Speakers at a National Policy Dialogue on “Strengthening the Urban Local Governments in Bangladesh” emphasised empowering the urban local governments that is Paurasavas and City Corporations for Bangladesh to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The policy dialogue was jointly organised by the Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Local Government Division (LGD), and Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) Bangladesh, on 17 January 2021, in Dhaka. LIUPCP is supported by the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO).
Local Government, Rural Development & Cooperatives Minister Md Tazul Islam attended the event as the chief guest. The Minister stressed the importance of building the own capacity of municipal councils to make the development sustainable.
“City Corporations and Paurashava follow their own laws. They must take responsibility for generating and increasing their revenue as per their laws, and contribute to the country’s overall development.” Tazul Islam said.
Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman, PPRC, chaired the dialogue while Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Local government Division, Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh also spoke.
Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, said, “Bangladesh’s progress in recent years in poverty eradication and several human development fronts is remarkable, although sustaining progress has proved more difficult in the urban context in recent years. Addressing urban poverty and marginalisation is, therefore, a top priority for FCDO to ensure that no one is left behind.”
He said, “We are happy to see local government, citizens’ platforms, local businesses and private sector partners working together to address locally-specific vulnerabilities due to poverty and climate change. Empowering urban local governments is important to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and we aim to support continued collaboration on this.”
Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, said that many of the challenges in eradicating urban poverty have remained unaddressed in Bangladesh. The country needs severe investments in urban social protection. Bangladesh is yet to finalise its national urban policy, he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 18 per cent of urban households were covered by social protection according to the World Bank. “With a prolonged crisis that has resulted in a significant rise in urban poverty, cities will require greater social protection coverage specifically targeting the newly created—as well as the previously existing—urban poor,” Sudipto said adding that the LIUPC project has been playing a considerable role as tried and tested model for urban social protection which can be considered for scale-up by the government.
City corporations and municipalities of the Local Government Division are responsible for delivering the necessary urban services to the citizens. But they face tremendous challenges to tackle the urban poverty for lack of resources and capacity. The LIUPC project commissioned a series of research works in 11 city corporations and Paurashavas to identify their institutional and financial capacity gaps and make recommendations to overcome the gaps.
The studies recommended for revision and approval of National Urban Sector Policy which has been in a draft format since 2013. The studies also recommended for enabling the national government to mainstream urban poverty reduction efforts at the national and municipal level.
Dr. Salina Hayat Ivy, Mayor, Narayanganj City Corporation, Ariful Huq Chowdhury, Mayor, Sylhet City Corporation, Md Rafiqul Islam, Secretary-General, Municipal Association of Bangladesh and Dipak Chakraborti, Additional Secretary (Admin Wing), LGD, were present as distinguished discussants of the dialogue.
Moderated by Ashekur Rahman, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, Abdul Mannan, Joint Secretary, Local Government Division and National Project Director, LIUPC Project and Yugesh Pradhanang, Project Manager, LIUPC Project, also spoke.
Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project (LIUPCP) supported by FCDO, aims to contribute to balanced, sustainable growth by reducing urban poverty in Bangladesh and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 that call for ‘leaving no one behind’.