Switzerland's engagement in Bangladesh seeks to establish strong, accountable local administrative structures that provide important public services and foster democratic participation. Switzerland also promotes economic growth and employment opportunities through activities in the vocational training system and cooperation with the private sector.
With a consistently high rate of economic growth and considerable progress in reducing poverty, Bangladesh is moving close to its goal of becoming a middle-income country as defined by the World Bank. Despite the improvements, one third of the population still lives in poverty. Rapid urban expansion is turning poverty – which used to mainly affect rural areas – into an urban problem. Bangladesh displays huge social contrasts, a tradition of latent and sometimes open conflicts (political violence, violence against women and ethnic minorities and a disregard for human rights) and a high level of corruption. Both politics and business are based on clientele systems, and democracy and rule-of-law institutions remain weak.
Swiss development cooperation aims to improve living conditions for poor and disadvantaged sections of the population. At the national level, Switzerland is involved in the dialogue on migration policy and is advocating improvements in working conditions, especially in the textiles sector. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is supporting a more favourable business environment and the implementation of trade agreements. Its 2013–2017 cooperation strategy focuses on three main geographic areas in the north, south and north-east of the country and the themes of local governance, employment and income.
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.