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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Application of Migration Policy for Decent Work of Migrant Workers

01.01.2019 - 31.07.2022

Men and women who opt for migrating abroad for employment will benefit from better protection through pre-departure orientation, the application of international standard contracts and access to social security/welfare. The project will improve migration governance in Bangladesh by strengthening the rather weak policy and legislative framework and by building the capacity of the government to expand and improve services for migrant workers.

SSIE-B - Scaling Social and Impact Enterprises in Bangladesh

15.12.2018 - 31.12.2023

By deploying innovative blended finance solutions and Swiss expertise on impact investment, SDC will accelerate the growth of social and impact-oriented start-up enterprises in Bangladesh. This will be achieved by improving the services available to entrepreneurs, stimulating investments into early-stage social enterprises, and creating incentives for enterprises to become more impact oriented. It will allow Switzerland to test a mechanism to leverage private resources for development, and improve the lives of poor men and women in a highly cost-effective manner, multiplying the impact of ODA resources.

SHIKHON: Horizontal Learning Programme in Bangladesh

01.12.2018 - 30.11.2022

The elected local government institutions (LGIs) in Bangladesh have a mandate to provide public services to the people, but they lack both capacities and budget. The quality and outreach of their services can be improved at relatively low cost through facilitation of peer learning which benefits millions of people. Recognizing the effectiveness of the peer learning approach across LGIs, the Government of Bangladesh committed to institutionalize this approach in its main training institute for LGI officials, with support from SDC.

WaSH Support for Rohingya Refugees and Vulnerable Local Communities in Cox’s Bazar District

25.11.2018 - 30.11.2022

Basic services such as infrastructure, health, water, forest and land resources that were available prior to the Rohingya influx in Cox’s Bazar are under strain due to the massive increase in people in the area. The HYSAWA Fund will address the needs and gaps of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, targeting vulnerable host communities and refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar by enhancing capacity of Local Government Institutions. It will apply tools developed in previous Swiss programmes to improve state-citizen relations and relationships between refugees and the host communities.

UNDP – Disaster Risk Management in Cox’s Bazar District

01.11.2018 - 31.10.2020

The location, climate and topography of Cox’s Bazar District makes it vulnerable to tropical cyclones and associated storm surges, flash flooding, and landslides. The influx of the Rohingya refugees have raised the population of an already poor, disaster prone-district to 3.5 million people, requiring significant upgrading of disaster risk management capacities. The project supports a comprehensive approach to developing local capacities and enables risk informed-decision making.

Strengthened and Informative Migration Systems (SIMS)

16.08.2018 - 14.12.2023

Labour migration remains a key driver for development in Bangladesh. The present project strengthens the socio-economic development of the country by providing better life perspectives for migrant workers. It enables migrant workers and their families to take informed decisions towards a productive and safe migration experience with reduced social costs. This supports implementation of the parliamentary mandate to better link Swiss migration policy with international cooperation.

Integrated Water Resources Management in the Barind areas

01.07.2018 - 31.12.2023

By promoting the coordinated, equitable and sustainable development and management of water, land and related resources, and addressing the institutional challenges associated with integrated water resources management, the project intends to ensure access to sufficient and safe water for the disadvantaged people of the Barind tracts in North-Western Bangladesh.   

Political Empowerment of Women Phase III

15.04.2018 - 14.01.2023

By focusing on women’s political empowerment, the project contributes to enhancing women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making, which leads towards a more inclusive society. With a more equitable governance system at the local level, citizens can hold institutions accountable and voice their needs and interests.

Efficient and Accountable Local Governance

01.11.2017 - 31.12.2022

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. 

Bangladesh Agricultural and Disaster Insurance Programme (BADIP)

15.05.2016 - 31.12.2022

Smallholder farmers in Bangladesh face considerable risks. Droughts, floods, winds, temperature shocks, pests and diseases can destroy their livelihoods and leave them indebted for years. To cope with such shocks, they are often forced to sell productive assets and fall back in poverty. By developing the market for agricultural insurance and related extension services, BADIP will sustainably increase poor farmers’ resilience, giving them the confidence and security to step up their productive investments.  

Ashshash – for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.09.2015 - 17.11.2022

Human trafficking deprives millions of their dignity and freedom. It is estimated that thousands are trafficked every year in Bangladesh. Switzerland has an interest that international migration is regular, secure, and respects human dignity and the rights of migrants. The project 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 the victims of trafficking. The intervention is beneficial for Switzerland’s political dialogue on safe, orderly and regular migration at the global level.

Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) - Phase II

01.11.2019 - 30.06.2023

The GWSP is a leading global "think tank" of the World Bank to address the water and sanitation challenge in an integrated manner, as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. GWSP advances innovative global knowledge production and exchange as well as builds capacity through country-level support across regions.

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