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Strategic objectives and key areas addressed in Danish-Bangladesh partnership

Denmark’s engagement in Bangladesh takes its point of departure in the complex political context and the development challenges, but also in the many opportunities that exist in Bangladesh.

D.1 Inclusive and sustainable economic growth

Building on a long-standing partnership with Bangladesh to address poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth and employment, this strategic objective will continue to be guided by SDGs 1 (“ending poverty”), 5 (“gender equality”), 8 (“decent work and economic growth”), 10 (“reduction of inequality”) and 13 (“climate action”).

Based on lessons learned from years of cooperation with the Bangladeshi Ministry of Agriculture, Denmark will consolidate results achieved from its national focus on livelihood improvements, rural economic development and climate resilience with a focus on women and youth. In the medium term, it is envisaged that the previous emphasis on empowerment of poor rural households through the Farmer Field School approach will gradually shift towards a more private sector-led value chain approach to economic development and the creation of decent jobs, including for women and youth. Lessons learned from the Strategic Sector Cooperation will to the extent possible complement and be included in the development engagements. It will also be explored how Danish business solutions and know-how can be applied to leverage the pro-poor Danida investments – in line with SDG 17 (“partnerships for the goals”). Danish businesses can play an important role in creating growth and decent jobs in Bangladesh, while there is also a significant potential for local demand for Danish solutions.

Consequently, Denmark will increasingly center its support around the linkages between agricultural supply and demand markets – more specifically between farmers that are poor (but with some means of production) and their producer organisations on the one hand and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) within the agribusiness sector on the other. The aim is to enhance value addition throughout the value chain, thereby improving markets and employment opportunities for the poor farmers while stimulating private sector growth through agribusiness development. Climate smart solutions and strategies for adapting to challenges in the supply market will increasingly serve as a guiding principle. In line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the new private sector development approach will emphasize issues such as climate and environment, gender equality, youth, social protection, and human rights including the rights of workers. Realising that markets do not automatically work in favour of the poor, Denmark will strive to ensure that increased profit and value addition benefit all value chain actors, including smallholder farmers.

D.2 Enhanced resilience of selected vulnerable and marginalised groups, including Rohingya refugees and host communities as well as groups prone to irregular migration and climate affected displacement

In line with the principle of the SDGs to leave no one behind, Denmark will maintain its focus on marginalised and vulnerable groups. It is assumed that skills and agribusiness development will lead to better jobs and improved income for these groups. A lack of economic opportunities being one of the root causes of irregular migration, it is further assumed that the support will have a positive effect on vulnerable groups of potential irregular migrants. Denmark will cooperate with the Bangladeshi authorities on enhancing migration management, i.a. through information campaigns about the risks of irregular migration and responsible reintegration of returning Bangladeshi citizens as well as through contributions to the reintegration of returnees.

Denmark will support efforts to improve the livelihood and climate resilience of Rohingya refugees and affected host communities in South Eastern Bangladesh. The support will build on lessons learned from the Farmer Field School approach, but will also focus on social cohesion and peaceful coexistence between host communities and the refugee population. Such a focus is key in providing for the protection space that is needed for a continued effective humanitarian response to the refugee crisis. It is Denmark’s ambition to strengthen the Humanitarian-Development Nexus approach in a Bangladeshi context and in doing so ensuring that the Danish development engagements are applied in synergy with the humanitarian interventions as part of a more durable and longer-term response to the refugee crisis. Underpinning this, Denmark will utilize knowledge of more durable solutions from other contexts to promote stronger coordination between development partners and humanitarian actors and a long-term commitment in Bangladesh. In addition, Denmark will continue livelihood support to the indigenous and marginalised people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Denmark will continue to stay engaged in the political dialogue to promote sustainable solutions together with relevant international partners.

D.3 Democracy, good governance, human rights and gender equality

This strategic objective will be guided by SDGs 5 (“gender equality”) and 16 (“peace, justice and strong institutions”).

