Switzerland to work with all Bangladeshi stakeholders for a ‘smooth, inclusive, sustainable’ LDC graduation

Outgoing Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard has said that as a “solid and agile” development partner, Switzerland will work with all stakeholders in Bangladesh and its multifaceted cooperation will take on crucial issues to make the latter’s graduation from least-developed status “smooth, inclusive and sustainable”.

“The country is now at a crossroads with the upcoming graduation from the LDCs group. Switzerland welcomes this exciting development,” she told UNB in an exclusive interview.

Nonetheless, the ambassador said, this graduation carries with it both opportunities and challenges, and it will be essential to prepare for post-graduation scenarios – leaving no one behind, addressing structural issues and making the private sector more competitive.

“Being a country vulnerable to climate change, managing climate and disaster risks is another pressing challenge,” she said.

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Evaluating the bilateral relations today, the Swiss envoy said 50 years is quite a long time but it is also only the beginning.

“Since the birth of your nation, we have grown a solid, diversified and robust partnership. This relation has evolved, and I am really glad when I see where we are today and also where we are heading,” she said.

During the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the bilateral ties last year, Ambassador Chuard said they were able to showcase the scope and diversity of the partnership.

“We launched our new Bangladesh Country Program that is aligned on the objectives of the Agenda 2030 and aims at supporting your country’s development for the years to come,” she said, adding that they danced to the songs of “Nodi Rocks”, an initiative for the youth to raise awareness on climate change and protecting rivers through music.

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Together with other partners, the envoy said, they held exhibitions in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar to underscore the significance of humanitarian principles.

“For the first time, our bilateral trade also crossed the significant milestone of US $1 billion in 2022. I think all these aspects show how diverse and multifaceted our relations have become. While I look back, I am really proud of what we have accomplished together, and looking forward to the next steps of our common journey,” she said.

Responding to a question, Ambassador Chuard said Bangladesh is a beautiful country, boasting a colourful and vibrant society always full of energy.

“I have been lucky enough to travel widely throughout Bangladesh – from the chars in Gaibandha to the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Sundarbans. Far away from Dhaka’s hustle and bustle, experiences such as a motorbike ride in a far-flung Char has surely given me another perspective of this country, and I have loved doing it! The people here are amazing and exceptionally resilient.”

Swiss Ambassador Chuard sees “massive potential” to boost trade, investment with Bangladesh

She also said, “Whether we talk about climate change or economic development, Bangladesh is everything from the chars, the agriculture to the busy ports or urban centers and its readymade garment factories, and it has been important for me to experience it firsthand. It is about the diversity of your country. It is also in all these fields, and many more, that Switzerland has worked with Bangladesh on its journey.”

Wherever she has been, Ambassador Chuard said, she has always felt welcome. “What maybe has impressed me the most are the women and the role they have played in the country's socioeconomic advancement.”

Switzerland has also supported numerous projects towards women’s empowerment and participation, including in the political arena, Chuard said.

On that note, the ambassador mentioned that Bangladesh is preparing for its next national election, expected to be held in January 2024.

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“We call on all stakeholders, including political parties, to uphold and ensure citizens’ voting rights and I hope that these elections will be free, fair and credible. This is an important signal for Bangladesh and its citizens,” she said.

The ambassador said the two countries are working on an air service agreement and one MoU regarding knowledge partnership.

“While these are still under negotiation, I am confident that these agreements will pave the way for broadening the horizon of our future relations,” she said.

The Swiss envoy said, “I find that there is another positive development and it is related to the area of exchanging banking information.”

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Switzerland is one of the world’s leading financial centers, they have made substantial contributions to international standards, and are committed to their effective enforcement.

“My country has been very dedicated to continue cooperating with Bangladesh on this topic in accordance with globally recognized procedures. In this regard, I am encouraged by the discussions that have taken place, following our proposals to tackle illicit financial flows,” Ambassador Chuard said.


Asked whether diplomacy is always effective in solving major global issues like the Rohingya crisis, the Swiss envoy said, “Obviously, as a career diplomat, I strongly believe in diplomacy… There is no doubt that solutions are found in diplomacy.”

To prevent conflict, she said, all parties need to talk together in order to find solutions and common ground. “Diplomacy is a highly powerful and effective tool for nations and stakeholders to communicate and develop mutually accepted solutions.”

