Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)

Switzerland's activities in Central America focus on good governance, respect for human rights, inclusive economic development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. After 40 years of fruitful international cooperation work, Swiss bilateral cooperation is planning to withdraw from the region in 2024. Swiss Humanitarian Aid will however continue to operate in Central America. Until then, Switzerland is working to consolidate the gains that have been achieved and withdraw from the region in a responsible and considered manner.

Map of the region Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)

Despite being neighbours, Nicaragua and Honduras face different challenges today. Nicaragua has been going through a socio-political and economic crisis since 2018 which has impacted heavily on the country's human right situation and resulted in large-scale emigration. In Honduras, poverty and food insecurity are increasing. The rule of law is not always respected and violence is widespread. Switzerland's activities are therefore aimed at preventing violence and strengthening respect for human rights, but also at creating economic opportunities for people affected by poverty. Central America is one of the world's most exposed regions to natural hazards. Major disasters occur on a regular basis and are being exacerbated by climate change. That is why Switzerland is linking climate change adaptation measures to its efforts to strengthen national and regional civil protection structures.

Governance and the rule of law

Strengthening local governance and the fight against corruption

In Honduras, Switzerland is working to strengthen local governance structures and the participation of vulnerable populations and indigenous communities in natural resource management and economic development in two priority regions – the Gulf of Fonseca and Mosquitia. It is also supporting local human rights organisations to help better protect people's economic, social and cultural rights. In spite of the daunting socio-political situation in Nicaragua, Switzerland is working to promote good governance, a culture of peace, and respect for human rights.

At regional level, the SDC is supporting the work of the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights in Central America in implementing global standards and curbing impunity, with a focus on people's socio-economic rights and access to natural resources. It is also helping fight corruption through targeted support for civil society and public ministries, including training for judges and legal staff in Honduras and Guatemala.

Good governance

Economic development

Strengthening small businesses

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. In Central America, Switzerland supports rural industries such as cocoa, cashew nuts, sustainable livestock farming and agrotourism. Setting up cooperatives, improving product quality and increasing marketing efforts can help smallholder farms and rural enterprises increase their income. Switzerland also contributes to improving the economic situation of small-scale producers by assisting the responsible ministries in developing and implementing national support policies.

In addition, training opportunities accessible to all give young people from poor neighbourhoods and rural areas a better chance of finding a job. In Honduras, these activities are aimed at young people from neighbourhoods with a high crime rate with a view to violence prevention.

Basic education and vocational skills development

Private sector development and financial services

Climate change adaptation

Risk reduction and water governance

Because of climate change, the risk of devastating hurricanes and prolonged droughts is increasing. Risk mapping, river basin planning and the sustainable management of natural resources improve the resilience of local communities against the potential effects of climate change.

Climate change and the environment

Swiss Humanitarian Aid

Rapid response in the field, disaster risk management, migration and protection

In Central America, Swiss Humanitarian Aid (SHA) uses its funds to help mitigate the humanitarian impact of the migration crisis (Guatemala, Panama) and the effects of climate change. To improve the effectiveness and coordination of risk management, it also aims to support the development and implementation of local, national and regional standards, strategies and plans for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR) in line with the Paris Agreement (on climate) and the Sendai Framework for Action (for DRR). Owing to the steep rise in migration in the region and its catastrophic effects, the SHA also helps local organisations provide emergency assistance to migrants.

In addition, Switzerland regularly seconds experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to UN organisations in the region.

Humanitarian Aid

Transversal themes

Gender equality, governance, risk management

Gender equality is key to sustainable development. In its programmes in Central America, Switzerland supports equitable access to resources and knowledge, and promotes the balanced participation of women and men in decision-making processes as well as helping to transform gender stereotypes.

It also focuses on fostering inclusive governance to contribute to a culture of peace. All Swiss programmes prioritise democratic institution building, irrespective of thematic focus. In view of the forthcoming withdrawal of bilateral cooperation from the region, strengthening participatory processes is key – including civil society monitoring of public policies.

Given the region's vulnerability to climate change, disaster risk management is intended to increase resilience among local communities.

Gender equality

Good governance

Disaster risk reduction

Approaches and partners

Switzerland's approach in Central America aims to ensure effectiveness and sustainability, which includes withdrawing its bilateral cooperation in a gradual and responsible manner. This is being done by focusing activities in defined geographical areas and on the root causes of poverty (out of fragility), and by taking a psychosocial approach factoring in the psychological impact on social functioning across all sectors.

Switzerland bases its activities on a multi-stakeholder approach. Even if conditions are difficult, it actively engages in dialogue with state institutions, the academic community and civil society. It encourages alliances with international partners and multilateral organisations to mobilise funds for cooperation programmes, as also set out in the SDGs.

Principles of cooperation

Current projects

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Contribution to UNHCR Programme Budget 2023-2024 (earmarked)

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2024

UNHCR is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners due to its unique mandate by the General Assembly of United Nations to provide protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, refugee returnees, and stateless persons. The strategic direction 2022-26 concretise the overall mandate of UNHCR for the upcoming years. Contributing to these directions allows Switzerland to achieve in particular the human development goal defined in the Dispatch to Parliament on International Cooperation for 2021-24.

Strengthening Systems to Combat Corruption and Impunity in Central America

01.12.2020 - 30.06.2024

The program contributes to the reduction of corruption and impunity in the Northern Triangle of Central America, strengthens the anticorruption investigative and criminal prosecution capacities of the specialized units of the Public Prosecutors and reinforces the political lobbying of civil society organizations to promote institutional reforms.

OHCHR - Strategic Partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

16.11.2020 - 31.12.2023

Promoting respect for human rights is a foreign policy goal and pillar of Swiss international cooperation, as the denial of human rights is one of the main factors of poverty. With a multi-year contribution to the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, focussing on selected geographic and thematic priorities, SDC will support this organisation to better play its key role in integrating human rights in sustainable development.

Cocoa value chain

Cocoa Chain Value Family

01.01.2018 - 30.06.2024

Actors in the Central American cocoa value chain improve their productivity, establish public-private alliances, respect economic, social and cultural rights, and reduce their environmental impact. Thanks to the program 4,500 producer families will increase their net annual income by at least 10%, while 4,000 young adults and 2,000 women gain access to sustainable jobs. This will boost the local economy in the poor and peripheral areas in which cocoa is grown.  

Society, culture and memory

Girls and boys with reading corner

01.11.2017 - 30.06.2024

The “Society, culture and memory” programme promotes culture and historical memory in Central America to stimulate processes leading towards more inclusive, less violent societies. Both culture and historical memory have enormous potential to help to create identities and transform societies in the Central American region, which has been characterized by inconclusive peace and democratization processes and the highest rates of violence in the world. With its long presence in the region and its impartial reputation, Switzerland is well positioned to enhance these processes

Public Private Development Partnership: Social Entrepreneurship Catalytic Impact Financing for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-IMPACT)

01.11.2015 - 31.12.2027

Social entrepreneurs (SE) find innovative, effective and efficient solutions to social problems with a private sector, entrepreneurial approach. ODA funds are scarce and need to be used with leverage. This intervention will leverage social enterprises efforts, impact investors’ capital and local government funds for poverty reduction and improved livelihood of low income households.

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