Bangladesh is one of the three countries that have made the most progress from their previous position since the UN member states set the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) six years ago to ensure equitable and non-discriminatory development in a changing world. The UN Sustainable Development Solution Network released its 2021 progress report in June 2021, revealing significant progress for Bangladesh.
In this year's SDG index, Bangladesh ranks 109th out of 165 countries in the world. Four years back in the 2017 index, Bangladesh was ranked 120th out of 157 countries, as per the index. The SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 set a total of 17 goals to be met by 2030. The report has been prepared to judge the progress of the UN member states in those cases. However, due to a lack of sufficient information, the data of 156 out of 193 United Nations member countries have come out in this report.
According to the report, since 2010, East and South Asian countries have made significant progress in meeting SDGs. And since 2015, Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivoire and, Afghanistan have advanced the most in terms of scores in the SDG index.
Bangladesh's overall score in the SDG index is 63.5 out of 100 this time. Last year the score was 63.28; the previous year, it was 63.26. Now Bangladesh is ahead of India and Pakistan in this regard. Among the other two countries, Cote d'Ivoire is ranked 131st in the index with 57.56. In 2015, the country's score was 53.35. With a score of 53.93, Afghanistan is now in the 136th position of the index.
Finland, which is in the best position in the list, has a score of 85.9 and, the following four countries are Sweden (85.6%), Denmark (84.9%), Germany (82.5%), and Belgium (82.2%). The Central African Republic, which is in the lowest position, has a score of 38.27. Bhutan is ranked 70th among the leading countries in South Asia. It is followed by the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Their positions are 79th, 87th, and 96th, respectively. According to the Sustainable Development Report, Venezuela, Tuvalu and Brazil have seen the most significant declines in terms of scores in recent years.
The United Sustainable Development Solutions Network says there is a mismatch between the country's political commitment to meeting the SDGs and the state policies to meet their goals. This year, a survey of 48 countries found that 26 countries did not include SDGs in their annual budgets.
Although the global situation has been improving since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, the pandemic that began in 2020 made a break for the first time. The report said the COVID-19 pandemic created a state of emergency for health and a crisis of sustainable development.
Jeffrey de Sacks, President of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said that the developing countries would have to increase funding significantly to regain the continued improvement in achieving SDGs. That is why the tax structure needs to be reformed and more funding is needed from international development banks.
Bangladesh has become an example in various social progress indices. Intensive management of disasters, use of microfinance and its role in poverty alleviation, tree plantation, positive changes in social and economic indicators, etc., have become notable examples. The remarks made by Nobel laureate Indian economist Amartya Sen are noteworthy in this regard. In his opinion, in some cases, Bangladesh has the success to surprise the world. In particular, education facilities, women's empowerment, reduction of maternal and child mortality and birth rates, provision of toilets and health facilities for the poor, and immunisation of children are among the activities.
Bangladesh still has a long way to go to achieve all the SDG targets. Another major weakness in achieving SDGs is the lack of data. In many cases, there are not even the necessary data to analyse the progress. Bangladesh has not yet made adequate progress in eliminating inequality, peace and justice, role in climate protection, and ensuring employment. The desired progress in meeting human nutrition has not been achieved.
In the country, 31 per cent of children under the age of five are still lilliputian, and 22 per cent of children under five are underweight. Because of poverty and overcrowding in the city, remote areas in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) food shortages, lack of cropland, changes in diet due to cultural differences between different communities and unawareness of women, the nutritional situation has not improved much.
The SDGs emphasise women's ownership of land and natural resources. Establishing women's right to control over land creates food sovereignty for families and communities, eliminates malnutrition, and ensures a sustainable agricultural system. Land is not only a source of income. It is also associated with social, cultural rights. The matter has not yet received due importance.
In this case, quality work environment and fair wages are also essential for women; Bangladesh is still lagging. Appropriate working environment and fair wages should be provided to women workers working in various service organisations, including garments, agriculture, and household. We need a development strategy where the security of workers, families, and the community and the standard wages need to be ensured so that a worker can make a living with dignity.
Bangladesh has not been able to take appropriate measures for peace and justice. Lack of the rule of law and lack of good governance have negative impacts on women's rights. Violence against women is a clear violation of human rights, which is an obstacle to other development and ownership. As a result of violence, women and children face various challenges, including homelessness, health problems and insecurity.
This requires ensuring women's leadership and participation in decision-making at all levels. It has to start from the house, and it will remain in force up to the high level of government. Women's leadership and participation at the grassroots and national levels are prerequisites for women's rights and gender equality aiding sustainable development and democracy. It's important to remember that achieving the SDGs requires the participation and leadership of women in all spheres of society. If the political empowerment of women is systematically ensured, Bangladesh will also succeed in achieving the SDGs.
There are administrative weaknesses in implementing any good proposal in Bangladesh. In addition to organisational skills, good governance is also needed and, how the SDG plans will be implemented is a big issue. This requires global partnership. Capacity building needs to be done. In particular, the status of a middle-income country involves a lot of investment, substantial development assistance, thorough and effective reform initiatives, and an improved business environment. Financial discipline and a stable political environment are also needed.
According to experts, the main challenges of Bangladesh's development are an active and sustainable environment for private investment, good governance in the public sector, and strengthening the efficiency and integrity of government and judiciary. Efficient use of a fast-growing urban labour force, adaptation of climate change, and effective risk management are also required to ensure sustainable development.
Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic hampered the government's development activities and economic growth. However, government drew up appropriate plans to deal with the situation. The political commitment of the government to achieving the SDGs is highly commendable. Achieving SDGs will not be impossible, if the government's development activities accelerate in the post-Covid-19 period.
Md. Ziauddin Iqbal, Senior General Manager, PKSF