There is a need to formulate appropriate policy framework and develop specific action plan accordingly to ensure the inclusion of marginalised and vulnerable groups of the society in the development process in a move to attain the core aspiration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – ‘Leave No One Behind (LNOB)’. At the same time, strengthened partnership and coordination among government, private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil society should be ensured in achieving the SDGs in Bangladesh. Speakers made the remarks at the ‘Citizen’s Conference on SDGs in Bangladesh 2017’ held in Dhaka on 6 December 2017.
The day-long conference, organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, was attended by nearly 1500 participants from across the country including high-level government officials, representatives of partner organisations, vulnerable groups of the society, civil society members, private sector professionals and youths.
The concept of development should be established based on the development of the marginal and disadvantaged groups, said Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Convenor, Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh; and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). Emphasising on the intensive role of the NGOs in attaining the SDGs, he proposed the government to create a ‘SDG Trust Fund’ in the next budget. He also stressed on strengthening the bonding and coordination among the non-state actors including private sector in the context of the SDGs.
The conference also adopted a ‘Citizen’s Declaration 2017’ putting forward some suggestions and a 12-point charter of demands. Some of the demands include active participation of the country’s marginal people in development work, full implementation of various government plans and laws that promote the interest of the marginalised groups, inclusion of the civil society in formulation of the relevant policy framework and allocation of transparent and prioritised resources in the national budget to implement the envisaged work plans.
The day-long conference started with the national anthem performed by a group of underprivileged children of BRAC school. An inspirational film on “No One to be Left Behind in Bangladesh”, directed by prominent film maker Mr Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, was also released at the opening session of conference.
Besides, salient features and key findings of a research report, prepared by CPD, titled ‘Quest for Inclusive Transformation of Bangladesh: Who Not to be Left Behind’ was presented at the conference. The CPD study introduced a vulnerability criteria that can be used worldwide for LNOB assessment for SDG implementation. According to the report, the rural population of the country continues to be left behind. At division level, Barisal is faring worse than the national average in 15 indicators of the SDGs, followed by Sylhet and Rangpur. Regions such as the Chittagong Hill Tracts are also prone to vulnerability, the report states. Moreover, wealth inequality is growing faster than income inequality, said Towfiqul Islam Khan, Research Fellow, CPD, while presenting the report.
In addition to these, four parallel sessions were also held during the day-long event. A number of contemporary issues under the overarching themes of economic, social, environmental and good governance were discussed in the sessions. Later, a summary of the discussions were presented during the plenary session of the conference.
Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, CPD; Dr Shamsul Alam, Member (Senior Secretary), General Economics Division, Planning Commission, Ministry of Planning; Professor Emeritus Anisuzzaman, President, Bangla Academy; Advocate Sultana Kamal, Former Adviser to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh, and Human rights Activist; Ms Rasheda K Chowdhury, former Adviser to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh; Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD; Mr Asif Ibrahim, Vice-chairman of Newage Group; Mr Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, former Commerce Minister and Member, BNP Standing Committee; Mr Mujahidul Islam Selim, President, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB); Ms Khushi Kabir, Coordinator, Nijera Kori; Mr Shykh Seraj, Director and Head of News, Channel I; Mr Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, Film maker; Ms Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF); Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB); and Mr Syed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director, Apex Footwear Ltd; also spoke on the occasion.
Also, there was an exhibition showcasing the contributions of the NGOs in implementing the SDGs. The day-long event concluded with a cultural function depicting the rich diversity of Bangladesh as well as various elements of the SDGs.