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.
Swiss Development Cooperation in Bangladesh
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.