Eliminating inequality and establishing good governance are two main challenges for Bangladesh in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Centre for Policy Dialogue.
The private think tank of Bangladesh also expressed doubt over the country’s achieving all goals by 2030 as it lags quite behind in achieving about three-fourths of the total indicators set in six big SDGs.
Bangladesh is on right track in only 24 indicators out of 95 of these six goals, it said.
The CPD, at a city hotel on Thursday, said all these at a seminar styled “What Type of Democratic Practices Are Suitable for Achieving the SDGs?” presided over by its Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan.
Prof Sobhan said SDGs should be set at both macro and micro levels, and specific steps should be taken to attain those.
While taking these steps, focus should be on the needs of the marginalised and deprived sections of society, he said in his opening speech, adding that the government and the civil society will have to share responsibilities to this end.
“As a controlled democracy prevails in the country, the people lagging behind in society are unable to raise their voices,” the CPD boss said.
As there is a limited scope for talking about rights, there will be big deficiency in good governance and justice which are prerequisites for achieving SDGs, Prof Sobhan said.
He also mentioned that protecting environment is another big challenge on the country’s way towards achieving SDGs.
“Whatever is done, attention must be given to saving the environment. Otherwise the environment will start reacting in a hostile way,” he warned.
Swiss author, journalist and development expert Peter Niggli presented the keynote paper in the programme.
He made a presentation on activities and success of the Swiss government in achieving SDGs.
He also gave a comparative picture of socio-politico-economic situations in Bangladesh and Switzerland.
In the event, CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun presented Bangladesh’s status of SDG achievement so far.
“Although four years have passed since SDG formulation, information deficiency is still a big obstacle to evaluate the progress. However, Bangladesh’s progress in most goals and indicators, as per available information, is not satisfactory,” she said.
Fahmida Khatun said, “Even though 68 targets and 95 indicators were set for six main goals, out of total 17, the country has no data about progress in quite a good number of targets and indicators.”
Specific information about only 38 targets and 50 indicators, including education, decent work, inequality, climate, peace and justice and development partnership, is available, while the progress in half of them is not notable, she said.
The country needs further improvement in indicators like education completion, pre-primary enrolment, increase in literacy rate, and ensuring electricity supply, technology and sanitation in educational institutions, she emphasised, mentioning that the progress in these indicators, however, has increased during the SDG implementation period.
About the nature of democracy in Bangladesh and Switzerland, Prof Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow of CPD and a noted political scientist, said challenges for Bangladesh and Switzerland in achieving SDGs are different.
Switzerland is ruled by a decentralised and democratic government, while Bangladesh is a controlled democracy where the government can take a decision anytime on its own and implement it, he said.
Local government expert Prof Tofayel Ahmed said the country may achieve most of the SDGs, but it will lag far behind in building peace, justice and functional institutions.
CPD Distinguished Fellow Mostafizur Rahman said, for development, each citizen will have to be involved with national activities; otherwise sustainable development cannot be achieved.
Former civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon was also present in the seminar as a special guest.
He said scopes should be given to the marginalised people to help them raise their voice in implementing the SDGs.
“Development of marginal people are rarely discussed in the Jatiya Sangsad. The House dedicates only 3 minutes for discussing problems of poor people and the rest of the time is spent for discussing the rich,” he said.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on environment and climate, said environment and climate should get prominence in achieving SDGs.
Caution should be taken against carbon, emitted from factories and vehicles, he said while speaking as the chief guest in the programme.
He put emphasis on the importance of partnership and cooperative roles by NGOs and the private sector with the government in implementing SDGs within the stipulated timeframe.