Bangladesh

Less poverty, more say: In Bangladesh, Switzerland is working to promote broader access for the population to resources, services and political decision-makers. Economic development in rural areas linked with more efficient local government is helping to reduce poverty. To promote sustainability, Switzerland is working closely with the private sector.

Map of Bangladesh
© FDFA

Bangladesh has made considerable progress in reducing poverty and today belongs to the category of lower-middle income economies. This very densely populated country, however, remains characterised by major social inequalities with a high proportion of poor people, especially in urban areas. Scarce resources and the negative effects of climate change are impacting everyday life in the country. Labour migration is a welcome alternative to the saturated local job market.

Swiss development cooperation aims to improve living conditions for poor and disadvantaged sections of the population. Within the framework of its international cooperation for the period 2018−21, Switzerland focuses on its engagement on economic development, more efficient local government and better protection for migrant workers. Aspects of good governance and human rights have an important role in this work. Giving disadvantaged population groups more say is expected to bring more social justice.

Myanmar refugee crisis in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is currently sheltering more than 900,000 people who have fled the violence in neighbouring Myanmar and taken refuge in the border region of Cox’s Bazar.  These refugees have left everything behind and are completely destitute.  Many children have lost their parents.

In view of the scale of need, Switzerland has provided CHF 30 million in assistance since the violence escalated in 2017. This humanitarian action has enabled the refugees to gain access to drinking water, food and sanitation.   It has also enabled shelters to be built for these people, who arrived en masse.  The SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Department has also provided diagnostic and other equipment to increase the treatment capacities of three hospitals in the Cox’s Bazar region.  Specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit have been deployed to the area to support the UN agencies on the ground.  In addition to emergency aid, the SDC is supporting medium-term development activities in the area in order to assist local host communities.

On the other side of the border, the SDC is continuing to support humanitarian actions to assist people affected by the conflict in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar despite the restrictions on access.

Democratic governance

Bringing local governments closer to the communities they serve

Swiss projects in the area of local governance are promoting the political participation of the local population and supporting local administrative structures in providing important services. The aim is to get citizens, local governments and service providers to work better together. The SDC is strengthening the voice of disadvantaged people through human rights projects. More say for citizens and increased accountability for state institutions are important for Bangladesh’s further economic development and social stability.

State and Economic Reforms

Economic development

Better market opportunities and higher incomes

Swiss support is helping market participants become better interconnected. Easier market access raises the incomes of poor producers and service providers and furthermore opens up new business opportunities. With its projects, the SDC is supporting rural populations, for example in milk processing, fishing and shrimp farming. At the same time, it is committed to achieving a fairer division of roles between men and women. In close cooperation with the private sector, vocational training helps in particular young people find jobs or work requiring better qualifications, including in the textiles industry. Switzerland aims to increase the private sector's contribution to poverty reduction by promoting social enterprises and insurance providers.

At the national level, Switzerland is active in promoting corporate social responsibility. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is taking an active part in efforts to improve working conditions especially in the textiles sector through supporting the Better Work Bangladesh programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO). In addition, Bangladesh benefits from customs exemptions for developing countries.

Private sector development and financial services

Safer labour migration

Going to one of the Gulf states, for example, as a migrant worker is a strategy that many people use in Bangladesh – a country struggling with overpopulation and a saturated job market. At the same time, remittances are an important source of income. Migrant workers, however, must be better prepared for the challenges and risks involved. In the interests of Bangladesh's sustainable development, Switzerland is actively working at the global, national and local levels to ensure that labour migration is safer. It is also committed to the social and economic reintegration of victims of human trafficking.

Migration 

Humanitarian aid

Emergency aid for refugees and with natural disasters

Switzerland provides humanitarian aid for the Rohingya refugees in the south-east of the country, particularly in the water and health sectors. It also supports local communities that have been affected by the refugee crisis and combines relief aid with medium-term development project where possible.

Natural disasters and climate change are making the living conditions of the people of Bangladesh more difficult. The SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Department supports those affected by natural disasters.

Humanitarian aid 

Approach and partners

Using a coherent and comprehensive approach, Switzerland is working closely with local authorities, other donor countries and international organisations such as the United Nations. The private sector is another important partner for Switzerland.

  • Switzerland's main partners in Bangladesh are:
  • Swiss NGOs:  Swisscontact, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation
  • International NGOs: Handicap International, Solidarités International
  • Local NGOs: BRAC
  • Ministries
  • Local civil society organisations: Ain O Salish Kendra
  • Swiss and local private sectors Multilateral organisations: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), World Food Programme (WFP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 

Cross-cutting themes

Switzerland consistently applies its gender policy in all projects and is committed to gender equality. Good governance principles are also taken into account in all Swiss programmes.

