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Cox’s Bazar: Improving local participation in political and economic processes

The refugee situation in the south of Bangladesh near the border to Myanmar is increasingly putting pressure on the local population. The economic and environmental issues in the district of Cox’s Bazar have grown with the arrival of around 900,000 refugees. We are helping the local population to find new sources of income and to represent their political interests effectively at the community level so that they can find their own sustainable way out of poverty.

In August 2017, within a period of a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people fled from violent conflicts in Myanmar to Bangladesh. The Rohingya people found safety in the district of Cox’s Bayar in south Bangladesh. This district, which previously housed 2.3 million inhabitants, has since taken in around 900,000 refugees and accommodated them in camps. This mass influx has further exacerbated the already difficult situation in this poor region, where the poverty rate is now far higher than the national average. There are also serious environmental consequences. Although the refugees were readily welcomed, the dissatisfaction of the locals is now growing as they are confronted with a number of problems:

  • Due to increased demand, prices of food, services and other products have risen.
  • As the number of jobseekers has risen, the daily rates for day labourers have decreased by almost half.
  • Land previously used for agriculture or grazing pastures now accommodates refugees. This has a negative impact on the agricultural yield, among other things.
  • Due to a lack of sewage management systems in the camps, the environment is being polluted. As a result, the land cannot be farmed, the water is polluted and fisher are losing their livelihoods.
  • Ground water supply cannot be maintained due to the increased demand.
  • The consequences of poverty are malnutrition, lack of access to education and poor medical care.

Our project aims to improve the socio-economic resilience as well as the quality of life of 1.000 families in two sub-districts (Ukhiya and Teknaf) in the district of Cox’s Bazar, where the refugee camps have overwhelmed local capacities.

  • Improving access to sustainable sources of income
  • Improving participation in political and economic processes

In order to enable the families to use their abilities and available resources effectively and find new sources of income, we are implementing the following measures:

  • Together with the families, we are creating so-called Family-Development Plans, in which the individual goals of the families are defined in order to achieve their full socio-economic potential.
  • We are offering training in income-generating activities (such as agriculture, rearing livestock, tailoring and repairing mobile phones) as well as financial management, business development, skills development and small business management.


In order to improve participation in political and economic processes, as well as disaster-preparedness, we are setting up local community groups:

  • We are supporting the locals in establishing so-called Self Reliant Groups and People’s Organisations and providing them with materials and funds. These groups represent the interests of the locals and enable them to effectively contribute politically.
  • In these groups, community-based savings are established by setting up funds and by providing information about the microcredit systems available in Bangladesh which enable locals to start their own businesses.
  • We provide training in disaster-preparedness and set up emergency funds for disaster relief.


As emergency relief in the Covid-19 pandemic, further financial resources were made available to the families to ensure their needs were met.

Country info

Capital: Dhaka
Area: 147.570 km²
Population: approx. 166,3 million

Project data

Project duration: since September 2019
Financing: BMZ
Partner: COAST Foundation

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