the internal Palestinian division. It further aims to enhance the basis for democratic and pro-poor development.

Rule of law and protection

Switzerland aims to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law in the oPt in order to create the conditions for a just and lasting peace based on a negotiated two-state solution. The occupation’s burden on the population needs to be reduced. At the same time Palestinian duty-bearers throughout the oPt must implement the rule of law. 

Supporting the Independent Commission for Human Rights

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) is the national human rights commission of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It monitors the PA institutions’ compliance with their human rights obligations to assist those institutions in safeguarding and promoting the human rights of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Switzerland has funded the ICHR since 2002 via a consortium of five donors.

Human rights and human security

International humanitarian law

Effective service delivery through local governance

Switzerland supports local authorities and civil society organisations in marginalised areas in order to improve the provision of quality services. SDC fosters better governance by helping vulnerable communities become more involved in decision-making processes and making authorities more accountable. 

The Municipal Development and Lending Fund (MDLF)

Switzerland has been supporting the Municipal Development and Lending Fund (MDLF), a trust fund established by the Palestinian Authority and funded by various donors, since 2013.  The MDLF implements projects to improve the delivery of local infrastructure and municipal services, promote economic development, and improve municipal efficiency and accountability.

Advocacy and Good Governance

Agro-economic development

Switzerland strives to improve poor farmers’ access to markets and increase their productivity to reduce poverty. In this sector, SDC works with small-scale agribusinesses, cooperatives, private sector actors and national authorities to contribute to an economic environment conducive to sustainable development. It also seeks to challenge economic constraints and remove barriers. 

Helping farmers in the West Bank and Gaza

To reduce poverty in the West Bank, Switzerland funds the NGO Oxfam GB to support poor farmers in increasing their productivity and improving their livelihoods. Switzerland has been supporting olive oil farmers in this way since 2006. In Gaza, alongside activities in the area of agriculture, Switzerland supports emergency programmes such as a project by UNDP that provides emergency employment to vulnerable youth.

Agriculture and food security

Approach and partners

The Cooperation Strategy for the oPt 2015–2018 sets out strategic priorities for SDC and the Human Security Division (FDFA HSD). To maximise the results expected from Switzerland’s commitment, its strategy for the oPt combines humanitarian aid, development cooperation and peace promotion – working tools of both the SDC and HSD – in the spirit of a comprehensive approach. 

The Strategy was developed in close coordination with Swiss representations on the ground and through a consultative process with key partners and stakeholders in the oPt. The commitments covered by this Strategy complement Switzerland’s support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides basic services to Palestine Refugees and promotes respect for their rights throughout the region. 

All programmes take a conflict-sensitive approach, follow the principles of good governance and incorporate gender considerations. 

Switzerland’s main partners in the oPt include:

  • Local and national authorities
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • UN agencies: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations: Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (over 30 NGOs), Gaza community Mental Health Programme, and many others.
  • International NGOs and partners:  Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ, Diakonia, Oxfam, and others.

Current project

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Support to Municipal Development Project (MDP-3)

01.09.2017 - 31.12.2021

Since 2009, the Municipal Development Project (MDP) has been the main vehicle for policy reform in the Local Governance sector in the oPt. It has channelled funding to Municipalities to support infrastructure projects and capacity-building activities in a transparent and equitable manner, despite huge challenges linked to 50 years of Israeli Occupation and to 10 years of intra-Palestinian divide. MDP-3 (2017-2021) is supported by 7 donors and the Palestinian Authority: SDC’s contribution is in line with Swiss Cooperation Strategy for the oPt (2015-2018).

Program Contribution to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)

01.04.2017 - 31.12.2019

ICHR is the Palestinian national Human Rights ombudsman, dedicated to supporting Palestinian citizens’ rights. It’s an independent institution which monitors the performance of the government and its compliance with legal and human rights obligations, advices the authorities to improve the respect of human rights in the oPt and support victims of human rights violations. SDC will continue with four other donors to finance its core budget and support its institutional development. This project is a direct contribution to the democratic state building agenda of Switzerland.

Reform and Development of Markets, Value Chains and Producers’ Organisations

01.03.2017 - 31.08.2021

Private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness in the Palestinian occupied territory (oPT) can play a key role in building a resilient economy towards economic growth and in safeguarding rights and entitlements to natural resources and markets. This program aims at improving income and productivity in the agriculture sector, through improved access to markets, increased share of local market, enhanced competitiveness and profitability of Palestinian agribusinesses.

