Poverty ReductionThe headcount poverty ratio fell progressively from over 50% in 1991 to 31.5% in 2010. The contry is well on track to achieve its MGD goal in reducing extreme poverty to the level of 29%. More rural communities now have access to resources to further develop their livelihood. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh

UNDP embarked on its journey in Bangladesh on July 31, 1972. Focusing on local ownership, capacity development, income and employment generation and social protection, UNDP engages with various governmental agencies and partners to work towards economic and social development in Bangladesh.

High achievements in human development

Since independence in 1971, Bangladesh has performed well-above initial expectations in terms of poverty reduction. It has increased its per capita income many times over, cut the poverty rate over successive years (from close to 60 percent in 1990 to 31.5 in 2010) and is now well placed to achieve the vast majority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Along with meeting several MDG targets, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the area of poverty reduction, due in part to a GDP growth rate of 6 percent in recent years. Improvements in social indicators such as increased life expectancy and lower fertility rate have corresponded with economic growth, despite having one of the world’s highest population densities.

MDGs in Bangladesh: Bridging the gaps

While human development indicators have significantly improved in Bangladesh, social and income disparities remain a challenge. Persistent pockets of extreme poverty in urban slums, the Hill Tracts, coastal belt, Chars and other environmentally vulnerable areas are not fully reflected in national-level data. The poor are often structurally disadvantaged in terms of ownership of assets, and have inadequate access to institutional finance as well as basic services including quality education, healthcare, water and sanitation.

From 2012 to 2016, the UN Development Assistance Framework for Bangladesh has prioritized the acceleration of MDG achievements in the worst performing and most vulnerable geographic areas. Through MDG localization (MDG-based local planning) prior to 2012, UNDP has implemented small-scale interventions in more than 40 Upazilas (sub-districts) across six of the most vulnerable districts, directly targeting the achievement of the MDGs at the local level. MDG localization has reached nearly 68,000 beneficiaries, of which 54% are girls.

Poverty reduction in an urban age

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About one third of Bangladesh’s population lives in urban areas, and according to the national poverty survey, 21.3% of the urban population are either poor or extreme poor. The urban poor, especially women and children, often suffer from malnutrition resulting in stunted growth, weakening of the immune system, mental impairment and, in some cases, death. Moreover, poverty of this nature has a lock-in quality, guaranteeing the intergenerational transmission of deprivations.

Along with the Government of Bangladesh, UN-HABITAT and local communities, UNDP created the Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR) initiative to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of three million urban poor and extremely poor people, especially women and girls. The project supports programs of settlement improvement and socio-economic development in 30 towns and cities, as well as community and local government capacity building and policy advocacy.

Major challenges in Bangladesh

The challenges that the people of Bangladesh face are numerous, making it necessary for the government and resident agencies to plan comprehensive programs to sustain the progress made thus far. The UN Development Assistance Framework 2012-2016 is anchored around the government’s national priorities, and identifies the reduction of socio-economic inequalities as the main driver of positive change.

Bangladesh also faces a major hunger and malnutrition challenge. In line with global experience, the once strong relationship between these variables and poverty appears to be breaking down. Indeed, while poverty has declined markedly, a large proportion of the population is unable to meet their recommended daily calorie intake and many children are underweight due to hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies.

The gains that have been made to date can't be sustained without addressing the substantial challenges of achieving gender parity, ensuring productive employment, mitigating the effects of climate change and improving labour rights.  Bangladesh remains a low income country and part of the world's least developed countries, making poverty reduction, income generation and social inclusion a central priority towards 2015 and beyond.

Looking to the future: Post-2015 in Bangladesh

While the progress made towards achieving the MDGs in Bangladesh is impressive, UNDP and its partners are looking beyond the 2015 deadline to incorporate lessons learned and address the development gaps in Bangladesh. The post-2015 vision has thus put sustainability, equality and human rights at the heart of the renewed global quest for eradicating poverty and promoting human development. Within such a vision, four inter-linked dimensions to formulate goals and targets are prioritized – inclusive social development, inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, peace and security.

Bangladesh at a glance

  • GDP of US $ 111,749,000,000 [MDG Progress 2012]
  • Population of 152.4 million [HDR 2013]
  • 43.3% of the population live on less than $1 per day [MDG Progress 2012]
  • 31.5% of the population lives below the national poverty line (2,122kcal) [MDG Progress 2012]
  • 28.9% of the population live in urban areas [HDR 2013]
  • Ranks 146 out of 186 on the 2013 Human Development Index [HDR 2013]