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Bangladesh has followed a remarkable trajectory in the last couple of decades and is expected to graduate from the United Nation’s classification as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by 2024. The country has moreover achieved impressive progress in social development. These achievements – and the fact that Bangladesh has opened its borders to nearly a million Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar and now hosts the world’s largest refugee camp – reflect the strong aspiration of Bangladesh and its people to be recognised by the world as an equal partner and in its own right.

Thus in the years to come, Bangladesh will need to prepare itself for a smooth graduation from LDC-status, which after a grace period of 3 years will take full effect in 2027. Meanwhile, Bangladesh faces challenges in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in regards to addressing climate change, increased inequality, weak institutions and corruption, as well as job-creation for large generations of young people. In addition, democracy, rule of law and human rights have come under increased pressure, notably in connection with the parliamentary elections in December 2018. If not managed, these factors may lead to increased irregular migration – including to Europe – and the risk of instability.

Dating back to Bangladesh’s independence in 1972, the development cooperation between Denmark and Bangladesh has contributed to the country’s progress in many areas such as agriculture, climate resilience, governance, and women’s rights. To underpin the fast development and increasing diversification of trade and commercial relations, Strategic Sector Cooperation was established in 2015 in the area of workers’ rights and safety. Well-functioning cooperation on return and readmission has been established, and most recently, Denmark has provided substantial humanitarian and development assistance in the context of the massive influx of Rohingya refugees since 2017. The long-term and comprehensive engagement has resulted in a solid and trusted partnership.

Denmark has a strong interest in continuing a broad-based partnership with Bangladesh. In addition to being one of Asia’s fastest growing economies with an emerging consumer market, its strategic location, large and young population and economic dynamics create significant opportunities for Danish investment and trade. Politically, Denmark has an interest in contributing to ensure that Bangladesh remains a stable country that upholds rule of law and human rights, is resilient to radicalism and extremism and prevents irregular migration. A continued development partnership, in conjunction with engagements through the EU and multilateral partners, will play an important role in this regard.

This country policy paper covers the period 2019 to 2021 in order to reconcile the country policy cycle with the current development programme. During this period, focus of the development cooperation will be on consolidating the results of ongoing engagements and test new approaches and partnerships.