Support to Vulnerable Communities in the Gaza Strip

01.03.2017 - 31.12.2025

SDC will support an improved provision of basic public services targeting vulnerable communities in several Municipalities of the Gaza Strip through small-scale infrastructure investment and by enhancing the participation of these communities, in particular that of women and youth, in local governance processes. 

Contribution to UNRWA's Programme Budget 2017-2020

a classroom with young female students

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

UNRWA is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners in the Middle East, due to its regional outreach and its important contributions towards stability and peace in the region. UNRWA overall delivers assistance and protection services to 5.3 million registered Palestine refugees. Under its Programme Budget, UNRWA ensures universal access to quality primary health care and to basic education to Palestine refugees. It also provides targeted relief and social services to needy poor refugees.

Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Resource Center (IHLRC) “Closing the Compliance Gap”

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019

The Swiss contribution supports Diakonia’s International Humanitarian Law Resource Centre (IHLRC) to respond to the demand for accurate and principled legal analysis on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law in the oPt, and to make it accessible to States and relevant organizations to ensure that their policies and international aid are not in contradiction with international law. This intervention is in line with the Swiss Foreign Policy in the Region and SDC Cooperation Strategy 2015-2018 that aims to promote respect for International Law, to ensure protection by all duty-bearers of the rights of the Palestinian population.

Phasing out - Enhancing Youth Employability in the Gaza Strip –Phase II

01.12.2016 - 31.05.2019

The project aims at supporting the development of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Gaza responding to the labour market needs and aligning to the national TVET strategy in order to improve youth employability. This second and final phase will focus on consolidating the achievements of phase one through the institutionalization of the Centre of Competence concept, enhanced involvement of the private sector and systematic technical cooperation between West Bank and Gaza and among stakeholders active in the TVET sector in Gaza. 

Palestinian Population, Housing, and Establishment Census 2017

01.12.2016 - 31.12.2018

SDC will support the realisation of the third Palestinian Population, Housing, and Establishment Census in 2017 through a targeted contribution to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). This project is co-financed by the Palestinian Authority and by a range of donors which acknowledge thereby the need to conduct a national census on a regular basis (every ten years) to produce reliable development data and statistics that support the design and implementation of effective policies conducive to reaching the goals of Agenda 2030 (Sustainable Development Goals). Such data are even more important in fragile contexts, such as the oPt.

Support to Village Councils in the West Bank with a focus on Area C

01.11.2016 - 31.12.2020

SDC will support local government units to improve the delivery of basic services in marginalized rural areas of the West Bank with a focus on Area C. This intervention is consistent with the State-building agenda which forms the basis for SDC development programme in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the promotion of human rights/international humanitarian law and the alleviation of poverty. It is aligned to the Palestinian Authority’s policy framework for Area C. Its operating modalities are harmonized with like-minded donors in the local governance sector.

Support to Strategic UNRWA Interventions

01.03.2016 - 28.02.2018

SDC support to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestine Refugees in the Near East) will enable the Agency to further implement strategic interventions in support of the 2016-21 UNRWA Medium-Term-Strategy. These interventions will also strengthen the Swiss role in the Agency’s governing structure and support the leadership of Commissioner-General’s Executive Office. The strategic interventions will build on SDC’s comparative advantages and expertise.

Enhancing advocacy and coordination capacity of AIDA in oPt. 2016-2017

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2017

SDC contribution to the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) in oPt will contribute to enhance the influence of international civil society actors to improve coordination, to promote joint strategic thinking and improve advocacy work, while using a rights-based and conflict-sensitive approach to humanitarian and development assistance. The contribution seeks to enhance the effectiveness of aid and to promote and protect people's rights. It is in line with SDC Cooperation Strategy 2015-2018 for the oPt.

Long-term support to UNRWA’s reform

01.01.2016 - 31.12.2017

This intervention will enable UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestine Refugees in the Near East) to further implement its development mandate by supporting two substantial components of its 2016-21 reform agenda, namely: the Resource Mobilization Strategy and the Protection Framework. These reforms will improve the overall provision of services by increasing and diversifying funding for the Agency and by strengthening the protection mandate and activities of UNRWA.

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