Photo: Wilda Nilsson
Our work in Bangladesh
Swedish development cooperation with Bangladesh began shortly after the country's independence in 1971. Bangladesh has made great strides to improve the situation for its poor since then, but much remains to be done. More than half of the population still lives in poverty. Sweden has contributed a total of 10 billion SEK to Bangladesh.
The long term goals of Sida's work in Bangladesh is to give people better opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty, and to contribute to the strengthening of democracy, the respect for human rights and gender equality, and to sustainable development.
The 2014-2020 strategy encompasses a total of 1.6 billion SEK and is expected to contribute to the following four targets:
- Strengthened democracy and gender equality, greater respect for human rights and freedom from oppression.
- Better opportunities for people living in poverty to contribute to and benefit from economic growth and obtain a good education.
- A better environment, reduced climate impact and greater resilience to environmental impact, climate change and natural disasters.
- Improved basic health, with a particular focus on children, women and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Based on Bangladesh's own five-year development plan, Sida is focusing on expanding its support for health, women's rights and climate change adaptation.
Groups of poor people in rural areas and in cities still have limited access to good quality public services. Through targeted support for the national education system in Bangladesh, we support efforts to improve access to and quality of primary education for all children. It is of particular importance that the support reaches the most vulnerable children. The government plan for the education sector has seen a number of positive results since 2005, with Swedish support. The enrolment rate is steadily increasing, new teaching positions are filled and 4,000 new education centres are being built for extremely poor children who had fallen out of the system. Sweden will phase out its support to the education sector until 2017.
Increased investment in health care is another key component of Bangladesh's five-year development plan. The plan is to reach out to those with the least access to health care. The Sida support has a special focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of maternal health care, and on the access to good quality health care in both urban and rural areas. There have been clear improvements of health care in recent years but much remains to be done before reaching an acceptable level. For example, only 13 percent of deliveries are attended by medical personnel. However, there has been significant progress, such as reduced infant mortality and increased immunization coverage.
Bangladesh is still a young and unstable democracy. Corruption is widespread and inhibits the development of the country. The lack of rule-governed, transparent institutions that allow for democratic accountability continues to be the biggest obstacle to development. Sida works to strengthen the role of citizens in monitoring the quality and accessibility of public services. An important part of our support is directed to civil society organizations and their democracy and human rights work. One example is Transparency International Bangladesh that reviews and works for institutional reforms at the national level and grassroots mobilization at the local level, for increased awareness of corruption and increased accountability.
The situation of women has improved in recent years, albeit from a low level. Domestic violence, sexual abuse in the workplace and in public spaces as well as problems relating to dowry and culture of honour, create a difficult situation for many women. Sweden supports several important initiatives aimed at improving women's rights and combating violence against women.
Climate change and environment
Bangladesh ranks high on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change due to its geographical setting. While Bangladesh has made significant progress in disaster prevention and management, the country is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and cyclones and the number of disasters are projected to increase in extent and frequency due to climate change.
Sida supports Bangladesh in the implementation of its climate strategy and the strengthening of its disaster management systems. The rate of urbanization is high, and 27 percent of the population live in cities. The rapid urbanization, combined with insufficient investment, has lead to increased poverty and environmental degradation of urban areas. People living in urban slums are particularly vulnerable. Sweden supports several projects, including water and sanitation, in these areas.
It is noted in the government's five-year development plan that increased growth requires more jobs in the manufacturing sector. That, in turn, requires increased employability. Women are vastly underrepresented in the labour market. Substandard working conditions and a lack of social dialogue are major problems. Trade unions are largely politicized and the awareness of workers' rights is low. Sweden is working through several Public Private Development Partnerships to improve the quality of vocational trainings and to increase workers' rights, especially in the textile industry.