In the areas of gender, human rights and anti-corruption, Denmark has long-term partnerships with several public institutions and NGOs. These partnerships provide Denmark with a high degree of credibility and trust – as well as responsibility – in these areas, vis-à-vis the Bangladeshi actors. Denmark is highly regarded for its constructive advocacy on delicate issues, including fighting corruption and upholding rule of law. Value-based dialogue will remain an important element in Denmark’s partnership with Bangladesh in the years to come, and Denmark will maintain a constructive dialogue with partners and interlocutors on a wide range of issues of interest to both countries.

Denmark will consolidate ongoing development activities that promote human rights and good governance, improved working conditions and workers safety, civic space, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, while combating gender based violence, radicalisation and violent extremism. In this context, Denmark will also look for new entry points to provide support to local civil society.

Denmark will seek influence in the areas with the best possibilities for creating positive change. Political dialogue – both bilateral and through the EU – will be a key instrument in contributing to the development of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of speech, which is particularly relevant in the wake of the 2018 parliamentary election. In addition Denmark will seek broad partnerships with likeminded partners and development actors, including relevant Danish strategic NGOs.

Both Bangladesh and Denmark are members of the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the period 2019-2021. This creates an opportunity for re-enforcing cooperation in the area of human rights and gives a platform for dialogue at a higher level. The locally-based process of following up on recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is another concrete opportunity where closer cooperation and dialogue can support improvements to the human right situation in Bangladesh.

Denmark will work to strengthen local civil society through the provision of longterm support, including – where relevant – support for networks, dialogue activities etc. with the aim of building local capacity and collective resilience to pressure. Danish and international NGO-partners will be an important vehicle for such efforts.

D.4 Increased and diversified economic and commercial relations

The commercial opportunities in Bangladesh are generally seen as attractive by Danish companies, which is reflected in growing engagement year by year. More than two million Bangladeshis join the ranks of the middle class every year and Bangladeshi consumers are eager to spend on more sophisticated goods and services.

Meanwhile, the Government of Bangladesh as well as the private sector increasingly focus on green growth and sustainability. There is a growing interest from several sectors, including the RMG sector, in efficient and green solutions within energy and water as well as a drive towards higher-level technological solutions – areas where Danish businesses hold a strong position and where investments can contribute to achieving the SDGs. At the same time, Danish companies sourcing in Bangladesh, particularly within the RMG sector, have an interest in ensuring that their products comply with required standards and are produced under sustainable and socially responsible conditions. However, protectionism of the local industry is very common and high import duties on many products challenge the Danish export opportunities and the competition in general. To tap into the large business opportunities in Bangladesh, Danish companies will therefore need to ensure local content in the value chain of their products.

Large companies within the dairy and pharmaceutical sectors have a long history in the country and a growing portfolio, and several Danish clothing brands have long sourced from Bangladeshi textile factories. Investments in the local production of Danish brands contribute to both development of the specific sectors by transfer of know-how and technology and secure local employment and growth opportunities. These well-established Danish companies serve as inspiration for new companies within a broad range of industries. Danish consulting companies occasionally win contracts tendered by the development banks or the government, but there is an additional potential to tap.

Denmark will continue and expand the Strategic Sector Cooperation on workers’ safety between the relevant authorities in Denmark and Bangladesh in support of Danish buyers. At the same time, Denmark will continue to enhance synergies between the development cooperation and commercial activities and promote Danida Business Finance instruments, Denmark’s Export Credit Facility (EKF), the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU) and other financing instruments, including the multilateral banks.

Denmark will continue to provide high quality services to Danish companies. The Danish Embassy in Dhaka offers all the services from the Trade Council available to Danish companies. Going forward, commercial relations will be promoted within a wider regional Trade Council approach for South Asia and aligned to regional clusters in order to provide better services and critical mass to companies and partners.

Meanwhile, to better support Danish businesses, Denmark will strengthen its economic diplomacy in Bangladesh, both bilaterally and in cooperation with the EU. In context of the latter, Denmark is engaged in the Bangladesh-EU business dialogue, that seeks to promote and improve the business environment.