A day-long conference titled “Citizen’s Conference on SDGs in Bangladesh 2017”, organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, was held in Dhaka on 6 December, 2017. The Conference was organised in a move to strengthen the voice of the marginalised communities in the SDG implementation, to make contribution of the non-state actors in delivery of SDGs visible, to explore further opportunities for government and non-government partnership in the development process. The event was attended by more than 1,200 participants including high-level government officials, representatives of partner organisations, vulnerable groups of the society, civil society members, private sector professionals, and youths.

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Published in The Daily Star on Thursday, 7 December 2017

End disparities

Majority of people must get rightful share of national achievements, experts tell conference on SDGs
Staff Correspondent

A citizen’s platform yesterday called for an end to discrimination and ensuring equal access of all to economic and social spheres as the majority of the population were not being able to get the rightful share of national achievements.

The call was made at the first ever meet of the Citizen’s Conference on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where more than 1,000 participants from civil society, NGOs, and businesses took part. Citizen’s Platform for SDGs Bangladesh organised the event at the Krishibid Institute for mass awareness to help the nation achieve the UN-set 17 global development targets by 2030.

The discussants said everyone has equal rights to participate in development and demanded laws, polices and work plans to bring the marginalised and the vulnerable to the mainstream development process.

“Due to the existing economic, social and environmental disparities, the ambition of attaining inclusive growth in Bangladesh is facing enormous challenges,” said a declaration of the daylong symposium.

It said the government had taken a number of initiatives towards the overall development of the country … “Nonetheless, absence of appropriate laws, inadequate implementation of existing laws, corruption, and above all, various social stigma and negative mind-sets, have inhibited access to equal opportunities by all citizens of the country.”

It said vulnerabilities of the marginalised and the deprived were on the rise.

“A close examination reveals that vulnerabilities of the people get aggravated due to the lack of education and skills, inadequate health services, religious and ethnic differences, adverse geographical locations, economic deprivation, life cycle status, physical and mental disabilities, gender and transgender disparities, civil identity and lack of rule of law,” the declaration said.

Prof Emeritus Anisuzzaman of Dhaka University at the opening ceremony of the conference said, “We demand equal opportunities for all, ensuring justice and good governance so that people here can exercise all their rights. We have to ensure dignity for all … .”

Anisuzzaman, citing advancement in science and technology, said the success stories of human endeavour outshine fairy tales. “However, the failures were not small. Many people still do not get safe drinking water. Many do not get minimum medical care. A large number of people live under the open sky.

“At the same time, wealth is concentrated in a small number of people. This cannot be accepted as development of mankind,” he said, stressing on balanced distribution of wealth and income.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan said the government should take the citizen’s initiative positively and consider them as partners. The government should also allocate resources for achieving the goals.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the Citizens Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, said many consider economic growth as development. But just growth does not mean development. It is important to see who is getting the benefits of the economic growth.

“There has been unprecedented rise in the inequality of income and wealth. This will affect growth and create social unrest and affect socio-political and economic stability.

“The growing inequality will undermine the achievements of the nation,” he said, adding, “Development has to be viewed from the perspective of the people falling behind.”

He said people’s participation was necessary to attain SDGs. The government alone could not attain the target. “That’s why we are holding the conference,” he said.

“The civil society always had a big role in the democratic movement for progressive transformation of the nation. They work closely with and parallel to political parties,” he said, adding, “But we feel sorry when top policymakers say that they are unaware of what we do.”

He demanded the government form a trust fund for NGOs to work for attaining the SDGs and a policy to ensure accountability and transparency.

Rasheda K Choudhury, a core group member of Citizen’s Platform, stressed on ensuring accountability of all, including the government, NGOs and others.

She said 2.17 crore children were studying at primary level and one out of five would drop out before completing that level. This is a big number, she said, adding that progress should not be measured based on average.

“Discrimination is going on in education,” said Rasheda.

Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said, “Dreams and aspirations of the Liberation War will be materialised if we implement the SDGs.

“We have to bring people falling behind to the mainstream of development,” said Mustafiz, another core group member of the platform.

He said the platform would monitor and measure whether SDGs were implemented. “We will carry out our responsibilities,” he said.

Asif Ibrahim, former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressed the need for ensuring transparency and accountability.

CPD Research Fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan, presenting the study “Quest for Inclusive Transformation of Bangladesh Who Not To Be Left Behind”, said disparities between rural and urban areas are continuing while income and wealth inequalities are on the rise.

The study finds that 97 percent of the population are subjected to one of the two vulnerabilities.

“We are the citizens of Bangladesh. And we have equal rights to participate in development,” said Towfiq.

Kyoko Yokosuka, acting country director of UNDP Bangladesh, said rising inequality undermines prosperity.

She said Bangladesh has made commendable progress in poverty. Yet, the number of poor still remains large, she added.

Sultana Kamal, former adviser to a caretaker government and a core group member of Citizen’s Platform for SDGs Bangladesh, said the SDGs have created the opportunity for individuals and communities falling behind to raise their voices.

Selina Hayat Ivy, mayor of Narayanganj City Corporation, said the nation could not progress without participation of the civil society.

