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

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Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

18.11.2022 - 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.


PACTA - Participatory Action Against Corruption: Towards Transparency and Accountability

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2026

In Bangladesh, Switzerland was instrumental in engaging likeminded development partners to support prominent local actors to curb corruption and establish transparent and accountable governance systems. This project, co-funded by Switzerland with the UK and Sweden, will continue the work on reducing corruption by engaging citizens, adding the use of an innovative digital tool for community monitoring. Based on the evidence collected on corruption incidences, the project will reinforce policy advocacy and engagement at different levels. 


Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme

01.11.2021 - 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.


COVID-19 Prevention and Resilience

01.07.2021 - 30.06.2023

The second wave of the COVID-19 virus has affected Bangladesh more intensely than the initial phase, impeding socioeconomic recovery and reiterating the importance of resilience building. This programme aims at engaging communities to curb the further spread of COVID-19 and enhancing socioeconomic resilience. Drawing upon Switzerland’s long-standing experience in providing rapid response and working on inclusive and sustainable development, it focuses on the disadvantaged segments of the population. 


B-SkillFUL (Building Skills for ployed and Underemployed Labour) Phase Il

01.09.2020 - 31.12.2024

Drawing upon Switzerland's experiences with apprenticeship programmes and leveraging private sector investments, this programme will create economic opportunities for poor men and women within small and medium size enterprises in furniture, light engineering and leathergoods sectors. Combining business development senyices for enterprise development with workplace-based training, it will result in increased employment creation, better remuneration and working conditions in six informal SME clusters.


Prabriddhi: Local Economic Development at District Level in Bangladesh

01.09.2020 - 31.08.2025

In six urban municipalities and their surrounding territories, the public and private sector and civil society will engage in participatory local economic development planning and implementation, generating income opportunities for poor and disadvantaged women and men. The project combines Switzerland’s expertise in market development and local governance to develop and refine a model of local economic planning and creates the right conditions for its wider replications by the Government of Bangladesh.


M4C - Making Markets Work for the Jamuna, Padma and Teesta Chars

01.07.2020 - 30.06.2024

Leveraging on Switzerland’s longstanding engagement and experience in pro-poor agricultural market development, this project will benefit 75,000 poor and disadvantaged households living on riverine islands through profitable and environmentally sustainable livelihoods options. Thanks to improved access to agricultural inputs and services, access to output markets and financial services, they will generate an additional income of CHF 14.5 million to be invested into the diversification of their farm business and basic needs.


COVID-19 Preparedness and Relief

01.06.2020 - 31.05.2022

The proposed interventions support the Government of Bangladesh in its efforts to fight against the further spread of COVID-19 and to address the socio-economic consequences for the Bangladeshi people, in particular for disadvantaged groups. Access to information, provision of safe water and food or cash support are among the key outputs. The long-standing experience of Switzerland and its implementing partners in various sectors of public life and trusted relationships with national and local governments add value to the intervention.


Reintegration of Migrant Workers in Bangladesh

01.05.2020 - 30.11.2025

Reintegration of returnee women and men migrant workers into their communities through self or wage-employment and customised support services is a priority in the current pandemic context. The project will take advantage of the favourable relationship Switzerland enjoys as a longstanding partner of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment to provide technical assistance for establishing and improving services for returnee migrant workers, building upon country systems.


SDC BRAC Social Cohesion Fund for Cox’s Bazar District

01.04.2020 - 30.09.2024

This fund strengthens social cohesion in Cox’s Bazar by mitigating the negative consequences of the refugee influx on the most vulnerable segments of the local population. It will strategically upscale projects of BRAC, the biggest Bangladeshi NGO, through a series of medium-term contributions, adapted to the volatile context and emerging needs. The first two projects will support over 60’000 poor people to claim their rights and obtain legal redress and place 4’500 poor people in gainful employment. The intervention complements the engagement of Swiss Humanitarian Aid.


SanMarkS - Scaling up Sanitation Mar-ket Systems in Bangladesh

20.12.2019 - 30.11.2024

Using favourable conditions in Bangladesh, Switzerland will scale-up a market system approach to sanitation by leveraging the private sector. SanMarkS phase-2 will improve the health, livelihoods, dignity and wellbeing of 4.5 million rural people in 35 project districts through the use of improved sanitation services. The successful approach to be scaled up entails strengthening private supply chains for sanitation products and services, stimulating consumer demand and creating an enabling environment for service delivery. 


Return and Reintegration of Migrant Workers in Bangladesh

01.01.2019 - 28.02.2022

The project’s over-arching goal is to make reintegration economically and socially sustainable for returnee migrants, so that they do not feel obliged to re-migrate. The project will raise awareness of the obstacles returnee men and women migrants are facing. The collaboration with European partners will allow to influence the discourse on dignified and development-oriented migration and return in Bangladesh

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