Bangladesh’s role in the emerging South
In March of last year, UNDP published its annual flagship publication ‘Human Development Report’ for the 2013 which was quite aptly was named “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”.
“The South as a whole is driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries,” noted the report while pointing at the historic shift in global dynamics that is occurring through vigorous progress taking place from Bangladesh to Brazil, from China to Ghana, from India to South Africa and from Vietnam to Venezuela.
“Hundreds of millions of people are rising out of poverty and billions more are poised to join the South’s fast-growing middle class”, the report lauded while concurrently focusing on a group of 18 countries including Bangladesh, termed as ‘Highlighted 18’, who have seen ‘rapid progress’ in human development in recent times.
And a similar optimism was echoed here in Dhaka at a workshop on South-South Cooperation at the NEC Conference Room this Monday (December 30, 2013) when the ERD Secretary Mr. Md. Abul Kalam Azad in his speech stated, “South-South Cooperation or SSC is evolving as a significant platform for promoting development between the Southern countries. It has made significant progresses in sharing development experience, transferring knowledge and strengthening horizontal partnership and it is gradually becoming an effective way of building effective development cooperation between the low and Middle Income Countries (MICs) of the Southern region. “
“Our current vision is beyond the MDGs since we want to be an MIC. Thus, our challenges and expectations are higher and broader. We have to ensure both quantitative and qualitative aspects of development”, he added further.
And indeed, Bangladesh’s role is becoming a central one in the global South-South paradigm- as explained by the Project Manager of Aid Effectiveness Project Mr. Monowar Ahmed in his remark that ‘South-South cooperation, triangular cooperation and knowledge-sharing’ is one of the five themes suggested for discussion in the upcoming high level meeting on Global Partnership to be held in Mexico in the coming April and Bangladesh along with Mexico is in the core group for that theme to share concrete points for discussion and consideration in the Mexico congregation.
Against this backdrop, the daylong national workshop was organized to sensitize the relevant stakeholders about South-South Cooperation while drawing feedback for the Mexico High Level Meeting. Economic Relations Division of the government with support from multi donor funded Aid Effectiveness Project organized the workshop.
Speakers at the event discussed in detail the present status and the future potential of South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation in the context of Bangladesh. In doing so, they explored the potential areas for such cooperation, existing institutional and policy arrangements for such collaboration as well as possible challenges.
ERD Additional Secretary Mr. Arastoo Khan emphasized that although SSC or TrC cannot yet be seen as the replacement of the North South Cooperation; nonetheless southern nations like China, Brazil and India are already emerging as major economic players and centers of excellence for the world.
UNDP Policy Specialist Ms. Karolien Casaer in her presentation provided a broad background of the South-South and Triangular Cooperation in the context of the changing aid effectiveness agenda particularly citing the Paris principles, Accra Agenda and Busan Principles.
Pointing out the absence of an agreed institutional framework for SSC in Asia; ERD Additional Secretary Mr. Ashadul Islam recommended forming a taskforce to work out a policy framework for promoting, expansion and implementation of SSC and TrC.
Participants in the workshop called for establishing a centralized information bank on SSC at the national level while also underlining the need for making the UN office for South-South Cooperation more effective for facilitating knowledge sharing.
The workshop explored the potential of trade opportunities for Bangladesh with the Southern economies while focusing on the current constraints and also providing suggestions for more policy coherence and greater collaboration.
The workshop specially stressed on the potential of overseas employment opportunities for Bangladeshis in some of the emerging Southern economies such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Middle-eastern labor markets . They emphasized eliminating both the supply side and demand side constraints to make the global labor market more beneficial for the southern economies.
Participants at the workshop also explored the current level of technical cooperation that is received from the Southern countries, particularly Malaysia, China and India in the form of scholarships and fellowships and its potential impact on Bangladesh’s development and up-scaling of skills.
Discussants also highlighted the critical role that the CSOs can play in making South-South Cooperation a sustainable and dependable means of development cooperation.
Member of the Planning Commission Professor Dr. Shamsul Alam , ERD Additional Secretaries Mr. Kazi Shofiqul Azam and Mr. Mohammad Shafiqul Azam, Director General of WTO Cell Mr. Amitava Chakaraborty, ERD Joint Secretary and the National Project Director of the Aid Effectiveness Project Ms. Nurjahan Begum, ndc and Convener of CSO Aid Accountability Group Mr. Ahmed Swapan also spoke on the occasion.