The two countries' long-standing relations are characterised by Switzerland's humanitarian and development policy commitment in Afghanistan. Following the fall of the republican government on 15 August 2021, Switzerland continues to provide important survival assistance to those in need in Afghanistan and consistently calls on the Taliban to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Afghanistan
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In August 2021, Switzerland temporarily closed its cooperation office in Kabul. The Swiss embassy in Pakistan, based in Islamabad, continues to be responsible for representing diplomatic interests, issuing visas to persons from Afghanistan, and for all other consular services.
The focus of Switzerland's engagement is on international cooperation and humanitarian aid. Important partners are UN agencies, international organisations and NGOs. At the same time, Switzerland is trying to create long-term prospects for Afghanistan by making facilities in Geneva available to the Afghan Central Bank for the safekeeping of frozen funds until it can demonstrate that it is able to act independently and in accordance with international standards. This is an investment in Afghanistan's future.
Afghanistan belongs to the group of least developed countries (LDCs). The economy is predominantly based on agriculture. The bilateral trade volume is currently stagnating at a very low level; trade was already marginal before 2021. Swiss exports to Afghanistan amounted to CHF 6.7 million in 2022, consisting mainly of pharmaceutical products, vehicles and machinery, while Swiss imports from Afghanistan – mainly textiles and agricultural products – amounted to CHF 1.7 million in the same year.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Afghanistan can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's commitment in Afghanistan amounts to around CHF 30 million per year, and its principal aims are to protect the human rights of the Afghan population and help to meet their basic needs. Food security, basic education and climate-resilient agriculture are other key focus areas.
Switzerland coordinates closely with international efforts to save lives, alleviate human suffering and strengthen the resilience of the Afghan population in the medium to long term. It supports local initiatives by working towards the localisation of aid with contributions to national NGOs and civil society. Together with the international community, Switzerland works to ensure respect for humanitarian principles, particularly with regard to the rights of women, children and minorities.
Swiss citizens in Afghanistan
At the end of 2022, 11 Swiss nationals were living in Afghanistan, according to the Register of the Swiss Abroad, the majority of them working for local NGOs.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised Afghanistan in 1922, five years after its independence. Diplomatic relations were established in 1928. After the Soviet invasion in 1979, these continued with the government in place, although the occupation was repeatedly condemned. At the same time, Switzerland supported the ICRC's work for war victims.
After the Taliban took power in 1996, Switzerland continued diplomatic relations but did not maintain official contacts with the new government. In 2000, it joined the UN-imposed sanctions against the Taliban regime. With the fall of the republican government on 15 August 2021, Switzerland temporarily closed its cooperation office in Kabul.