Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, Switzerland works with its partners to promote sustainable economic and social development. It works to improve market and working conditions and promote the rights and participation of minorities, women and young people to pave the way for a prosperous, just and inclusive society. It is thereby also helping Bangladesh to tackle the negative consequences of climate change. 

Map of Bangladesh
© FDFA

In recent years, Bangladesh has achieved significant economic growth and made remarkable progress in poverty reduction and social development. It is on the cusp of transitioning out of the least developed countries category. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous socio-economic impact on this densely populated country and threatens to undermine development gains made to date. Scarce resources and the negative effects of climate change are having an increasingly significant impact on daily life.

Swiss development cooperation seeks to help make Bangladeshi society more prosperous, fair and resilient. The Swiss Cooperation Programme for Bangladesh 2022–25 focuses on promoting economic resilience, improving access to basic services for disadvantaged populations, addressing climate and disaster risks, and working towards dignified long-term solutions for Rohingya refugees.

Economic development

Sustainable and inclusive private sector engagement

Switzerland is increasingly focusing its efforts on improving economic fundamentals. It promotes climate-resilient, eco-friendly and inclusive private sector engagement in industries such as agriculture, precision engineering and textile and leather processing. The aim is to further strengthen the local economy and create suitable income opportunities for all sections of the population. Economic development activities also encompass trade facilitation and SECO's support for the financial sector.

Switzerland also provides, in close cooperation with the private sector, market-oriented vocational training in order to enable young people to find employment or a better job. To increase private sector engagement in the fight against poverty, it supports social enterprises and insurance providers.

Private sector development and financial services

Democratic governance

Improved social well-being for all

Improvements in the rule of law and good governance are essential for sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Swiss projects consequently also promote the development of democratic state institutions, human rights and high-quality basic services. To ensure that no one is left behind as Bangladeshi society progresses towards prosperity, the projects offer targeted social protection for particularly vulnerable people. To enable civil society to provide the necessary checks and balances, Switzerland also works to strengthen the voice and participation of civil society stakeholders. All of these factors play a key role in sustainable development that leaves no one behind. 

State and Economic Reforms

Myanmar refugee crisis

In 2021, Bangladesh hosted over 900,000 people who had fled the violence in Myanmar and taken refuge in the border area of Cox's Bazar. A large majority of these refugees had sought refuge in Bangladesh between 2017 and 2019. Cox's Bazar's 34 camps constitute the world's largest refugee camp.

The 2021 military coup in Myanmar added a new level of complexity to the Rohingya refugee crisis and has created major challenges for the Bangladeshi authorities and host communities. Furthermore, the Bangladeshi government has recently started resettling Rohingya refugees on the remote island of Bhasan Char.

In response to the scale of needs since the country began to experience an escalation of violence in 2017, Switzerland has allocated over CHF 45 million in assistance (this sum includes funds budgeted for 2022). This humanitarian commitment has enabled the refugees to gain access to drinking water, food, shelter and sanitation. Access to education and income remain major challenges, however. In addition to emergency aid for the refugees, the SDC is supporting medium-term development activities in the region aimed at providing assistance to local host communities.

The refugee problem has long become a protracted and highly complex crisis. Despite a wide range of efforts, the necessary conditions for the dignified, safe, voluntary and permanent return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar are not in place. Switzerland will continue to advocate for humane housing for refugees and take an active part in the search for a more lasting solution to the refugee problem.

Approach and partners

Switzerland's transversal activities focus strongly on climate and disaster risk reduction, as Bangladesh is one of the most affected countries. Furthermore, gender equality and social inclusion are consistently mainstreamed in all projects. Good governance principles are also taken into account in all programmes.

Swiss development cooperation and humanitarian aid are coordinated to ensure complementarity. The implementing partners are the Bangladeshi government, national and international organisations and the private sector. 

Current projects

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Strengthened and Informative Migration Systems (SIMS) Phase II

01.04.2024 - 31.03.2029

Switzerland is interested in ensuring that international migration is regular, secure, respects human dignity and the rights of migrants. The project will institutionalise well tested awareness mechanisms on the perils of irregular migration and enhance further public and private capacities to deliver services to potential migrants. The intervention contributes to Switzerland’s dialogue on safe, orderly and regular migration at national and global levels.


