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.

Map of Bangladesh

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.

Local governance

The Swiss projects in the field of local governance are getting local people involved in politics and supporting local administrative structures in the provision of important services. The projects aim to improve the interaction between citizens, the executive and legislative bodies. Strengthening service provision, accountability, transparency and the proximity of local governments to the communities they serve is a precondition for further economic and social development in Bangladesh.

Bringing local governments closer to the communities they serve

More than 80,000 inhabitants have gained improved access to public services through capacity-building within local administrative structures and more involvement by communities in drawing up the annual budget of the local administration.

State and Economic Reforms

Promoting employment

Training opportunities for disadvantaged groups

By promoting employment and better working conditions, Switzerland is helping secure better livelihoods for poor and disadvantaged population groups in Bangladesh.

The centre of excellence for leather skills, which is supported by the SDC, offers training courses tailored to the needs of the companies for young people from disadvantaged sections of the population.  Thanks to the introduction of dual vocational education and training in this sector, more than 90% of the trainees find long-term employment after completing their training.

Basic education and vocational training 

Private sector and market development

Making markets work for the poor

Switzerland is promoting the private sector in Bangladesh by facilitating access to information, financing and services, optimising value chains for rural products and helping people access markets. Better market access raises the income of poor farmers and service providers and creates business opportunities. This makes for better, more stable livelihoods and sources of income that are more resilient to crisis and natural disaster.

Supporting farmers on the chars

Better boat connections with the mainland, contract farming and services are improving access to the market for the farmers on the chars (sand islands in the Ganges delta).  This region in the north of Bangladesh is frequently hit by natural disasters.  Thanks to these measures, around two million inhabitants of the chars have the opportunity to increase their income.

Private Sector Development and financial services

Humanitarian Aid

Disaster risk reduction

Given the country’s high vulnerability to natural disasters, Switzerland is engaged in disaster risk reduction programmes and helping people adjust to climate change in Bangladesh.

Humanitarian Aid 

Approach and partners

Switzerland is using a coherent and comprehensive approach to work closely with local authorities, other donor countries and international organisations such as the United Nations. It is mainly active in the north, south and north-east of the country.

Switzerland's main partners in Bangladesh are:

  • Swiss NGOs: Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Swisscontact
  • Local authorities
  • Local civil society organisations: "Ain O Salish Kendra"
  • Private sector representatives: Industry Skills Councils
  • Multilateral organisations: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Cross-cutting themes

Bangladesh is marked by social inequality and a high rate of corruption. Switzerland implements its gender policy consistently in all projects and is actively campaigning for gender equality. Local governance is an important cross-cutting theme.

Gender equality 

Current projects

Object 1 – 12 of 22

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

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.

Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.07.2018 - 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.

Local Economic Development (LED) Project

01.05.2018 - 31.12.2029

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.

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. 

Planned project

SHOMOSHTI - Prosperity for the poor and disadvantaged

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2028

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.

Shomoshti – Prosperity for the Poor and Disadvantaged

01.04.2017 - 31.03.2020

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 - 31.12.2019

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)

01.02.2017 - 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 1 – 12 of 22