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

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 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

Object 1 – 12 of 25

Targeted psychological support for people in the Gaza Strip

A therapist counselling a patient in a consultation room.

01.02.2015 - 31.12.2018

Hardly any other people in the Middle East suffer from mental health issues to the same extent as the Palestinians. The political, economic and social consequences of the closure in the Gaza Strip is affecting people’s health. The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme – supported by the SDC – is providing them with counselling, courses and therapy. 20,000 people received support in 2017 alone.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Palestinian Authority
Psycho-social support
Civilian peace-building and conflict resolution
Health system strengthening
Medical education/training
Human rights
Civilian peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution
Health policy and administrative management

01.02.2015 - 31.12.2018

CHF 1'964'000

Support to Israeli and Palestinian HR/IHL CSOs

01.05.2018 - 31.12.2018

Switzerland, through SDC, will support Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian law organizations active in the oPt as part of its engagement to contribute to a just and lasting peace and to the establishment of an independent, viable and democratic State of Palestine. The promotion of HR and IHL is a major concern in the oPt and a goal of Switzerland’s foreign policy.

Planned project

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.

Long-term support to UNRWA’s reform

01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020

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.

Improved Access to Markets for Female and Male Fresh Fruits and Vegetable (FFV) Small Scale Producers

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2021

With focus on private sector-led agriculture and agribusiness, this program pursues systemic change in the agriculture sector and supports business modalities that favor small scale producers in the occupied Palestinian territory. The overall goal 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.

Planned project

Support to the HR/IHL Sector

15.10.2017 - 28.02.2026

By supporting Palestinian and Israeli civil society organizations working on human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Switzerland contributes to protect the democratic space in the oPt and to the promotion of  respect for international Law by all duty bearers, conditions essential for any sustainable development and peace to take place.

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).

Lifesaving Medical and Non-medical Supplies for the Health Sector in the Gaza Strip

01.09.2017 - 31.12.2017

In line with the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) principles, Switzerland recognizes the necessity of predictable and flexible funding to respond to changing needs in humanitarian crises, including protracted ones. Through an emergency funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), SDC allows WHO to provide protection and assistance to those who are mostly affected by the latest deterioration of the health situation in the Gaza Strip through direct provision of lifesaving medical and non-medical supplies for the health sector.

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. 

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