Bangladesh, which extends over the broad Ganges delta on the Indian sub-continent, is still one of the world's most densely populated countries. Half of its population lives in poverty.
The entire country suffers from underdevelopment, mismanagement, natural disasters and poor governance. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and those hardest hit are usually women, children, slum dwellers and ethnic minorities whose civil rights and freedoms are not guaranteed. However, in recent decades, considerable progress has been made. Positive developments in the areas of population control, child mortality, malnutrition and gender-neutral access to education have made the international community take notice of the positive changes taking place in Bangladesh.
Swiss development cooperation has been active in Bangladesh since the country gained independence in 1971. Since then, the aim of the development cooperation has been to contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Besides SDC, numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – some of them supported by SDC – are working in Bangladesh.
Swiss Development Cooperation in Bangladesh
Switzerland is one of the long-standing development partners of Bangladesh. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a part of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, has been working in Bangladesh since its independence. SDC considers Bangladesh as one of its priority countries to concentrate its long-term development cooperation efforts.
SDC has a substantial programme in Bangladesh with an aim to achieve an effective and sustainable poverty reduction in this country. During the last few years' work, SDC felt that Bangladesh has made huge progress in the previous few decades, notably in population control, food security, child mortality, malnutrition and access to education. However, poverty reduction remains a major challenge.
The Swiss Cooperation Strategy Bangladesh 2013-2017 will contribute to systemic change through facilitation, capacity building, advocacy and policy dialogue in the fields of Market Development, Skills Development and Local Governance. Outcomes in the three portfolios will focus on (1) citizens’ use of improved services, (2) the provision of improved and inclusive services by public and private sector players, and (3) the improvement of the enabling environment.
The Cooperation Strategy mainly focuses on the three thematic areas:
- Market Development
- Skills Development
- Local Governance
The priority areas and the lines of action are aligned with the Bangladesh Government's 6th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and the Joint Cooperation Strategy adopted between the Government and the Development Partners in 2011. Owing to the vulnerability of Bangladesh to natural disasters and with a view to capitalising on investments made under the Cooperation Strategy 2008-2012, Climate Change Adaptation will be addressed as a priority besides the core domains of intervention. Disaster Risk Reduction will be mainstreamed wherever relevant and feasible, in particular in the Market Development and Local Governance portfolios. SDC will continue to support relevant interventions in the fields of Human Rights promotion. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs intends to support a limited number of in-country initiatives, especially in regard to promoting sustainable trade and investment climate issues. Gender equality and good governance will be addressed as mandatory crosscutting themes
The Cooperation Strategy 2013-2017 will be mainly implemented by SDC’s Regional Cooperation. The budget allocation to implement the proposed programme will grow from currently about 30 to an estimated CHF 35-40 million per annum by 2017
In general, SDC is guided by the terms of the Paris Declaration to secure ownership for the joint endeavors among the national partners and to achieve a well coordinated, efficient cooperation with other donor agencies. Cooperation with other bi- and multilateral (likeminded) donors is an important way for becoming involved in the policy dialogue and for scaling up successful approaches.