Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq)

Ongoing and past armed conflicts have led to extensive humanitarian needs in the Middle East. Switzerland is supporting delivery of aid and services to protect people affected by violence and is actively involved in peace promotion and the prevention of violent conflicts. It also works to ensure sustainable water management, quality education and income creation for refugees, internally displaced people, vulnerable migrants and host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

Map of the region Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq)

The Middle East remains at the centre of attention of international and Switzerland’s engagement. Present and past conflicts have led to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL). Since 2011, the Syria crisis has affected the lives of at least 12 million people. More than 5.5 million Syrians are registered as refugees in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq) and 6 million are yet internally displaced. The number of returns is very low. In addition, about half a million people have been killed and countless are missing or detained. Iraq is transitioning from an emergency to a recovery phase. Nevertheless, about 1.6 million people remain internally displaced and almost 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The protracted situation continues to overstretch the capacity of hosting communities and governments. 

The overarching aim of Switzerland in the Middle East is to create a safe environment for conflict-affected and other vulnerable persons by saving lives and empowering community, reducing fragility and generating development perspective. At policy level, it promotes good governance as well as the respect of international human rights, including refugee rights, and international humanitarian law. It also supports conflict prevention and transformation.

Protection and Migration

Protection for conflict-affected and vulnerable persons in Syria

In Syria, the ongoing-armed conflict has forced over 6 million people to leave their place of origin and forcefully move within their own country. On average, people have been displaced two or three times since the onset of the crisis, increasing their vulnerability. These especially vulnerable people are in need of housing, water, education and other services. Switzerland is supporting vulnerable households in addressing these basic needs including livelihoods, through cash assistance and training.

Disaster risk reduction, emergency relief, reconstruction and protection

Water, Hygiene and Sanitation

Improved access to water and sanitation in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees. As a result, the pressure on natural resources such as water is very high. In the Bekaa valley, bordering Syria, SDC supports local water authorities managing the water and wastewater monitoring system. SDC works with the Bekaa Water establishment to provide clean and safe water to host communities and Syrian refugees living in the valley.


Education and Income

Strengthen quality and foster inclusive education systems

Conflicts and displacements have put additional pressure on already fragile local economies. Switzerland’s engagement aims to reduce the economic impact by facilitating equitable access to both education and income. Through the strengthening of national education capacities, it aims to improve the learning of children, contribute to reach their education potential and foster the completion of compulsory education. Through supporting income-generating opportunities and the private sector as well as promoting legal frameworks for a decent income, it aims to improve prospects for equally women’s and men’s livelihoods. By an including host communities and refugees in the education and income, the approach aims to strengthen social cohesion and prevent further violence.

Education and vocational skills development

Peace Promotion and Conflict Prevention

Supporting conditions for peace and reconciliation

Switzerland aims to address root causes of violence and preventing violent conflicts. It also works towards peace through the restoration of relationships and social systems serving the needs of the whole population as well as the resolution of conflicts. Switzerland supports these efforts through processes including state and non-state actors at community or national level and through working on legal and political frameworks.

Approach and partners

The drivers of protracted conflicts in the Middle East and their interrelationships require a regional response. With a “Whole of Government Approach”, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Human Security Division (HSD), and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) work in close cooperation to achieve the objectives of Switzerland’s international cooperation in the region.

SDC’s engagement focuses on four action lines:

  1. cash and in-kind contributions to humanitarian and development organisations,
  2. direct action,
  3. secondments of technical experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) to UN organisations and
  4. the promotion of international coordination and humanitarian diplomacy.

HSD support consists of providing expertise to multilateral and national actors through secondments via the FDFA’s Expert Pool for Civilian Peacebuilding or its in-house experts, facilitating and hosting dialogues and building capacities directly or via NGOs, technical and other financial support to international and national NGOs.

Switzerland's key partners in the region are:

  • national and local actors in the countries concerned
  • international organisations: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), etc.
  • multilateral organisations: the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, United Nationals Development Programme (UNDP) etc.
  • local civil society organisations
  • international and Swiss NGOs: Terre des hommes and MEDAIR, among others

Current projects

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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. 

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Relief International: Providing educational opportunities for Syrian refugees in Za’atari and Azraq camps

01.01.2019 - 31.08.2020

SDC’s contribution will help to maintain essential education services provided by Relief International (RI) for Syrian refugee children and youth in Za’atari and Azraq camps especially after the drastic funding cuts announced by UNICEF in June 2018. The project contributes to retain school-aged refugee children in the formal education system by providing support through: 1) Remedial Education services for in-school children with learning difficulties and 2) the certified drop-out programme for out-of-school children who can only go back to school if they complete the programme.

