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 25 – 33 of 33

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.


Prabriddhi - Local Economic Development (LED) at District Level

01.01.2017 - 31.01.2020

In two urban municipalities and their surrounding territories, the public and private sector and civil society will engage in joint local economic strategizing, planning and implementation. A more vibrant, competitive  and better performing economy will benefit all people living in an area including businesses of all sizes and generate opportunities particularly for poor and marginalised women and men. The model of decentralized economic planning developed and refined locally will be replicated across Bangladesh.


Policy Reform on Local Governance (PROLOG II)

17.10.2016 - 16.10.2020

Decentralisation as a strategy for pro-poor political transformation places Local Governments on the driving seat for improved local public services. PROLOG II provides technical assistance to the Government of Bangladesh in the decentralization reform. It also involves citizens -including women and disadvantaged groups- in overseeing their municipalities for increased accountability. Ultimately citizens will gain from local public services responding to their needs.


Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme (BADIP)

15.05.2016 - 31.10.2021

Smallholder farmers in Bangladesh face considerable risks. Droughts, floods, winds, temperature shocks, pests and diseases can destroy their livelihoods and leave them indebted for years. To cope with such shocks, they are often forced to sell productive assets and fall back in poverty. By developing the market for agricultural insurance and related extension services, BADIP will sustainably increase poor farmers’ resilience, giving them the confidence and security to step up their productive investments.  


Building Skills for Unemployed and Underemployed Labour (B-SkillFUL)

01.11.2015 - 31.10.2019

50,000 poor and disadvantaged men and women will improve their skills and out of them at least 70% will be gainfully employed. The resulting increase in their incomes will contribute to their better well-being and overall poverty alleviation. The employment conditions of workers in the informal sector will be improved through partnerships between the Informal Sector Industry Skills Council, enterprises and training service providers.


Ashshash – for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.09.2015 - 14.11.2022

Human trafficking deprives millions of their dignity and freedom. It is estimated that thousands are trafficked every year in Bangladesh. Switzerland has an interest that international migration is regular, secure, and respects human dignity and the rights of migrants. The project will support men and women who have escaped trafficking to reintegrate into society, raise awareness on the perils of irregular migration and improve public and private capacities to deliver services to the victims of trafficking. The intervention is beneficial for Switzerland’s political dialogue on safe, orderly and regular migration at the global level.


Sanitation Market Systems (SanMarkS)

01.05.2015 - 31.10.2019

Through the project Sanitation Market Systems (SanMarkS), the poor and disadvantaged will benefit from a better wellbeing due to improved hygienic sanitation solutions which are offered by the private sector in a sustainable manner. As a result of the project, funded by SDC and UNICEF, the private sector service providers in collaboration with public actors will respond to the needs and demand of the rural poor and provide improved sanitation services to at least 450,000 people in at least six districts of Bangladesh.


Transparency International Bangladesh: Building Integrity Blocks for Effective Change

01.10.2014 - 30.09.2020

Transparency International Bangladesh promotes improved governance in selected institutions of integrity (parliament, judiciary, etc.) and five sectors providing basic services to the people (education, health, local governance, land, climate finance) as well as it strengthens its grassroots movement in order to reduce corruption for the benefit of the poor and the marginalised.


Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP)

01.08.2014 - 30.06.2020

260’000 unskilled youth and adults will be skill-trained, 70% of whom will be placed in decent jobs through partnerships with industries and private training providers in six economic growth sectors of Bangladesh. By creating the foundations for a sector-wide approach, the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) will bring the currently fragmented skills development sector under one coordinated management and funding mechanism

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