Access 2 Green Financing for Enterprises

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2035

Building on Switzerland’s experience with innovative access to finance avenues, this programme facilitates mobilising green finance for small and medium sized enterprises in Bangladesh. The focus is on enterprises that have a strong commitment to reducing their environmental footprint and to providing green products and services in order to address climate change and reduce environmental degradation. 


WFP: Building Resiliency & self reliance

15.11.2023 - 14.11.2024

The Swiss contribution to the World Food Programme’s Country Strategic Programme will foster and enhance resiliency through agricultural skilling and increased access to income, allowing for the Rohingya refugees to become more self-reliant and support their basic needs. As a contributor to a multi-donor framework, Switzerland can simultaneously leverage durable solutions advancement in the Rohingya response while ensuring service delivery for the most vulnerable in the refugee camps. 


Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Programme

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2027

This programme takes forward Switzerland’s global and in-country experience in working on agricultural microinsurance by addressing critical climate risks, hazards and resulting economic shocks for farming people. The programme will sustainably increase resilience of farmers and related micro and small enterprises through climate change adaptation practices, and stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth across multiple agricultural sub-sectors.


Ashshash – for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2027

Switzerland has an interest in ensuring that international migration is regular, secure, and respects human dignity and the rights of migrants. The programme will support men and women who have escaped trafficking to reintegrate into society, raise awareness on the perils of irregular migration and improve public and private capacities to deliver services to victims of trafficking. The intervention contributes to Switzerland’s political dialogue on safe, orderly and regular migration at the global level.


Astha - Election Support Project

01.05.2023 - 30.06.2026

The democracy of Bangladesh will be strengthened through a fair, free, inclusive and non-violent election cycle, to which this project contributes by supporting the Bangladesh Election Commission, civil society organisations, media and marginalised communities including women and/or youth groups. The project builds on Switzerland’s democratic principles to foster good governance, at all levels, within electoral processes. 


Bamboo Climate Action

15.03.2023 - 31.03.2026

Aligned with Switzerland’s Climate Change and Environment and Social Cohesion priorities the project builds on existing market systems expertise to establish bamboo as a nature-based solution able to address the environmental and economic vulnerabilities of host and refugee communities in a protracted crisis. Thus, bamboo aims to enhance livelihoods and risk mitigation caused by the impacts of climate change and disasters. This nexus project supports Bangladesh’s Social Forestry initiatives and works across humanitarian and development axis. 


Contribution to UNHCR Programme Budget 2023-2024 (earmarked)

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2024

UNHCR is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners due to its unique mandate by the General Assembly of United Nations to provide protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, refugee returnees, and stateless persons. The strategic direction 2022-26 concretise the overall mandate of UNHCR for the upcoming years. Contributing to these directions allows Switzerland to achieve in particular the human development goal defined in the Dispatch to Parliament on International Cooperation for 2021-24.


JPOs4UN Programme 2023-2028

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2028

The JPOs4UN programme aims at increasing the presence of Switzerland in the UN by augmenting the number of Swiss nationals working in SDC priority UN organizations. Switzerland directly funds partner humanitarian UN organizations to hire 11 Swiss young professionals on a three-year Junior Programme Officer contract; the Swiss foundation CINFO provides administrative support and career counselling. Swiss nationals add to a qualified and diverse UN workforce to implement the Agenda 2030.


PROGOTI

01.09.2022 - 31.05.2027

PROGOTI aims to unlock the untapped potential of Bangladesh’s cultural sector for positive change and sustainable development. Guided by the principles of inclusivity and collaboration, it will empower artists and cultural actors, and foster freedom of expression through a robust network of champions advocating gender equality and social inclusion. Upholding Switzerland’s commitment to diversity and cultural exchange, it will encourage critical thinking and dialogue for a vibrant culture in Khulna and Jessore districts. 


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. 


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

01.09.2020 - 31.08.2024

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.

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