JOR Sanitation Solutions for Underserved Communities in Jordan

01.07.2017 - 30.06.2027

In Jordan water supply from conventional water sources has come to its limits. Appropriate sanitation solutions will minimize the risks for public health and reduce the hazards of environmental pollution. Additionally these will cut the costs for sanitation operations and free resources for other purposes. Thus the project will contribute to the much needed decoupling of population and economic growth from resource consumption and pollution of the environment.

Sanitation Solutions for Underserved Communities in Jordan

01.07.2017 - 31.05.2022

The amount of water available from conventional sources in Jordan is decreasing dangerously, the population is increasing constantly and additional sources are needed urgently. By using treated wastewater as an alternative resource Jordan could reduce its dependence on fresh water. Proven Swiss expertise in the sanitation sector aims at increasing the efficiency of wastewater treatment systems and on turning wastewater streams into physical and financial resources. This will not only provide additional water but also reduce health risks and protect groundwater.

Rehabiltiation of public schools accomodating Syrian refugee children

01.04.2016 - 31.07.2021

Education is one of the public sectors particularly under pressure due to the influx of refugees. There are currently 143,000 school-aged Syrian refugees enrolled in public schools in Jordan, another approx. 83,000 remain out of school. Overstretched infrastructure and lack of space are major challenges. SDC will continue to support the Ministry of Education (MoE) in non-structural rehabilitation of schools accommodating Syrian refugees, including water and sanitation facilities, contributing to increase the accommodating capacities. The project will also include an awareness component addressing maintenance issues.

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IRQ Oxfam – Integrated WASH and Protection response to conflict affected communities in Diyala governorate

01.09.2017 - 28.02.2020

A majority of people living in rural northern Diyala do not have access to potable water which results in communities utilizing unsafe sources like rivers and irrigation channels. The lack of solid waste management systems further aggravates the poor health conditions within this area. This project aims at reducing water and sanitation related risks and increasing access to clean water for IDPs, returnees and host communities living in the districts of Kifri and Khanaqin. It also helps particularly vulnerable families access protection services.

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Decent Work for Migrants in the Middle East

15.07.2019 - 30.06.2023

This program contributes to decent work opportunities for migrants and refugees in the Middle East which is one of the largest migrant hosting regions globally due to economic demands and displacement from conflict. It complements the focus on Asian migrants with migrants from Africa and seek closer partnership with the private sector. Due to its relevant expertise and experience in decent work and fair recruitment, Switzerland is well placed to contribute to an improved protection and an enhanced wellbeing of migrant workers and self-reliance for refugees, to maximize the productive potential of migration, and to counter irregular and unsafe migration.

Small Actions Credit Line (Quick Impact)

01.03.2019 - 31.12.2021

The Small Actions Credit Line (Quick Impact) is a humanitarian instrument of the Swiss Embassy's cooperation office that allows a fast response to requests for moderate one-time funding of limited duration. It enables the Embassy's cooperation office in Lebanon to fund small scale development or humanitarian activities that addresses needs of refugees, IDPs, vulnerable migrants or communities at risk, supports the strategic strengthening of the portfolio of the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Middle East and which contribute to the visibility of Swiss presence in the region.

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. 

LEB – Improved Water Resources Monitoring and Integrated Water Resources Management in the North of Lebanon

01.07.2017 - 30.09.2021

For over five years now, the Syria crisis is continuing to affect middle-income neighbouring countries. As a result, Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. The weak governance of the Government has been worsened with the burden of the refugees from Syria and Palestine who use the same overstretched infrastructure and public services. The project aims at enabling the water authorities to better manage the water sector for the benefit of the vulnerable communities in the North of the country.

Lebanon: education and care in a neighbourhood shared by Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Inside a classroom where a woman teacher is sitting in front of a group of children showing them a book.

01.08.2016 - 30.06.2021

The inhabitants of Hay el Gharbé in southern Beirut live in a very precarious situation. Since 2012, a number of Syrian refugees have joined their neighbourhood. The SDC supports the Lebanese NGO Tahaddi, which has made a real difference in people’s lives here – such as with its education centre, helping a large number of children to (re)discover schooling and escape their daily hardships. 

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Primary education
Primary health care
Medical services

01.08.2016 - 30.06.2021

CHF 1'270'000

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