by Rafiqul Islam AZzad
At the ‘South, Southwest and Central Asia Parliamentarians Forum on the MDGs Acceleration and Post-2015 Development Agenda’ held in Dhaka 11-12 December it was announced that Bangladesh has made significant progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in alleviating poverty, net enrollment in primary education, gender parity in primary and secondary education, reducing child and maternal mortality rates, improving immunization coverage, eliminating malaria and tuberculosis, improving drinking water supply and sanitation.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who inaugurated the two-day conference at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka, underlined her aim to turn the country into a digital one, and a middle income country by realizing our vision 2021 and to become ‘golden Bangladesh’ as dreamt by the Father of the Nation Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
She said most of the South Asia is likely to miss the target of MDGs, though Bangladesh, despite being a least developed country, has been successful in reducing the poverty level by 10 percent during the last three and half a years.
She also mentioned that a densely populated country with many constraints, Bangladesh made noteworthy progress in the past few years in poverty alleviation and she thanks to pro-poor policy and empowerment of people. “During the last three and a half years, about 50 million people have been elevated to the middle income group from low-income status,” Hasina claimed.
Bangladesh Parliament, All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Bangladesh, United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) jointly organise the in collaboration with a number of United Nations agencies, global civil society networks, international nongovernmental organisations and parliamentary networks including the Rockefeller Foundation and solidarity delegations from Africa and the United Kingdom.
Presided over by Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group(APPG) Commission Abdul Hamid Advocate, the inaugural function was also addressed, among others, by Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Chief Whip and Chair of APPG on MDGs, WTO and BDF Md Abdus Shahid, UN Resident Coordinator Neal Walker, Association for Parliamentarians on Population and Development(AFPPD) Representative Damira Niyazalieva, MP, Chairman of PKSF Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad and Global Director of UN Millennium Campaign Corinne Woods and APPG Secretary General Shishir Shil. Chair of APPG on Climate Change and Environment and President of the First Standing Committee of the International Parliamentary Union Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, moderated the function.
The Bangladesh premier urged the rich nations and international organizations to be more attentive to implement the commitments they made to the world people in 2000. She mentioned that at present, over a billion people across the world is caught in the vicious cycle of poverty, a phenomenon, which occurs due to tangled web of local situations combined with national and international circumstances.
Hasina said such circumstances also include economic processes at a variety of levels, social and economic conditions, climate change impacts, extremism, environmental degradations, absence of democracy, and exclusion of people on the basis of class, caste, gender, disability, age, race and religion.
She emphasised the need for establishing peace at all spheres through ensuring development, equity and justice and stopping conflict for the betterment of the world.
Hasina termed justice as a precondition for the development and said the millennium development goals (MDGs) too mention justice and peace as prerequisites to uphold development and dignity of the people.
In contrast, she said, absence of democracy causes social injustice, poverty, inequality, deprivation, marginalization and leads to extremism and terrorism.
She said the MDG Report of 2012 highlights national governments, the United Nations, the private sector and the civil society success in saving and improving lives. The premier said visible progress has been made worldwide in alleviating poverty, and improving access to clean water, lives of slum dwellers, universal primary education, gender equality in primary schools, child survival and access to HIV treatment.
“Challenges in decreasing hunger, maternal mortality rate, number of slum dwellers, sanitation and clean water, and employment however still remain which have to be faced with courage and conviction,” she said.
She said indeed, South Asia, with over one- fifth of the world population, has lagged behind due to the severe impacts of climate change and the recent global economic meltdown leading to high food and fuel prices.
The Prime Minister said estimates indicate that at the current rate of progress, one billion people will still be living at a less than US $1.25 a day in 2015. “Estimates also indicate that four out of every five people living in extreme poverty will live in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said progress in poverty eradication is possible only if the developing countries, especially in these regions, maintain robust growth rate; address the undesirable conditions where extreme poverty thrives; prioritize development of health and education essential for productive employment.
“Our aim is to ensure human dignity and better life for all across the world, sustainable and equitable growth and development, and justice and peace are important means to achieve them,” she said.
Hasina said she is confident that such a strategy would help the ongoing efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals within the “2015 time frame” set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000.
Speaker Abdul Hamid Advocate, who preside over the inaugural session, said an estimated 50 million low income people have been elevated to middle income group in last four years. “Persistent economic growth buoyed government’s pro-poor policy has helped Bangladesh to cut back poverty by 10 percent, while elevating 50 million poor people to a status of middle class,” he said.