The United Nations hopes Bangladesh would emerge as a leader in the sustainable development goals, repeating its success in pulling off the millennium development goals.
Bangladesh has become a role model in South Asia and in the world in achieving the MDGs, the predecessor of SDGs, said Nagesh Kumar, head of UN-ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office.
“We believe Bangladesh would again lead the way in achieving the SDGs,” he told a seminar at the Prime Minister's Office in Dhaka yesterday. He also praised the country's leadership and commitment towards SDGs.
The Governance Innovation Unit (GIU) of the PMO organised the discussion styled “Achieving sustainable development goals: key policy priorities and implementation challenges for South Asia and Bangladesh”.
Despite their economic dynamism and remarkable MDG achievements, South Asian countries account for 37 percent of the world's poor, and nearly half the world's malnourished children.
The countries also suffer from a number of development and infrastructure deficits, Kumar said in a presentation.
With nearly one-fourth of the world's population, South Asia has a critical role in the global achievement of SDGs.
“If South Asia does not achieve the SDGs, the world will not achieve it. The onus is on us to deliver,” Kumar said.
Among some policy recommendations, the UN official said rapid economic growth is necessary through sustainable industrialisation.
“We have seen growth in the region for a while but this growth is not creating enough jobs. This is not a healthy situation. Bangladesh also has to create jobs.”
Although each country will have to tap the potential for generating more resources from domestic sources, the role of official development assistance for the least-developed countries remains critical.
“Bangladesh should receive twice the aid it receives now,” he said.
The government has put in place resources such as money, people and intellect to achieve the SDGs, said Abul Kalam Azad, principal secretary of the PMO.
SDGs are important for those who live in Bangladesh and those who are yet to be born in the country, said Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister.
The government has adopted many of the SDGs in its Seventh Five-Year Plan before the UN adopted the 2030 agenda. “So, we are ahead of the curve.”
The adviser, however, said achieving SDGs would be a difficult task as the goals are enormous. “And the government alone can't do it. There should be joint efforts.”
He urged ministries to go beyond their set tasks and cooperate with each other to speed up implementation.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, called for policy and institutional cohesion. “We need reorientation of the development administration and the approach has to be people-centric,” he added.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, raised the question whether regional cooperation could play any role in achieving the SDGs, as there was no regional approach in the MDGs. He, however, said the region could develop infrastructure using money, time and intellect.
He also stressed good governance, law and order, human rights and equity and justice in accomplishing the SDGs.
The rise of militancy and terrorism is a threat to achieving some of the SDGs, said Md Shahidul Haque, foreign affairs secretary.
He also stressed the need for new financing for achieving the goals.
Resources are available but it has to be looked into whether the countries are able to maximise whatever foreign assistance is being received, said Ainun Nishat, professor emeritus of Brac University.
In Bangladesh, there is institutional framework in place that can take the job creation agenda forward, said Asif Ibrahim, a business leader.
“We want to work with the government on the 2030 agenda,” said Ibrahim, a former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Skilled population is the key to achieving SDGs, said Namita Halder, private secretary of the prime minister.
The government has taken the SDGs seriously and aligned the Seventh Five-Year Plan and the Perspective Plan of 2040 in line with the 2030 agenda, said Abdul Halim, director general of the GIU.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, and Devabrata Chakraborty, director of the GIU, also spoke.