Describing the LDC graduation as an important milestone and a remarkable feat for Bangladesh, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Ambassador Patricia Danzi has said it is necessary for the country to prepare for the post-graduation era when certain market access preferences may cease to exist.
"One of the biggest challenges for Bangladesh going forward will be to ensure that its graduation journey is smooth, inclusive and sustainable, leaving no one behind, '' Ambassador Danzi, who represented Switzerland in athletics at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, told UNB in an interview.
She laid emphasis on addressing various structural reforms to enhance predictability in the market and demonstrate strong economic governance.
Currently, Ambassador Danzi said, the whole world is unsettled with the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic which has created new poverty fault lines, upended the global economy and exacerbated inequality.
"In this crucial period and under our new Cooperation Programme, Switzerland will continue to work closely with Bangladesh to address poverty reduction and contribute to an inclusive economic development," she said, wrapping up her visit to Bangladesh.
Looking to the future, Ambassador Danzi said, Switzerland will continue its "committed partnership with Bangladesh" towards the next stage of its development.
"During my visit, I've witnessed a lot of goodwill that Switzerland enjoys in this country and openness in dialoguing and exchanging views," she said.
All these ingredients, Ambassador Danzi said, are central and they will want to build on that. "Now let's take this next step together and work to create a prosperous and sustainable future for all."
She said climate change is certainly another fundamental challenge and solutions to finance the necessary adaptation and mitigation measures will have to be in place.
"Durable and transparent climate financing was one of our priorities during the recent COP26 in Glasgow," Danzi said.
Describing Switzerland's relations with Bangladesh as "excellent", she said they nurture a solid and forward-looking partnership in many major areas, including international cooperation, trade and investment, political and cultural spheres.
"In 2022, our two countries will celebrate 50 years of bilateral ties. One of the main purposes of my visit to Bangladesh was to kickstart the celebration of this very special occasion," Danzi she said, adding that this milestone indeed allows them to reflect on the past years and look to the future.
She listed several areas where the two countries can work more closely to take the relations to the next level.
For instance – and that is currently so important -, Bangladesh and Switzerland share a common commitment towards the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and the vision of a world leaving no one behind, she said.
"To that end, my visit marked the launch of the Bangladesh Cooperation Programme of Switzerland for the years 2022-2025."
Ambassador Danzi mentioned that Switzerland and Bangladesh will continue to collaborate in multilateral fora. "Since my country is a candidate for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council for 2023-2025, I'm sure that this will be a very good occasion to work together to promote peace and security."
During her visit, she spent two days in Cox's Bazar and commended Bangladesh for its generosity in hosting over 1 million Rohingya refugees since 2017. "This humanitarian crisis is a challenge for the Rohingya refugees, for the host community and for Bangladesh as a host country," Danzi said.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Switzerland has been engaged with Bangladesh and on the international stage.
"During this period, we've contributed CHF 49.5 million to the crisis. This makes Switzerland one of the biggest donors per capita, and we remain committed to supporting refugees and host communities until a sustainable, voluntary, safe and dignified return is possible," she said.
It is, therefore, essential, Danzi said, under the current circumstances, to keep hopes alive and provide Rohingya with education and livelihood opportunities.
Responding to a question, she said international cooperation is a key and historically strong pillar in two countries' bilateral relations.
Over the last decades, Ambassador Danzi said, Switzerland has supported Bangladesh with over $1 billion in development cooperation and humanitarian aid in various socio-economic sectors.
"This is a testament of our firm and committed partnership with your country. I have visited several development and humanitarian interventions in the last few days and I am proud to say that the Swiss-supported projects are highly context-relevant and have a real impact on the ground."
Taking into account the opportunities of the market and the leverage of the private sector – the so-called "market-led approach", she said their projects benefit the poor and the disadvantaged population, who are the ones who need this assistance the most.
Giving two examples, Danzi said, between 2018 and 2021, an estimated 1.4 million farmers, entrepreneurs and skills training graduates used new or improved market, social and skills development services with their support.
"In addition, over two million people were reached and informed about safe migration practices and migrant rights," she said, adding that a critical feature of our development interventions is that they contribute to empower beneficiaries and enable them to make their own decisions and change their lives.
Asked about priority areas, she said they launched their new cooperation programme for Bangladesh on 22 December.
Ambassador Danzi said it is guided by Swiss foreign policy priorities and her country's international cooperation strategy. "It is also aligned with the Agenda 2030 and Bangladesh's development priorities. Our overall goal is to support a sustainable LDC graduation, promote a more prosperous, just and resilient society, and contribute to peaceful coexistence," she said.
Switzerland will invest around CHF 119 million or Tk 11 billion to implement this programme over the next four years.
Bangladesh, with the upcoming graduation, is at a crossroads and their Programme 2022-2025 reflects this and the journey ahead, said Ambassador Danzi.
She said it has strong economic development and cooperation components, including a decisive market-led approach, for example in skills development, and a vision to engage more with the private sector, for instance in the field of insurance. "SDGs are certainly at the core of our activities since they will contribute to build back better after the pandemic," Danzi said.
In that regard, one SDG that is particularly dear to our hearts is SDG 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions - since it is so closely interlinked with other SDGs, she mentioned.
"Indeed, without peace, justice and inclusion, achieving goals such as ending poverty, ensuring education, promoting economic growth seem difficult or even impossible," Ambassador Danzi said.
Trade and Investment
She said trade and investment relations between the countries are steadily growing and they expect this trend to continue.
The Swiss private sector has expertise, know-how, and capacity to offer innovative and technology-based solutions and services to the Bangladeshi market, which will further boost our economic ties and create win-win outcomes for all in the future, Danzi said.
"From my perspective, I also see how innovative our program is in terms of economic development. I had a chance to visit a garment factory where, with Swiss support, initiatives – under the impact investing agenda - improve the well-being of the workers and workplace conditions. This is very important and will contribute to make Bangladesh sustainable in the long run," she mentioned.
"As I said before, Bangladesh may also lose concessional financing after graduation. Hence, developing the capital market and looking into mobilising resources from the private sector through ways such as impact investment are key," she said.
Congratulating Bangladesh for this important anniversary, Ambassador Danzi said over the last five decades, the collaboration between the two countries has been mutually beneficial and rewarding.