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 Israeli occupation and the internal Palestinian division. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Switzerland is currently active in the fields of rule of law and protection of human rights, local governance, and agro-economic development.

Map of the occupied Palestinian territory
© FDFA

More than two decades after the Oslo agreement of 1993, a negotiated solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict still remains a distant prospect. The current political stalemate prevents the creation of an independent, contiguous, viable and democratic Palestinian state. The continued Israeli military occupation and expanding settlement policy, the limited powers of the Palestinian Authority and the persisting intra-Palestinian division worsen the human rights and humanitarian situation of the Palestinians, curtail economic growth and weaken the rule of law and good governance. 

The overall goal of the Swiss cooperation strategy is to improve 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 borders of June 1967. The current strategy focuses on promotion and respect of human rights and international humanitarian law and on the protection and resilience of the Palestinian population, 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 inclusive development (for the most vulnerable) and to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians.

Rule of law and protection

Protecting and promoting human rights is a cornerstone of Switzerland’s engagement in the oPt. 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 Civil Society

The Swiss government supports human rights organizations in many countries around the world, including in Israel and the oPt, understanding that their work and their sheer existence is essential for free and pluralist societies. Organizations of the civil society have a key role to play in promoting and advocating for human rights and international humanitarian law, in documenting human rights violations and in providing legal advice and assistance to the population.

Supporting the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)

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 respecting 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.

Supporting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is the only legally mandated organization to protect and promote the enjoyment and full realization, by all people, of all rights established in the Charter of the United Nations and in international human rights laws and treaties. The OHCHR documents violations and abuses of international human right law, violations of international humanitarian law, empowers people to realize their rights, and strives to hold duty bearers accountable. Switzerland supports the OHCHR in the oPt since 2012.

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. Switzerland asks that special attention be given to the provision of basic services for the most vulnerable populations such as people living in the Gaza Strip, Bedouin communities as well as people living in areas of the West Bank that are particularly affected by the occupation policy.

The Municipal Development and Lending Fund (MDLF)

Switzerland has supported 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. Since 2017, Switzerland also supports a local development programme in the Gaza Strip which focuses on selected municipalities to provide small-scale infrastructure projects (kindergarten center, sewage system, small road) for- and with the involvement - of vulnerable communities in decision-making.

Advocacy and Good Governance

Agro-economic development

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

Supporting farmers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank

To reduce poverty in the West Bank, Switzerland funds a programme implemented by Oxfam International in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to support poor farmers in increasing their productivity and improving their livelihoods. The overall goal of the project is to contribute to build a resilient economy with equitable agricultural growth, whilst contributing to protect small-scale producers’ entitlements to natural resources and access to markets.

Agriculture and food security

Multilateral collaboration, support to UNRWA

Switzerland works in close relationship with UN organizations and the ICRC and supports them in their capacity to respond to emergencies and to advocate on the international scene on behalf of the most vulnerable populations.

In the absence of a peaceful solution to the conflict, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remains the most important UN partner for Switzerland in the region. UNRWA provides basic services to some 5 million Palestinian Refugees (of which more than 2 million live in the oPt) and promotes respect for their rights.  Switzerland values UNRWA’s capacity to deliver both short-term emergency services and longer-term human development programmes for Palestinian refugees and its contribution towards stability and peace in the region.

Approach and Swiss partners

The Swiss cooperation strategy for the oPt 2015–2018 (extended until 2019) sets out strategic priorities for SDC and the Human Security Division (FDFA HSD). To maximise the results 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 and coherent 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.

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), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
  • Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations, Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO), Gaza community Mental Health Programme, and many others.
  • International NGOs and partners:  Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), Diakonia, Oxfam International, and others.

Current project

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Planned project

Support to Gaza Community Mental Health Programme

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2027

By supporting the provision of quality mental health through Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Switzerland contributes to strengthening the resilience of vulnerable people in the Gaza Strip, where distress, psychological and psychiatric problems continue to increase after more than a decade of closure, traumatic conflicts and the degradation of socio-economic conditions. Addressing distress and traumas contributes to the prevention of radicalisation.


Upgrading Karm Abu Salem Crossing - Gaza

01.10.2020 - 31.12.2022

Switzerland will support improving the export/import conditions of goods to and from the Gaza Strip.

