The history of Solidar Suisse

In 1936, Solidar Suisse was founded as the Schweizerisches Arbeiterhilfswerk (Swiss Workers' Relief Organization, SAH), born out of the Swiss Trade Union Federation and the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP). The SAH was one of the first Swiss aid organisations to focus on development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Since 2005, the SAH’s overseas department has existed as an independent organisation, known as Solidar Suisse.

Founding years from 1936

In the early years, SAH supported worker families in need in Switzerland and abroad. In addition, the organisation provided humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Spanish civil war and looked after Spanish refugee children who had come to Switzerland. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the SAH became more active in providing assistance to refugees. Through the Colis Suisse project, from 1940 onwards the organisation sent food packages to various refugee camps around Europe.

Pioneers of Swiss development cooperation

In 1949, the SAH provided its first emergency assistance following a large earthquake in Greece. From the mid-1950s, SAH initiated vocational training projects in Tunisia and Algeria. Further large aid actions took place in 1957, for Algerian refugees in Morocco, and in 1971, for the victims of the war between India and Pakistan. Since 1974, the SAH has also been present in Burkina Faso. Solidar Suisse continues its development cooperation in West Africa to this day, through a range of projects.

For decent work and against extreme inequality

For many decades we have represented the interests of the working population and the disenfranchised.

Projects and campaigns

Our engagement in favour of decent work and democratic participation helps to eliminate extreme inequality. Since 2008, Solidar Suisse has run campaigns in Switzerland advocating for the improvement of working conditions abroad.


Since 2011, we have used our solidarity municipality rating to champion sustainable public procurement in Switzerland. We reveal ongoing abuses and seek solutions with the Swiss companies involved through our research in factories in China, on palm oil plantations in Malaysia or in cotton fields in Burkina Faso where children work.

Successes in recent years

Our support for trade union work enables textile workers in Cambodia to successfully fight for partial payment of outstanding wages. In Bangladesh, Solidar Suisse’s emergency assistance helps lift workers out of extreme need.
Most Swiss people vote for the Responsible Business Initiative – it only fails because it lacks a cantonal majority.
Solidar Suisse provides access to drinking water to 15,000 people in Mozambique through emergency assistance.
Our South African solidarity partner CWAO wins numerous cases in arbitration bodies. A Constitutional Court ruling sets a precedent that improves the legal situation of workers on temporary contracts.
After a once in a century earthquake, Solidar Suisse cooperates with Helvetas to help 2,000 families in Nepal to rebuild their houses.
The regular working hours in Chinese factories are reduced from six to five days per week.
Children’s rights are strengthened and violence against children is banned in Pakistan.

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