Foreign aid must be driven by dev demands: speakers
Rising inequality, poor governance and shrinking space of civil society are major challenges in achieving the goals of sustainable development, said civil society leaders and policymakers yesterday.
They called for coordinated actions both by the government and non-government organisations to address the challenges on urgent basis.
The observations came at a seminar titled “Between solidarity and self-interest: the changing patterns of development aid” jointly organised by the Association for Land Reform and Development, Clio Bangladesh and Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangskriti Foundation (MSF) at the city’s Cirdap auditorium.
“While Bangladesh is moving towards a middle-income status, we also see increased income gap,” said Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori.
According to a report by Centre for Policy Dialogue, income of the poorest 40 percent of the population in Bangladesh has declined from 17.41 percent in 1991 to 13.01 percent in 2016.
On the other hand, income of the richest 10 percent of the population in Bangladesh increased from 23.3 percent in 1991 to 26.8 percent in 2016.
Khushi Kabir said the concept of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) says none should be left behind.
But the society today witnesses a trend where some people have so much of wealth, while others have so little, she said, calling on authorities to take urgent action to address such inequality.
Aroma Dutta, an MP and adviser to non-profit Prip Trust, said the space for civil society has been shrinking in recent times.
“It is important to look at what went wrong…what’s leading to shrinking of such space,” she said.
Aroma Dutta said advocacy is very important for taking forward democracy, and civil society can play a vital role in this regard.
She said there may be some tensions in the relationship between the civil society and the state, but the relationship has to continue.
In his keynote presentation, Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Rene Holenstein said after the Second World War, foreign aid was meant to reconstruct Europe and the third world countries, promote anti-communism and humanitarian assistance.
Eventually, foreign aid became part of technical assistance, foreign policy, free market, democracy, peace, justice and human rights, he said.
Experiences suggest that aid has not always worked well for social change. Therefore, demand for more effectiveness of foreign aid and accountability is rising, he said.
Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said traditionally aid recipients have a sense of inferiority complex, but actually there is no reason to feel that way, because donor countries serve purpose not only of the recipients, but also of their own.
Foreign aid is now part of donor countrys’ foreign policy and businesses, he said, adding that foreign aid needs to be driven by the development demands of the countries concerned.
Iftekharuzzaman stressed that there should be simplified ways of providing foreign aid and that there is no duplication of activities by the NGOs. Development partners and NGOs -- all should be accountable to the people, he said.
CARE Bangladesh representative Walter Mwassa said Bangladesh is a cradle of many innovations, but the question remains if those were replicated and mainstreamed.
He stressed bringing together all the best practices in the development of Bangladesh and scaling those up.
MSF President and rights activist Sultana Kamal moderated the discussion.