Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)

The thematic priorities of Swiss development cooperation in Central America are strengthening the rule of law and human rights, promoting economic development and establishing measures to adapt to climate change through natural hazard prevention. Bilateral cooperation in the region focuses on Honduras and Nicaragua. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) also supports regional initiatives within the framework of its thematic priorities.

Map of the region Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)
© FDFA

Nicaragua and Honduras are the poorest countries in the region and they face varied challenges: Nicaragua is currently undergoing a severe socio-political crisis with grave consequences for human rights and the economy. In Honduras, the fight against poverty has stagnated. Moreover, its institutions are weak and the security situation is very high risk even by regional comparison. Switzerland is thus committed to preventing violence and promoting human rights as well as providing economic opportunities for the poor. The region is susceptible to hurricanes and irregular rainfall (prolonged dry spells), both of which have been exacerbated by climate change. As a result, Switzerland is combining its disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts with measures to adapt to climate change.

Governance and the rule of law

Strengthening local governance and combating corruption

In Honduras, Switzerland is strengthening the local governance structures in the two focus regions Gulf of Fonseca and La Mosquitia. It also promotes codetermination for the poor and indigenous communities in water management and business development. In addition, Switzerland supports the international anti-corruption mission (MACCIH), which is committed to strengthening the national anti-corruption authorities. This cooperation has already achieved notable success in uncovering criminal networks. Switzerland also works with local human rights organisations to improve the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Many projects in Nicaragua involving state institutions have been suspended or reoriented in light of the political crisis. Switzerland is increasing its commitment to human rights and aiming to counteract the political polarisation by promoting dialogue and cultural projects.

At the regional level, the SDC supports the work of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Central America in implementing international standards and combating impunity through national judiciaries. In this context, the SDC focuses mainly on the people’s socio-economic rights and access to natural resources.

Police reform

In Honduras, progress is being hindered by the highest murder and crime rates in the world. Since 2013, Switzerland has been active in police reforms and has supported measures to raise citizens’ security in two focus regions.

Water, electricity and roads

Better access to basic infrastructure for rural municipalities is a key component of Switzerland’s commitment. Its local governance programmes have enabled 600,000 people to access drinking water, sanitation, electricity and new roads in recent years.

Advocacy and good governance 

Economic development

Strengthening small businesses

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. In Central America, Switzerland promotes rural value chains in cocoa, cashew, sustainable livestock farming, agritourism, etc. Small farmers and rural businesses can increase their income through working in cooperatives, improving product quality and by engaging in marketing activities. Switzerland also supports efforts to improve economic operating conditions for small producers, for example through working with the responsible government ministries in developing and implementing national promotion policies.

Vocational skills development for young people

Low-threshold vocational skills development courses improve the employment prospects of young people from poor urban neighbourhoods and rural areas. In Honduras, these courses target young people living in neighbourhoods with high crime rates and contribute to preventing violence.

Basic education and vocational skills development

Private sector development and financial services

Adapting to climate change

Risk maps and territorial planning

Climate change has increased the risk of devastating hurricanes and prolonged droughts. Municipalities are receiving support in adapting to the various consequences of climate change through the creation of risk maps, territorial planning with the inclusion of river basins and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Reservoirs and drought-resistant plants

Switzerland promotes innovative agricultural methods: the cultivation of drought-resistant plants and construction of reservoirs have better equipped smallholder farms to cope with periods of drought.

Climate change and the environment

Humanitarian aid

Rapid response

Humanitarian aid in Central America helps alleviate the humanitarian consequences of the migration crisis in the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala) and political crisis in Nicaragua – focusing on children and young people from poor families.

In addition, Switzerland employs a territorial approach integrating three dimensions: adapting to climate change, disaster risk reduction and sustainable natural resource management. Humanitarian aid mainly focuses on disaster risk reduction. Specifically that involves supporting the definition and implementation of local, national and regional plans, standards and strategies to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risk in accordance with the Paris and Sendai agreements (for climate change and disaster risk reduction respectively).

Experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit are also regularly seconded to UN organisations working in the region.

Humanitarian aid

History of cooperation

Forty years of commitment

Swiss development cooperation has been present in Central America since 1978. Starting in Honduras, Switzerland’s commitment extended to Nicaragua in the 1980s. The main regional office has been in Managua since 1993. Switzerland also supports human rights and anti-corruption projects in Guatemala, although it has never operated its own office in the country.

Approximately 80% of aid is split between bilateral programmes in Honduras and Nicaragua; 20% is reserved for regional projects.