Current projects

Object 13 – 24 of 30

WaSH Support for Rohingya Refugees and Vulnerable Local Communities in Cox’s Bazar District

25.11.2018 - 24.11.2021

Basic services such as infrastructure, health, water, forest and land resources that were available prior to the Rohingya influx in Cox’s Bazar are under strain due to the massive increase in people in the area. The HYSAWA Fund will address the needs and gaps of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, targeting vulnerable host communities and refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar by enhancing capacity of Local Government Institutions. It will apply tools developed in previous Swiss programmes to improve state-citizen relations and relationships between refugees and the host communities.


UNDP – Disaster Risk Management in Cox’s Bazar District

01.11.2018 - 31.12.2019

The location, climate and topography of Cox’s Bazar District makes it vulnerable to tropical cyclones and associated storm surges, flash flooding, and landslides. The influx of the Rohingya refugees have raised the population of an already poor, disaster prone-district to 3.5 million people, requiring significant upgrading of disaster risk management capacities. The project supports a comprehensive approach to developing local capacities and enables risk informed-decision making.


Prevention of violence and mitigation of conflicts during parliamentary election cycle

01.08.2018 - 31.03.2020

The national parliamentary elections foreseen for late 2018 will be important for Bangladesh’s future development. The risk of political unrest and violence in the run-up to the elections is likely to increase. Against this background a number of like-minded development partners have agreed on a package of accompanying measures to contribute to peaceful elections. SDC proposes to associate itself to this program.


Integrated Water Resources Management in the Barind areas

01.07.2018 - 30.06.2022

By promoting the coordinated, equitable and sustainable development and management of water, land and related resources, and addressing the institutional challenges associated with integrated water resources management, the project intends to ensure access to sufficient and safe water for the disadvantaged people of the Barind tracts in North-Western Bangladesh.   


Political Empowerment of Women Phase III

15.04.2018 - 14.01.2023

By focusing on women’s political empowerment, the project contributes to enhancing women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making, which leads towards a more inclusive society. With a more equitable governance system at the local level, citizens can hold institutions accountable and voice their needs and interests.


Empowering and Decentralizing Local Government Institutions to Manage Hygiene, Sanitation and Water Supply Service Delivery in Hard-to-Reach Areas of Bangladesh

01.12.2017 - 30.11.2020

The Hygiene, Sanitation and Water Fund (HYSAWA) will focus on enhancing capacities of local government institutions and communities to plan and manage hygiene, sanitation and water supply service delivery in an effective, accountable, transparent and inclusive manner for men, women and disadvantaged persons. Citizens will benefit from improved public services which are better targeted at those people who need them the most.


Efficient and Accountable Local Governance

01.11.2017 - 31.10.2022

Local Governments in Bangladesh are tasked to deliver important public services like education, agricultural extension and health. The project supports the clarification of functions for the local public sector, the enhancement of financial management and citizen participation for increased accountability in service delivery, with a focus on the sub-district level, and strengthening women’s participation in political processes. 


Community-led Outreach on Safe Migration (COSM)

01.11.2017 - 31.12.2019

This single-phase project will complement a larger EU-supported project aiming at making people aware about safe migration at the Union and Upazilla level. The project will also pilot a pre-employment module developed by the Global Program Migration and Development and used in Sri Lanka, to verify its effectiveness in the context of Bangladesh. It is expected that the evidence generated in this project will feed into a larger SDC-funded project, to start in 2019.


Shomoshti – Prosperity for the Poor and Disadvantaged

01.04.2017 - 31.07.2020

Over 180,000 rural poor and disadvantaged households will enhance the productivity of their farming and cottage businesses through the use of improved technical and market services. This will result in increased incomes and the ability to pay for social services. Through the strengthening of voice and participation of the poor and disadvantaged in local planning, their access to services in nutrition, health and education, and thus wellbeing, will be improved.


Sharique Phase IV : SDC LGov Programme

01.03.2017 - 30.06.2020

Sharique has developed a proven capacity development model for urban municipalities strengthening participative and inclusive development planning, transparent budgeting, taxation and representation of women and poor citizens in decision-making and service delivery. In this exit phase, the model will be internalized and applied in two additional districts by national training institutions, empowering 0.8 million citizens to influence planning and provision of public services.


Making Markets Work for the Chars (M4C) in Northern Bangladesh (Phase II)

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019

Women and men living on riverine islands will increase the productivity of their farms as a result of better access to quality inputs and services, processing and output markets. The 25’000 benefitting farm households are likely to invest additional income into the diversification of their farm businesses and basic needs. This will result in reduced poverty and vulnerability of men and women on riverine islands and an increase in their well-being.  


Strengthening Human Rights institutions in Bangladesh

01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020

People in Bangladesh repeatedly suffer from human rights violations which especially affect poor and marginalised people with limited remedy and widespread impunity. The project strengthens (i) the National Human Rights Commission to more effectively promote and protect human rights and (ii) civil society to promote and monitor Human Rights and provide legal aid.

Object 13 – 24 of 30