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The ambassador said the world is facing numerous crises at the same time, and people are very worried and affected in various ways.

“With the recovery from the pandemic, the aggression against Ukraine and the omnipresent climate change, none of us really knows how it will play out,” she said.

“If there is one thing that these global challenges have taught us, it is the importance of reaching consensus, defending a rules-based order, pushing for global peace and prosperity and strengthening multilateralism. Diplomacy and bringing stakeholders together are more important than ever, particularly for countries like Bangladesh and Switzerland,” Chuard said.

Since the first of January and for the next two years, Switzerland is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

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“Our entry to this important UN body stems from my country’s strong affinity for multilateralism and willingness to play its role to stand up for a just and peaceful international order,” she said.

The membership to the UN body is also a great opportunity to collaborate closely with Bangladesh on vital global peace, security and development challenges, Chuard said.

“For my country, it is very important that the Rohingya crisis is not forgotten and that a lasting and sustainable solution is found. And until the conditions for the return of the refugees are met, we will continue to stand next to Bangladesh to support the response to the crisis,” said the envoy.

Responding to a question, Ambassador Chuard said diplomacy is a continuous process and requires not only skills but also convictions.

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“It is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. One must remain persistent and continue working on pending topics and challenges. And if someone tells you that diplomacy does not work, that means that we should try harder,” she said.


Switzerland is an “effective, innovative and committed” development partner of Bangladesh and development cooperation has traditionally been a foundation of the bilateral ties, the ambassador said.

Over the last five decades, Switzerland has supported Bangladesh with over $1 billion in development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

“The modalities of our cooperation with Bangladesh have evolved over time and our current ongoing cooperation programme aims to assist the sustainable graduation of Bangladesh from the LDC group, develop a more prosperous, just and resilient society, and foster peaceful coexistence,” she added.

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“Switzerland will invest around Tk 1450 crore to implement this program by 2025. In close partnership with all stakeholders, our program complements the support for more trade and direct foreign investment with the promotion of the Swiss key values of good governance and respect of human rights to ensure sustainability, including for economic growth,” said Ambassador Chuard.


The Swiss envoy said economic cooperation has become another strong pillar of the bilateral relations between the two countries.

“Since my arrival in 2020, I have observed the great potential and a shared goal with our counterparts here to increase trade and investment between our countries,” she said, adding that the situation seems promising, taking into account the trend over the last period.

The bilateral trade crossed the landmark $1 billion threshold in 2022, for the first time ever.

The envoy said, “And for us, a country with roughly the same population as Chattogram, this is a significant outcome, making us one of Bangladesh’s most active trading partners!”

She said Swiss investors have a strong and diverse footprint in the country and they provide cutting-edge and essential products, technologies and services in many crucial economic sectors.

“My impression is that our companies are increasingly becoming advanced technology suppliers for the local market and businesses, enabling the expansion of the latter. I am confident that more technological partnerships and Swiss investments will follow, including green technologies, if we can tap more into the diversity of trade and investment promotion tools on each side,” she said.


The Swiss envoy said the level of foreign direct investment remains relatively low in the country and climate-related issues therefore frequently feature in many of her meetings with Bangladeshi decision-makers.

Swiss Ambassador Chuard sees “massive potential” to boost trade, investment with Bangladesh

“I welcome the several measures that the government has undertaken in recent years to attract new investments and improve the ease of doing business. In my view, it is clearly a win-win since foreign investments are also crucial to take Bangladesh to its next level of development,” she said.

“In this context, I would like to mention that if you take care of them well, the existing investors can become your country’s best ambassadors for attracting more FDIs,” she added.


“As a diplomat, I have been to many countries and I put my heart where my mission is. Bangladesh is no different. As of the first of March, I will be the new director of the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF),” said the envoy.

DCAF has programs that touch on more than 70 countries and facilitates, drives and shapes security sector reform policy and programming worldwide.

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“I am glad and honored to take on this new challenge at such a crucial time and find it very motivating to lead an organization that makes states and people safer, and promotes good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights,” she said.

“This is at the core of what my country stands for and so close to my heart. As a Swiss diplomat, I am also proud to soon be part of “International Geneva” and promote its vision of a world of peace, rights and prosperity,” the Swiss envoy mentioned.

Source: United News of Bangladesh