Published on 08:45 PM, May 11, 2022

Bangladesh not eligible for US funds due to labour rights concerns

USAID Deputy Administrator says

Bangladesh is not eligible to receive funding from the US International Development Finance Corporation because of concerns about labour rights violations.

USAID's Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman said this in a press briefing today (May 11, 2022).

"The DFC does infrastructure work but it is prevented from operating in Bangladesh because of concerns around labour rights and until those are resolved, it will not be possible for the DFC to operate here in Bangladesh," said Coleman, speaking at The American Centre.

"The concerns are around the ability of workers to associate, the freedom of association and to form unions, to have those unions be able to operate in an unhindered fashion," explained Kathryn Davis Stevens, the country director of the organisation.

She also mentioned workplace safety as being an issue of concern. "We know there have been improvements in many of these areas specifically in the readymade-garments sector, but on the whole there are still significant concern."

The DFC, a development finance institution, partners with the private sector to finance solutions faced by the developing world in sectors like energy and infrastructure.

Coleman, who had visited Bhashan Char during this trip, also voiced some concerns about the island.

"I came with some concerns about Bhashan Char. It is very remote. It is hard to reach and we have heard concerns about the voluntariness of the people going to Bhashan Char," said Coleman.

She spoke about the lack of basic services there.

"The housing is certainly an improvement over Cox's Bazar. [Regarding] the food delivery in Cox's Bazar – they are getting all sorts of items in their food basket. They get fresh vegetables. We did not see that in Bhashan char. It is very difficult to reach and there is very little storage facility there," she added.

She said there are 400,000 refugee children who need to be in a formal education system but are not. "It will be more likely for them to be able to return, if they are educated."

"Do I see any prospect of repatriation in the near future? Well, I do not. Until there is security for a dignified, voluntary, peaceful return, I don't think we will see any movement back in any meaningful way," added Coleman.

She also said the Security Council is not the most functional organisation right now.

"We would like to see them play a robust role in a number of crises in the world but with the current political situation it is highly unlikely it will do so, particularly in this crisis and others," stated Coleman.