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he UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has conferred Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with the “SDG Progress Award” for Bangladesh’s steady course in responding to the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all. The honorable Prime Minister accepted the award saying she is dedicating it to the people of Bangladesh,” The award is a significant international acknowledgment of the country’s success in spearheading the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after achievements in the fields of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Led by prominent economist and development strategist Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, SDSN was set up in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. The platform aims to mobilize global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development and gauge the country-specific competitiveness in development performances.
The event’s moderator introduced Sheikh Hasina as the “Jewel in the crown of the day” while Sachs appreciated her leadership in spearheading the SDGs campaign even during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Sachs said, “Bangladesh is doing miracle” while one of the international reports suggested the country secured the third position among the nations in achieving SDGs targets.
The pandemic increased poverty in many countries but the social safety net programs rather made vibrant the Bangladeshi economy through money circulation creating market demand.” The award is a testimony of the endeavors engaged in achieving the SDGs. “Leaving no one behind,”. The premier also took part in some other international events on UN General Assembly (UNGA) sidelines, one being a crucial closed-door meeting of heads of government on climate change jointly hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stressed the need for a global roadmap to ensure permanent recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for achieving the SDGs by 2030.
“We need to chart out a bold and ambitious global roadmap to put us back on the SDGs track so that no one is left behind,” she said while addressing virtually the 9th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development on Monday last (20 September in New York). The Earth Institute, Columbia University, Global Masters of Development Practice, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network organized the conference.
Sheikh Hasina, in her speech, put forward a 6-point proposal that is required to address properly the global COVID-19 pandemic to ensure achieving the SDGs. In her first proposal, the Prime Minister said “The success of SDGs now depends on sustainable recovery from the pandemic. The call of the hour, and with real urgency, is to ensure vaccines for everyone, everywhere.”
Sheikh Hasina, in her second proposal, said “We must close the huge resource gap in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. “Thirdly, she said, “We are concerned about the rising trend in global poverty, for the first time since 1998, due to the impacts of the pandemic.”
In addition, recovery efforts need more focus on job creation, social protection, women empowerment, and science, technology, and innovation, she continued. The Prime Minister, in her fourth, proposal said. “We believe that COVID-19 recovery measures should complement climate actions to create stronger resilience against any future shock or calamities.”
Finally, there must be more focus on enhanced monitoring and support mechanism for SDGs implementation, she added. The Prime Minister said that the UN (United Nations) should have enhanced coordination in this regard. It is also imperative to ensure that there are adequate and timely support measures to withstand emergencies and shocks to avoid any slide back, she added.
The Prime Minister advocated for scaling up preparedness for pandemics and other emergencies that should be handled with priority at every level. Describing the 2030 Agenda as a global compact, she said, “This is our blueprint for a sustainable and inclusive global development. No single country can achieve this Agenda alone. We need enhanced global collaboration and solidarity to advance this agenda.”
She said, “Since we have already entered the Decade of Delivery and Action of the Agenda, yet the goals seem far away.” Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were off-track to achieve their SDGs. The pandemic has pushed them further behind,”
The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the world, she said adding that it has taken countless lives and upset livelihoods. Millions of people worldwide have been reduced to poverty and hunger, she added. She continued that education is facing huge disruption, especially of children. Noting that the climate-vulnerable countries like Bangladesh are adversely affected by the pandemic as well as natural disasters, she said, “Our development gains and SDGs progress have been badly hit.” Turning to her country’s preparation to this end, she said that Bangladesh is the pioneer in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. “We have recently submitted an ambitious and updated NDC”,
“We have adopted the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ focusing on green growth, resilient infrastructure, and renewable energy,” she informed. Referring to the Sustainable Development Report 2021 published by the University of Cambridge, Sheikh Hasina said that Bangladesh has improved the most on the SDG Index since 2015. The Prime Minister told the conference that Bangladesh is now among the five fastest-growing economies in the world, and ranked 41st in terms of GDP. She continued that the UN recommended Bangladesh graduate from the LDC category this year. The Prime Minister said “Since 2015, we have been working hard to integrate Agenda 2030 into our national plans and policies putting “whole of government” approach.”
A high-level national committee was formed for the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, she also said. To this end, she said, “We have already submitted two VNRs in 2017 and 2020. We have done sector-specific assessments and integrated SDGs in our 8th Five Year Plan. Our Second Perspective Plan has also been aligned with the SDGs.” Sheikh Hasina said it envisions transforming Bangladesh into an upper-middle-income country by 2031, and a high-income country by 2041. Mentioning that The Delta-Plan 2100 captures the SDGs vision and beyond, she said, “It aims to create a prosperous and climate-resilient delta for our future generations. “The Premier said that they have taken up a coordinated effort involving the government, the private sector, the civil society, and other stakeholders to ensure the “whole of social engagement”.
To reach people who are the furthest behind, she said they have put additional focus on localizing SDGs. She added: “We have launched SDGs tracker. This serves as a data storehouse to monitor the real-time progress of our SDGs. “The Premier said that they have invested heavily in infrastructure capacity. “We are launching mega infrastructure projects like the Padma Bridge, Dhaka Metro rail, Karnaphuli Tunnel, and the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant,”
She told the conference that women have been mainstreamed in national development and economic activities and they are now the backbone of certain vital sectors, such as the RMG. The Premier said that Bangladesh’s investment in digitization and connectivity has spurred the digital economy, youth-led innovations, and transformative socio-economic changes, “This is now also helping us tackle the COVID-19 pandemic better “. She went on to say, “We have a huge youth population. We have invested heavily in their education and skills development to help them reap the maximum benefit of the digital economy and technological innovations.”
In the face of this turmoil, she thanked the organizer for the opportunity to share Bangladesh’s experiences and the country’s perspectives on how to “build forward better” and to get back on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Stating that as a policymaker her association with the global development discourse is for more than two decades, she said, “I led Bangladesh in the Millennium Development Summit in 2000, in the adoptions of the landmark 2030 Agenda, and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.”
“Our achievements in MDGs were highly significant. We were recognized by the international community as a development miracle for our success, especially in poverty reduction, food security, gender parity in primary and secondary school, decreasing infant and maternal mortality rate, gender equality, etc”,
According to the news published in various media, the per capita income of the people of Bangladesh is now 2227 dollars. Due to the relentless efforts of the government to facilitate economic growth and infrastructural development, the extraordinary economic success of the country has been possible. It is clear to the naked eye that the country’s stable economic growth, vibrant industries, garment sector, and manpower exports have brought about a huge change in our social and economic factors. This has been possible due to the favorable policy of the government and the hard work of the people. The economy is growing, GDP is growing steadily, and so is our per capita income.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently mentioned that economic activities must be carried out in compliance with the health norms. The golden Bengal of the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman must be built. She also mentioned the establishment of a golden Bengal free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and secularism. Praising Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, she said, “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to grow our GDP by 5.24 percent.” While many developed and developing countries are struggling with negative conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said foreign exchange reserves have exceeded 48 billion and the country’s remittance inflows, agricultural production, and exports have changed.
Hiren Pandit is Research Fellow, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)