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. Political power is highly concentrated and politically motivated religious extremism has become a security risk that is very difficult to contain. 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.

Crisis of Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is currently sheltering more than 650,000 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 20 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 two hospitals in the Cox’s Bazar region. Five 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.

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

Labour migration – for example to the Gulf States – is a valuable instrument for Bangladesh to overcome the effects of overpopulation and a saturated job market. At the same time, remittances are an important source of income. Labour migrants, however, must be better prepared for the challenges and risks involved. The SDC is actively working at the global, national and local levels on behalf of Bangladesh to ensure that labour migration is safer.

Migration

Swiss Humanitarian Aid

Emergency aid for refugees and with natural disasters

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.  

Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar have sought protection in the south-east of Bangladesh. Most of them are living in precarious conditions in make-shift camps. The SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Department is providing emergency aid, in particular with regard to food security, healthcare, access to drinking water and sanitation, and emergency accommodation. The SDC’s South Cooperation Department complements this engagement with medium-term development projects, from which the newcomers to the areas concerned should be able to benefit.

Swiss 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:

  • Local authorities

  • Swiss NGOs: Swisscontact, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation

  • Local civil society organisations:  the human rights organisation ‘Ain O Salish Kendra’, Transparency International Bangladesh

  • Private sector representatives: industry skills councils, textiles companies

  • Multilateral organisations: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Cross-cutting themes

Bangladesh is marked by social inequalities and a high level of corruption. Switzerland consistently applies its gender policy in all projects and is committed to equality between men and women. The SDC’s programmes give priority to aspects of political and economic governance. They are constantly reviewed for possible conflicts with the Bangladesh context and adapted where necessary.

Gender equality 

Current projects

Object 1 – 12 of 29

Improved Healthcare in Hospitals in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Women, children and men  in a Surgical ward

15.05.2018 - 31.12.2018

Since August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Together with refugees who fled during previous crises, some 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently living in Cox's Bazar district in southern Bangladesh. The region's three hospitals have been unable to cope with the enormous increase in the number of refugees.  Swiss Humanitarian Aid is helping to upgrade the hospitals' infrastructure and providing training in laboratory analysis and logistics.

Country/region Period Budget
Bangladesh

15.05.2018 - 31.12.2018


CHF 200'000



Bangladesh: courses to raise job prospects for the poor in the textiles and building sectors

Three sewing machine operators in a textile factory receiving on-the-job training from three other people.

01.04.2015 - 31.08.2019

The textiles and construction sectors in Bangladesh are recording high rates of growth, but many poor women and men lack the necessary qualifications for skilled jobs. By 2019, a project jointly financed by Switzerland and the United Kingdom aims to give 110,000 of them better prospects through on-the-job training. The results so far are promising.

Country/region Period Budget
Bangladesh

01.04.2015 - 31.08.2019


CHF 5'870'000



Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.10.2022 - 28.02.2029

20,000 people (of whom 70% women) who have experienced trafficking will be economically and socially rehabilitated. Public and private institutions will provide employment or in-kind support for entrepreneurship to men and women who have escaped trafficking. The Government will better address the prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers in the revision and enacting of policies, and create partnerships, for bringing about systemic changes.


Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme

01.09.2021 - 31.12.2028

Farmers will improve their productivity and resilience by gaining access to client-oriented and affordable agricultural insurance products. Insurance-cover will allow farmers to invest in higher-return activities, access credit and to recover faster when affected by weather, diseases and disasters. By building capacity of and facilitating coordination and linkages among key stakeholders, inclusive insurance markets will be developed to eventually cater for several million farmers.


Policy Reform on Local Governance (PROLOG II)

01.11.2020 - 31.12.2023

Decentralisation as a strategy for pro-poor political transformation has gained prominence globally as it places Local Governments on the driving seat for improved local public services. The project provides technical assistance to the Government of Bangladesh in the decentralization reform and increases accountability of the rural and urban municipalities towards their citizens including women and disadvantaged groups. Ultimately, citizens in municipalities will gain from public services responding to their needs.


Planned project

SHOMOSHTI - Prosperity for the poor and disadvantaged

01.04.2020 - 30.06.2027

Rural households, engaged in agriculture and cottage industries, will benefit from a better wellbeing due to more income and savings, and improved nutrition, health and levels of education. The Shomoshti project will achieve this through a combined approach of facilitating markets to work for the poor and disadvantaged, and ensuring their effective access to social services and savings systems.


Local Economic Development (LED) Project

01.02.2020 - 30.09.2029

Small and medium entrepreneurs, their employees, and citizens will benefit from inclusive economic growth and equitable employment generation. Public and private sector actors will engage in joint local economic strategizing, planning and implementation. The improved framework conditions for inclusive business will result in more jobs, economic empowerment and ultimately increased sustainable income and well-being; particularly of the poor and disadvantaged.


Planned project

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

01.11.2019 - 31.10.2027

The Building Skills for Unemployed and Underemployed Labour project will develop the skills of poor and disadvantaged men and women at the grassroots level, to enhance their income through decent employment and move them out of poverty. The project will work with the Informal Sector Industry Skills Council to improve work conditions through partnerships with the private informal enterprises and private training providers.


Planned project

Strengthened & Informative Migration Systems (SIMS)

01.11.2019 - 31.10.2026

The project supports men and women migrant workers and their families to make informed choices related to migration. The benefits of migration are enhanced for individuals and for the society through dissemination of key information on safe migration, access to legal support and trainings as well as through strengthening the service delivery capacity of government and non-government agencies. Bangladesh is a key partner in the global dialogue on migration and its continued active role in this sphere is in Switzerland’s interest.


Inclusive Assistance to Extremely Vulnerable Communities in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

15.08.2018 - 30.04.2019

Cox’s Bazar District is currently hosting approx. 900’000 refugees from Myanmar. A high proportion remain in a chronic emergency situation due to long-term challenges to find durable solutions on safe return. Handicap International’s intervention aims to improve access to specific health services for both refugees and host community members by supporting a public hospital and providing assistance with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and to people with disabilities.


Prevention of violence and mitigation of conflicts during parliamentary election cycle

01.08.2018 - 31.05.2019

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.


Solidarités International: Post Emergency Multi Sectoral Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

01.07.2018 - 30.06.2019

In order to improve the resilience capacities of both Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, this project will provide water, sanitation and hygiene services and strengthen resilience and protection capacities through income generating activities. It will thereby address key humanitarian and development challenges jointly faced by refugee and host populations in the district.

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