Later, at a session on good governance, speakers said there was lack of good governance and accountability in the country and targets mentioned in the SDG would not be achieved without ensuring good governance.

“Due to the lack of political commitment, good governance is very vulnerable in the country,” Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujon) Secretary Bodiul Alam Majumder said.

Hasibur Rahman Mukur, executive director of Management and Resources Development Initiative, highlighted the importance of the Right to Information Act and said the act could help control corruption in many cases.


Published in The Financial Express on Thursday, 7 December 2017

Platform adopts 12-pt SDG declaration

Govt prioritises private sector’s role

FE Report

A citizen platform adopted on Wednesday a 12-point declaration that includes active participation of the country’s marginal people in development work and finalisation of a law to reduce inequality to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh.

Citizens’ Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, an alliance of various nongovernmental organisations (NGO), also declared working on undertaking a demand-basis plan, ensure good governance and better coordination among public and private agencies to this end.

The declaration was made at the concluding session of the day-long conference on ‘Citizens’ Conference 2017: Implementation of SDGs in Bangladesh with the theme ‘No one will be left behind’.

The platform organised the conference at the city’s Krishibid Institution (KIB).

Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member (Senior Secretary), General Economics Division (GED), attended the closing ceremony as the special guest with Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in the chair.

Managing Director (MD) of Apex Footwear Limited Syed Nasim Manzur, Executive Director (ED) of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, a standing committee member of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), also attended the ceremony, among others.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Shamsul Alam said Bangladesh has played an important role in devising SDG implementation following the country’s significant success in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) earlier.

The government is maintaining regular collaboration with all concerning agencies including private ones, he said.

“Private sector is the main driving force of the country’s economy, which is prioritised by the government in development activities related to SDGs,” he said.

He also said the country needs to adopt home-grown development plans to make the economic activities more meaningful in line with the SDGs.

In his speech, Nasim Manzur said the private sector is directly involved with several SDGs including 6, 8 and 12 encompassing better workplace, economic growth, responsible consumption and food production.

“Actually all of the targets under SDGs are connected with each other,” he said.

Underscoring the private sector’s role in the national economy, he said these cannot function properly without government’s support.

He also laid emphasis on adopting new technologies to maximise the output with minimum resources.


Published in The Daily Sun on Thursday, 7 December 2017

Six factors deepening vulnerabilities in Bangladesh: CPD study

Six factors are deepening vulnerabilities in Bangladesh which are the main barriers for the country to attain the core aspiration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – ‘leave no one behind’- by 2030, says a new study of Centre for Policy Development (CPD).

The six factors are lack of access to quality education, wide infrastructure gaps, social discrimination, shocks particularly climate-induced ones due to geographical location, various forms of insecurity and lack of quality and disaggregated data, according to the study conducted by a CPD team, led by its distinguished fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.

The report titled ‘Quest for inclusive transformation of Bangladesh: Who not to be left behind’ will be revealed on Wednesday at a daylong Citizen’s Conference on SDGs in Bangladesh 2017 in the city.

Towfiqul Islam Khan, a Research Fellow of CPD, a civil society think-tank, acted as the principal researcher of the team. The six factors were identified through focus group discussions.

These vulnerabilities are underpinned low income status, lifecycle phenomena, adverse location, gender discrimination, civil identity problems, physical and mental disabilities and social stigma, the CPD study said.

It said increasing income inequality is aggravating the problems and the asset inequality is increasing even faster.

There is an underbelly of the decent growth performance of Bangladesh.

The observed economic growth has been regrettably coupled with a growing number of disadvantaged and marginalised people.

Determining who is being left behind in Bangladesh by the term ‘vulnerability’, the report used 12 vulnerability criteria to identify and assess vulnerable groups. The criteria are income, gender, geographic location, lifecycle, civil identity, disability, education and skills, health, occupation, religion and ethnicity, sexual orientation and shock-induced vulnerability.

“Fuller policy delivery also demands social mobilisation in favour of these vulnerable people as well as change of norms, values and mindset. In that sense, addressing the vulnerability of those left behind in the traditional socio-economic growth process is a political economic task which entrails change in balance of social forces,” it said.

Besides, income and wealth inequalities appear to be greater in urban areas, while consumption inequality seems to be increasing in rural areas and decreasing in urban areas.

It said income poverty contributes significantly towards vulnerability and that people who meet more vulnerability criteria are more vulnerable in terms of income. Income poverty, occupation, educational attainment and age are highly correlated with higher vulnerability according to the vulnerability index.

The study, however, said poverty, education and inequalities are adequately addressed by policies, while lifecycle-based vulnerable groups are most frequently addressed by policies.

But it said delayed implementation of key policies taken in favour of the disadvantaged is not helping the situation.

Besides, policies addressing groups affected by climate shock-induced vulnerabilities are not proactive, while certain vulnerable groups like Dalit community, other minority ethnic groups and religious minorities remain excluded from policies.

The report suggested that access to assets for vulnerable groups needs to be prioritised, while coverage and enforcement of anti-discrimination rights must be improved.

It also suggested taking an integrated plan to generate more data and information on vulnerable groups.

The CPD study finally recommended a large-scale social movement to ensure that no one is left behind.