Swedish development cooperation with Bangladesh began soon after the country's independence in 1971 and has exceeded 1,7 billion US$ since then. The cooperation is focused on the areas of health (sexual and reproductive health and rights), inclusive economic growth (employment, skills development and industrial relations), human rights and democratic governance (women´s rights and anti-corruption), primary education (quality and inclusive), urban environment (water and sanitation) and climate change (adaptation and disaster risk management). Sweden is working closely both with the Government of Bangladesh and with other international and national development partners.
Bangladesh has since the 1970s made great progress towards a better life for the country's poor, particularly in primary education and basic health care. Based on Bangladesh five-year plan, Sweden focuses on deepening the support to basic health care, gender equality and women's rights, private sector development and the environment as well as climate change adaptation.
A new development strategy
In August 2014, the Swedish Government adopted a new development cooperation strategy with Bangladesh for the period 2014-2020. Its aim is to contribute to improving the conditions for people to raise themselves out of poverty, strengthening democracy, respect for human rights and gender equality, and to contribute to sustainable development. The strategy covers a total amount of 213 million US$ and is expected to contribute to four sub-objectives in the Swedish Government's foreign aid policy platform:
• Strengthened democracy and gender equality, greater respect for human rights and freedom from oppression (sub-objective 1)
• Better opportunities for people living in poverty to contribute to and benefit from economic growth and obtain a good education (sub-objective 2)
• A better environment, limited climate impact and greater resilience to environmental impact, climate change and natural disasters (sub-objective 3)
• Improved basic health, focusing particularly on women and children, sexual and reproductive health and rights (sub-objective 4)
Poor people in rural and urban areas often have limited access to public services of good quality. Sweden, through support in areas such as health and education, aims to contribute to improving this situation. Through targeted support for the national education system in Bangladesh, Sweden supports efforts to improve access and quality of primary education for all children. It is particularly important to reach the most vulnerable children. The Government's plan for the education sector has since 2005 seen a number of positive results. The enrolment of students is increasing steadily, new teaching positions are added and 4,000 new training centers are built for extremely poor children who have dropped out of the regular education system.
Basic health care:
increased investment in health care is another crucial area in Bangladesh five-year plan. The aim is to reach out to those groups that currently have the least access to health care. A special focus of Sweden’s support is improving sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of maternal health care, and to ensure that all people receive a good health care, in urban as well as rural areas. Basic health in Bangladesh has seen clear improvements over the years but challenges still remain. Only 13 percent of deliveries are made in the presence of trained birth attendants for example. Significant progress has however been made, such as reducing child mortality and increased number of vaccinations.
Bangladesh's democracy is still young and many challenges remain. Corruption is widespread and is regarded as an inhibiting factor for the development of the country. The lack of efficient and transparent institutions that allow for democratic accountability continues to be one of the greatest obstacles for the development. Within the framework of programme support, Sweden works to strengthen the role of citizens to examine the quality and accessibility of public services. A large part of Sweden’s support is directed to civil society organisations and their work to enhance democracy and human rights. The situation of women has improved in recent years, although domestic violence, sexual abuse in the workplace and in public spaces as well as concerns relating to dowry and honour culture is common. Sweden supports several important initiatives aimed at improving women's rights and combating violence against women.
Climate change and urban environment:
Bangladesh has a very vulnerable geographic location as most of the country is only a few meters above sea level and consist largely of a river delta. It counts as one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change. Although Bangladesh has made significant progress in disaster prevention and management, it is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones and flooding and most of them are expected to increase in extent and frequency due to climate change. Sweden supports Bangladesh in implementing its climate strategy and strengthening the country's disaster management systems. Urbanisation is rapid, and today 28% of the population live in cities. The fast influx of people, combined with insufficient investment in basic infrastructure, has meant increased poverty and environmental degradation in urban areas. A particularly vulnerable part of the population is the inhabitants in urban slums. Sweden therefore supports several efforts to improve access to safe water and sanitation facilities in urban areas.
Inclusive economic growth:
Inclusive, sustainable growth is an important condition for Bangladesh to make progress in its quest to become a middle-income country by 2021. The Government's five-year plan states, inter alia that increased economic growth requires more jobs in the manufacturing sector, which means that more jobs and more skilled workers are needed. Women are still highly under-represented in the labour market. Substandard working conditions, social norms and lack of social dialogue are major problems. Better dialogue between social partners in order to improve working conditions and worker’s rights is also important for increased productivity. Sweden supports through several so-called Public Private Development Partnerships to improve the quality of vocational education and workers' rights, especially in the ready-made garment industry.
Read about Swedish sector-wise contributions to the left.