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Dhaka Tribune

How is Bangladesh achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?

For Bangladesh, the achievement of the global goals will depend on the ability to set priorities at the local level and translate them into reality. This is the first part of a three-part series on Bangladesh and SDGs

Update : 15 Mar 2024, 04:28 PM

Since 2015, nation states across the globe are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). All the member countries of the UN, irrespective of their economic and development status, have to achieve the 169 targets distributed among 231 indicators by 2030. 

The SDG is a global development plan, with its development indicators also developed keeping in mind the global context. Not all SDG indicators are equally applicable to all countries. Additionally, each country has its own reality, problems, and prospects -- so priorities differ. Moreover, the achievement of the global goals will depend on the ability to set priorities at the local level and translate them into reality. 

In implementing the SDGs, local realities, challenges and fair use of local resources -- all these factors have to be taken into account and transformed into local aspirations. Thus, the idea of SDG localization gained global attention. Different countries are identifying and implementing their own priorities from the global index in the light of their own desires and priorities.

In this regard Bangladesh is not an exception, rather Bangladesh can be recognized as a pioneering country. Localization of development has been taken as a means of inclusive development which is the main objective of the development philosophy of the country now. 

Bangladesh, as soon as it signed the global agenda in 2015, has adopted a whole-of-society approach in implementing SDGs. Already, the country’s planning process specially, the “Five Year Plan” are in alignment with the needs and aspirations of the SDGs.

From an institutional and structural perspective, Bangladesh adopted a comprehensive strategy. In the meantime, measures have been taken both at the central and local level, which includes formulating a National Action Plan specifying the responsibilities of various ministries/departments, developing a results-based monitoring and evaluation framework (SDG Tracker), and SDG financing strategy. 

An SDG implementation and coordination committee has been formed at department, district, and upazila levels, ensuring participation of multidisciplinary actors, ie, government institutions, NGOs, INGOs, civil society, development partners, private sector, academics, professionals, local government bodies, and local community. 

What has been encouraging to see is that, having central and local level institutional and structural setup in place, the government of Bangladesh did not stop digging further to find out ways and means of more effective implementation of SDGs in the context of Bangladesh. Being a developing country, all the global indicators under the Sustainable Development Goals are not equally applicable to Bangladesh and it is not possible to implement all the indicators at the same time. 

The country has limitations in financial capacity as well as institutional capacity. Hence, it will be difficult to implement all indicators simultaneously. Rather, Bangladesh needs to identify priority areas for actions and formulate its own country-contextual priority list in the light of global indicators. 

The journey of localizing SDG in Bangladesh started in 2018 under the leadership of the Governance Innovation Unit (GIU) of the Prime Minister’s Office. GIU with the support from General Economic Division (GED), the Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and a2i program developed a country-contextual set of priority indicators at three levels (national level priority indicator 39; sub national level priority indicator 64 (one for each district) and upazila level indicator: 492 (one for each upazila). 

The model was approved at the National SDG Implementation Review Committee and later by the Cabinet in 2020. 

The process of identifying the priority indicators was designed in a manner to be comprehensive and inclusive. It includes:

  •  An in-depth research and analysis on the list of targets and indicators in context of Bangladesh’s needs and reality; 
  • A mapping of relevant stakeholders for effective consultations; 
  • A series of consultations with all relevant stakeholders 

The first step was to develop the national level priority indicators. Once 39 national priority indicators were identified, there was a need to go beyond the national level, further down to the local level in order to make it more inclusive. 

GIU proposed to have one priority indicator for each district and each upazila (sub district). The list of national indicators dictated that thematic areas such as poverty alleviation, food security, quality education, health, economic growth and unemployment, infrastructure, promoting manufacturing and ICT sector, women empowerment, and climate change and environmental protection were the priority areas at the national level of Bangladesh. 

If we analyze some of the national level indicators, it will provide us with a clear idea as to how country contexts are in line with the needs and priority of Bangladesh. As Bangladesh is continuously losing the cultivable land, one of the indicators that has been set emphasizes maintaining cultivable land at the rate of minimum 55% of the total land. 

Evidence also suggested that Bangladesh needs more effort in increasing the participation of women in economic activities. In line with that, one indicator has been identified which focuses on increasing the percentage of women participation in productive activities to 50%. 

The GDP and government revenue ratio is an area which also requires more effective actions. The national level indicator also covers these important areas by “raising the ratio of total government revenue to GDP to 20%.” In similar fashion, the Bangladesh model of SDG localization brings forward the real priority needs by setting country contextual indicators. Global evidence suggests that the global goal can be achieved on time if the national priority indicators can be addressed effectively. 

The identified national, district, and upazila priority indicators can be utilized as effective policy inputs for development planning if it can be mainstream properly. Now is the time for validating the relevance and utility of the identified indicator set in the context of Bangladesh and global standards.

Dr Mohammad Kamrul Hasan is a Researcher and Public Administration Practitioner. email: [email protected].

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