As a signatory to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on September 25, 2015, Bangladesh has been engaged in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the last four years and playing an active role in the global discourse on the SDGs. The government of Bangladesh has involved various stakeholders in the process of implementing the SDGs with a whole-of-society approach to this end. Non-state actors have also been playing important roles in carrying out activities towards the implementation of the goals.
The SDGs gave the world an ambitious aspiration that leads towards a transformational growth, with the commitment of “leaving no one behind”. Out of the 169 targets of the SDGs, the majority are not quantifiable within the national context. Unfortunately, data for forecasting those indicators, particularly reliable long-term data, are not available for Bangladesh. In this circumstance, the localisation of SDGs is very important for us. Localisation relates to two aspects: a) how local and regional governments can support the accomplishment of the SDGs at national level by means of action carried out from the bottom-up; and b) how the SDGs can provide a framework for local development policy.
Many Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, China and India have developed their SDGs-related localised plan and implementation mechanism. In the meantime, in Bangladesh, the “Natore SDG Localisation Framework” was already developed with technical support from a donor agency. This subdistrict-level model plan addresses the identification of local problems, potentials, adoption, resources mobilisation, database preparation, responsibility-sharing among government departments, civil society organisations, and the private sector. It is also about empowering the local people to participate in the accomplishment of the SDGs in their daily lives.
Bangladesh has six “hotspots” that simply define a broad grouping of districts and areas facing similar natural hazards and climate change risks. These are: 1) Coastal Zone (27,738 sq. km); 2) Barind and Drought Prone Areas (22,848 sq. km); 3) Haor and Flash Flood Areas (16,574 sq. km); 4) Chattogram Hill Tracts (13,295 sq. km); 5) River System and Estuaries (35,204 sq. km); and 6) Urban Areas (19,823 sq. km). The socio-economic, political and cultural problems and prospects of the six “hotspots” are completely different. For example, river erosion, electricity problem, lack of industries, energy crisis, communication hazard, lack of infrastructure as well as capacities in coping with disasters, inadequate budget allocation, inadequate number of teachers, inadequate number of doctors, lack of local employment opportunities, inadequate fish production (due to lack of entrepreneurs), over-fishing, sea piracy, shortage of manpower in government offices, salinity and inadequate access to safe drinking water, sanitation for disadvantaged people, insecurity facing women, child marriage and child labour are the major socio-economic problems of the coastal belt.
Some problems are common throughout Bangladesh. But in the Barind and Drought Prone Areas, irrigation, cross-boundary water issues including river basin developments, losses due to floods and drainage congestion, water supply and sanitation and round-the-year unemployment are major and consistent problems. Floods, scarcity of fresh water, and degradation of the ecosystems are major issues in the Haor region. Moreover, social unrest, land settlement, remoteness, schooling of children, scarcity of safe drinking water, and deprivation of ethnic minorities are major problems in Chattogram Hill Tracts. Also, urban poverty is an emerging issue in the present development discourse and Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
The issues and concerns of the six “hotspots” must be addressed in the national planning of SDGs from the bottom-up. Remarkably, the government has undertaken some important initiatives for implementing the SDGs, such as integration of SDGs into the 7th Five Year Plan, Ministry mapping for implementation of SDGs, SDGs Financing Strategy, Data Gap Analysis, Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of SDGs, forwarding outlooks, and joint collaboration with citizen’s platforms for SDGs.
But it is important that every sub-district of the six “hotspots” has a localised plan for SDGs. It should be based on local problems and solutions. The localisation process may take into account the local resource mapping, sub-district development plan, and an implementation committee coordinated by the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO).
The “Natore SDG Localisation Framework” can be a good example in this case. The 8th Five Year Plan of Bangladesh should have a particular chapter for mainstreaming the development of SDG-related targets. It is important to speed up the pace of implementing the SDG-related programmes and projects at the local level, given that there is not much time left in the run-up to the 2030 deadline. Without a strong, decentralised local governance system, a successful localisation of the SDGs in Bangladesh will be difficult.
Mohammed Mamun Rashid is a PhD candidate, Department of Social Work, School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Malaysia.