The project, implemented by UNOPS, will upgrade the poor infrastructure at the Palestinian side of

the only functioning commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel. The existing infrastructure con-

ditions are causing around 10% of damages to the transiting commodities thus incurring substantial

economic losses that are affecting the living conditions of two million people in the Gaza Strip


DEAR Foundation contribution Madaa

15.07.2019 - 30.06.2021

Switzerland, through Dear Foundation active in the oPt, will contribute to the provision of educational, cultural and psychosocial services for children, women and youth in the most sensitive neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem. A particular focus is given on reducing vulnerability and creating opportunities for jobs and income generation. Enhancing protection framework and strengthening the resilience of Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem are in line with Swiss Cooperation Strategy for the oPt (2015-2019).


Support to Village Councils in the West Bank

01.07.2019 - 31.10.2021

Switzerland will support Village Councils in the West Bank to improve the delivery of basic services in rural areas with a focus on those situated in Area C. Switzerland’s support aims at empowering selected local government units to deliver needed public services, while supporting an enhanced engagement of women, youth and people with disabilities, to improve local accountability processes. This intervention will be realized through dedicated funding to a local governance programme implemented by GIZ.


Support to Gaza Community Mental health Programme

01.03.2019 - 31.12.2021

By supporting the provision of quality mental health services through Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Switzerland contributes to strengthening the resilience of vulnerable people in the Gaza Strip, where distress, psychological and psychiatric problems continue to increase after more than a decade of Israeli closure and intra-Palestinian divide, repeated traumatic conflicts and the degradation of socioeconomic conditions. Addressing distress and traumas also contributes to the prevention of radicalization.


Support to Safe Spaces for Women, Youth and Children in Gaza Strip

Safe Spaces Project, Khan Younis, Gaza Strip

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2021

In 2019-2020, Switzerland will support the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA) and the Culture and Arts Association (NAWA) in the Gaza Strip to provide quality educational and cultural services in safe learning environments for children, youth and women, including persons with disabilities. This contribution aims to enhance the inclusion of marginalized groups in local development and in community-led initiatives, and to prevent wider spreading of violent extremism and radicalisation.


SDC Education Fund

01.01.2019 - 30.06.2022

As part of its increased commitment for Education and of the implementation of SDC’s Education Strategy, the SDC launches an Education Fund in order to incentivize innovation and the application of new approaches in basic education/vocational skills development and through educational activities across sectors. Innovation can have a catalytic effect on the effectiveness of programmes in and through education. Education is a core enabler for sustainable development and is an important lever in Switzerland’s commitment to promote human and economic development, peace and stability. 


Agriculture Census 2020

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2022

Switzerland will support the realization of the Agriculture Census in 2020 through contributing to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Updated and accurate data on agriculture holdings is an enabling tool for public and private investment as well as to plan and monitor relevant developments in the agriculture sector, in accordance with the National Policy Agenda (2017-2022). This project will offer opportunities to engage Swiss expertise in the domain of statistics and agriculture.


Non-earmarked contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied Palestinian territory

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021

Siwtzerland supports the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to carry out its mandate to provide capacity building for the Palestinian Authority and civil society as well as to monitor and report on human rights situation and policy development. This program is in line with Switzerland’s strong commitment in support to OHCHR and contributes to reinforce Switzerland’s policy dialogue with OHCHR Geneva office and to pursue Swiss human rights program in the oPt.


Long-term support to UNRWA’s reform

01.01.2018 - 30.06.2021

Through this contribution, Switzerland enables UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) to pursue the implementation of two key reform areas from its Medium-Term Strategy 2016-21, namely: the Resource Mobilization Strategy and the Protection Framework. These reforms will improve UNRWA’s ability to deliver its core services by stabilizing the Agency’s financial situation and by strengthening its capacities to deliver its protection mandate.


World Food Programme Contribution 2018

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2018

In light of critical underfunding of WFP Operations in oPt and in particular due to the worrisome socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, Switzerland will support the implementation of WFP’s food assistance activities with an additional contribution of 1 million Swiss Francs. Poor and severely food insecure non-refugee households will be targeted through cash-based transfers (vouchers) operated through a network of more than 175 local partner shops in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.   


Program contribution to OHCHR for promotion and protection of human rights in the oPt

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2029

Switzerland supports the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to contribute to the effective realization of adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law in the oPt and to influence the behaviour of the relevant duty bearers. OHCHR has an exceptional role both in the humanitarian and development spheres in the oPt’s complex context of multiple duty bearers and harsh political and humanitarian realities.

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