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

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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Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.04.2023 - 31.03.2027

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.

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.

2023 Annual Allocation to WFP Country Strategic Plans - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2023

Against historic levels of food security due to conflicts, climate change and COVID-19, Switzerland supports annually in 28 SDC priority countries operations of the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide humanitarian and development assistance. It funds indistinctively Country Strategic Plans, incorporating all WFP programmes or projects, based on affected population needs and potential synergies with other local partners, especially national governments and civil society.

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. 

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 - 31.08.2024

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.

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 - 31.01.2027

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. 

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