SDGs in Bangladesh: Role of private sector

Md Touhidul Alam Khan | Published: February 05, 2019 21:15:19 | Updated: February 07, 2019 21:41:26

Leaders from 193 countries around the world met in September 2015 to ponder about the future of the generations yet to come. They dreamt of a world with no-poverty, no-hunger and safety from the extreme weather events by 2030. Thus a 17-goal plan was created called 'Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)'.

SDGs were adopted at the United Nations General Assembly to serve as a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity while replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The countries have been mapping out their national action plans, reviewing development priorities to achieve the SDGs by 2030. They are also hard at work to determine which policies are already aligned with SDG targets and what changes are needed after adoption of SDGs. To implement SDGs within the timeline, many public and private entities are identifying opportunities for greater alignment and effectiveness in reaching their goals through partnerships.

IMPLEMENTATION OF SDGS: The countries have to initiate steps in order to pursue progress on economic, social and environmental targets, in a balanced and integrated manner through public-private partnerships. And for this, a proper mechanism needs to be developed by the government. Involving private sector will not only help the infrastructure grow but will also strengthen their resilience, create more sustainable solutions while improving access to more infrastructure services. Public-private partnership is a central feature of SDGs-17 which recognises that 'all-hands-on-deck' can make a dent in the process of alleviating poverty and promoting peace. However, identifying the areas of common interest and collaboration is essential for establishing public-private partnerships.

ROLE OF BANKING TO ACHIEVE SDGs: Bangladesh Bank is the regulatory authority of financial sector in the country. At least 50 out of 169 SDG targets are directly or indirectly interlinked with Bangladesh Bank's activities. And it has already formulated its own SDGs target mapping towards its implementation. Bangladesh Bank has adopted pro-poor, inclusive and sustainable monetary policies, agricultural and SME credit policies and programmes. All these direct towards sustainable credit flow for need-based beneficiaries. Bangladesh Bank has developed mobile financial services, agent banking, financial literacy and school banking, thus strengthening consumer protection in banking. All these have broadened access to financial services with new technology.

Besides, gender-sensitive governance policies and credit policies have also been issued for banks and financial institutions. The main objectives of such policies are to improve gender equality including equal rights for women to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property and financial services. This will ultimately ensure women empowerment. Moreover, Bangladesh Bank plays a vital role in designing policy guidelines and programmes for stakeholders of financial sector towards implementing the sustainable development goals. Bangladesh Bank also bridges monitoring of communication and coordination among concerned government agencies to implement the terminology and financing approaches of sustainable development.

GOVERNMENT STRATEGIES REGARDING SDGS: Bangladesh has already participated in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) of SDGs in 2017. The focal point of the report was the current position of the government at implementing the 2030 Agenda comprising seven goals. It includes Goal-1 (Poverty), Goal-2 (Hunger), Goal-3 (Health), Goal-5 (Gender), Goal-9 (Infrastructure), Goal-14 (Life under water) and Goal-17 (Means of implementation).

The government of Bangladesh has adopted 'Whole of Society' approach to ensure wider participation of NGOs (non-government organisations), development partners, private sector, media and CSOs (civil society organisations) in the process of formulation of the Action Plan and implementation of the SDGs. To spearhead the process, 'SDGs Implementation and Monitoring Committee' has been formed at the Prime Minister's Office to facilitate and implementation of SDGs Action Plan. On July 17, 2017, a Planning Minister-led delegation of Bangladesh presented the VNR to HLPF ('High Level Political Forum') at the United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ), New York.

The implementation strategies of the government of Bangladesh towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals include mapping of ministries, data gap analysis, national monitoring  and evaluation framework, needs assessment and financing strategy and assimilation of SDGs targets in performance agreement.

PROGRESS REPORT ON IMPLEMENTATION OF SDGs IN BANGLADESH: General Economics Division (GED) of Bangladesh Planning Commission under the Ministry of Planning has published a progress report in December 2018 namely 'Sustainable Development Goals: Bangladesh First Progress Report 2018'. According to the report, most of the indicators -- based on available data -- achieved remarkable successes during the SDGs implementation period and are on track. However, it has been mentioned in summary of the report, "Achieving SDGs will critically depend on the availability of resources including external resources. The need for enhanced international cooperation and support has been emphasised for achieving 41 of the 169 targets. International community will have to provide adequate and timely support to Bangladesh to help implement a comprehensive and all-encompassing development agenda like SDGs by 2030".

MAJOR CHALLENGES FOR BANGLADESH TO IMPLEMENT SDGS: Resource Mobilisation is among the key challenges ahead for Bangladesh towards implementation of SDGs. Still there are issues like stakeholders' engagement especially ensuring private sector engagement, data availability and management. However, localisation of SDGs by engaging private sectors is very important for Bangladesh to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The country also needs to build collaboration at bilateral, regional and global levels for capacity building and sharing of best practices.

 LOCALISATION OF SDGS: Localising the SDGs means more than just 'naming and messaging' internationally-agreed goals at the local level. It is all about making the aspirations of the SDGs become real to communities, households and individuals, particularly to those who are at risk of falling behind. For this reason, first of all, awareness needs to be created at all levels in turning 2030 Agenda from a global vision into a local reality. And local communities and stakeholders, who must know individual and collective needs and capacities best, are critical partners in implementing and realising the goals. Targets and indicators of SDGs for contextualising the 2030 Agenda need to be appropriately synchronised with local development plans and strategies with utmost importance.

PRIORITIES OF SDGS INCORPORATED IN DEVELOPMENT POLICIES: The government of Bangladesh is working to formulate a 2021-2041 development plan to make the country more developed and prosperous by 2041. For achieving SDGs, it requires concerted and collective efforts with strong political commitment at all levels. The 2030 Agenda comes at a time when Bangladesh has already kicked off its journey towards an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a developed country by 2041. Bangladesh has incorporated priorities of SDGs in all of its development policies.

The government has adopted an inclusive approach to development so that the poorest and the most vulnerable section of the country can be integrated into its national development efforts. In brief, Bangladesh has already been on track towards achievement of the goals. Like many other Asian countries, Bangladesh has demonstrated a good initiation. If the concerted and collective efforts continue along with commitments, it will be easier to achieve the goals through introduction of different implementation mechanisms like private sector engagement, localisation of SDGs and reducing data gap analysis among others. Bangladesh is confident to set the example of a leading SDGs achiever.

Md Touhidul Alam Khan is Deputy Managing Director & Chief Business Officer of Prime Bank Limited.


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