Humanitarian Tradition

Switzerland provides assistance in the event of humanitarian crises and offers long-term development aid to countries in need. It also grants asylum to victims of persecution.

Entrance of the Red Cross Museum in Geneva
The Red Cross Museum, Geneva © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

As the depository state of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and as the host country of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Switzerland has a long humanitarian tradition.  When natural disaster strikes or conflict breaks out, Switzerland can provide help on the ground thanks to the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and its 700 volunteers.  In recent years, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit has been deployed in response to the war in Syria, the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013 and the tsunami in Japan in 2011. 

Nine global challenges are covered by Switzerland's development aid programme, which seeks to improve living conditions in the long term. In the global South it works primarily in 20 countries and regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.   

Swiss cooperation also includes an aid programme for the countries of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia. The goal of this aid is to help these countries transition to democracy and a market economy. 

Alongside traditional development aid, Switzerland is also committed to promoting peacebuilding efforts, human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law. 

Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition is also reflected in its asylum law, which grants victims of political persecution the right to settle in the country.  During the Cold War, Switzerland opened its borders to an influx of refugees from Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  In the 1990s it granted asylum to many victims of the civil war in the Balkans.  In more recent times, it has taken in refugees from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

Additional information