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Dhaka Tribune

‘Bangladesh on track to achieve Vision 2041’

Bangladesh is going to a leading position in almost all sectors

Update : 13 Nov 2022, 10:01 PM

Charles Whiteley, ambassador of the European Union to Bangladesh, recently sat for an exclusive interview with physician, author, and youth leader Dr Rakib Al Hasan to discuss Bangladesh's development over the past 50 years, what it must do to continue its progress, and the country's relationship with the EU.


It has been more than 50 years since Bangladesh's independence. In these 50 years, Bangladesh has seen great progress in economic prosperity, industrial development, education, and health. How is this progress seen in the eyes of the EU?

Bangladesh's progress in 50 years of independence is remarkable and amazing. Bangladesh has been doing great in several sectors in the last few decades. In the last 15 years, the life expectancy of people in Bangladesh has increased, maternal and child mortality rates have decreased, and health care is being delivered at the root level through community clinics. The country tackled the Covid 19 pandemic successfully. Even though the global economy has suffered due to Covid 19, Bangladesh has not allowed its economy to collapse. The main reason behind this is the large market of remittance and garment industry in Bangladesh. But the biggest achievement is that Bangladesh is going to migrate to the list of developing countries by 2026.


How has the relationship and friendship between Bangladesh and the EU been over the last five decades?

Relations between Bangladesh and the EU are extremely impressive. The European Union initially played a leading role in Bangladesh's health and education sector as a development corporation. Currently, the EU is Bangladesh's largest trading partner. Bangladesh has learned to tackle global issues more successfully than before and is becoming more mature. There are many more opportunities to work together on climate change, cyber security, and democracy in the futurem and areas of work will undoubtedly increase. 


Youths of Bangladesh are moving forward at a rapid pace. How is the progress of young people in the eyes of the EU?

The youth of Bangladesh are very impressionable. We always try to meet youth and youth organizations, try to know their thoughts about the country and nation, as I am doing with you now. We try to reach and support organizations working at the root level. The youth of Bangladesh are now very vocal about climate change. They are also moving forward with tree planting movements to protect the environment. Bangladeshi youths are creating commercial start-ups, building up new ideas, attending various international competitions, and bringing success for the country. We are also working on cultural relations such as Heritage Dhaka, Old Dhaka City, and social media on EU initiatives. We are also trying to involve Bangladeshi youth in every place. We believe that the new leadership and visionary thoughtful leaders of Bangladesh will emerge from here.


In the 50 years of independence, Bangladesh has faced drawbacks in certain areas. What are these areas and how can Bangladesh address them?

Bangladeshi businessmen and workers, especially women workers, are very hardworking and their determination is also very high. Based on their labour, the garment industry of Bangladesh has reached this position today. Worryingly, 83-85% of Bangladesh's exports are from the garment industry. An economy cannot be driven on only one sector. The post-Covid period and Russia-Ukraine war may slow down the sector further. So, Bangladesh has to think of alternatives quickly and give equal attention to other sectors as well. 


Today, the entire world is vocal about climate change, global warming, human rights, democracy, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What should Bangladesh do to improve in these sectors?

Bangladesh is included in the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan and is committed to meeting the SDGs. Bangladesh is also working successfully on cultural peace. Bangladesh is recognized as the country that sends the highest number of peacekeepers to UN peacekeeping missions, which further enhances the image of the country. Bangladesh is going to a leading position in almost all sectors. 


At this moment, the Rohingya crisis is a burning issue for Bangladesh. This is not just a problem for Bangladesh but a global concern. What can be done to send Rohingyas back to their country and how can the EU help Bangladesh in this regard?

The Rohingya issue is a headache for everyone. Sheltering, feeding, and transporting so many people for five years is undoubtedly difficult. For a country with a high population density like Bangladesh, it is even more dire. The outside world is aware of this protracted matter and the EU itself is empathetic to it. But the truth is that there is no easy solution or way out of this global issue. The EU itself is a victim of refugees. In the past, we provided shelter to Syrians and now we have to shelter Ukrainian refugees. We don't even know how long they will have to bear it. There is no quick fix for war, refugees, and repatriation. 


Bangladesh is now in the list of least developed countries. Where will the position of Bangladesh go in the coming days and where does the EU want to see Bangladesh?

With a definite plan, Bangladesh is moving forward accordingly. By setting the 2041 target, this country is on the right track. Bangladesh will reach its desired path if its economic condition does not collapse, and political stability is maintained. Finally, we ourselves, the European Union, want to see a happy Bangladesh, like the happy and prosperous world of the future.


Dr Rakib Al Hasan is a physician, author, activist & youth leader. He won the Global Youth Leadership Award 2019 & the Outstanding Young Leader of Asia Award 2021


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