Rising inequality, increasing effects of natural disasters and high level of bribery and crimes are pushing SDG indicators in the wrong direction and will obstruct Bangladesh from achieving at least three sustainable development goals by 2030.
The goals are SDG 10, 13 and 16, which aim at reducing inequality, combating climate change and ensuring peace and justice in society respectively.
The observations came in the “Overview report on four years of SDGs in Bangladesh” unveiled by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh, a forum of civil society, NGOs and the private sector.
The platform organised the day-long conclave to discuss and track Bangladesh’s progress in six SDGs since 2015, at Bangabandhu International Conference Center in Dhaka yesterday.
The discussed SDGs are: Goal 4 (Quality education), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth), Goal 10 (reduced inequality), Goal 13 (Climate action), Goal 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions), and Goal 17 (Partnerships).
The indicators for SDG 4, 8 and 17 are moving in the right direction but require some policy interventions to steer them towards achievement by 2030, Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said while presenting the report.
“On the other hand, the SDGs 10, 13 and 16 are not moving in the right direction and require radical policy changes and significant efforts from all stakeholders in order to reverse their trajectories,” she said at the opening of the conclave.
The meet took place ahead of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development to be held from July 9-18 in New York. Inputs gathered from the conclave would be forwarded to the HLPF, the organisers said.
This year, the HLPF will review progress of the six SDGs.
According to the overview report, the prospect of achieving the target on reducing inequality under the Goal 10 appears bleak.
Four out of 11 indicators were considered to measure the progress of the Goal 10 and only one indicator is in the right direction. The rest three are going in the wrong direction, it added.
The income share held by the poorest 40 percent of the population in Bangladesh declined from 17.41 percent in 1991 to 13.01 percent in 2016.
On the other hand, the income share held by the richest 10 percent rose from 23.3 percent to 26.8 percent during the period, said Khatun.
“This will lead to an increase in income inequality in the country,” said the report, which also showed that the Gini coefficient increased from 0.39 in 1991-92 to 0.48 in 2015-16.
Khatun said the situation of the SDG 13 looks most grim.
The number of households affected by natural disasters was up from about half a million in 2009 to around 2 million in 2014. The aggregate economic loss due to natural disasters during the period is around Tk 18,424 crore.
“Overall the analysis of the SDG 13 indicates that Bangladesh is in a precarious situation with respect to climate change and will have to take preparations to deal with the impact of climate change,” said the report.
On the SDG 16, Khatun, referring to Transparency International Bangladesh data, said the proportion of households who paid bribes during interactions with various service providers rose to 50 percent in 2017 from 42 percent in 2007.
The largest amount of bribery in 2017 was reported in law-enforcement agencies, she said.
The report said murder, violence against women and children, bribery and illicit financial flows are all disturbingly high and most of these crimes would increase in 2030 if they follow historical trends.
Law enforcement needs special attention so that capacity building and proper functioning accountability mechanism can significantly improve the situation, said Mia Seppo, resident coordinator of the United Nations.
She said participation of citizens is indispensable for development and this requires governments to actively create an enabling environment for civil space.
“Unfortunately, the UN is witnessing a shrinking of civic space, and exclusion and prosecution of critical civil society worldwide. And I believe this is a trend that we do not have to see in Bangladesh.”
“We can make sure that we can create space where voices are heard and where inconvenient truths can be spoken and listened to, and by doing so, it will help all of us do better for the ones we serve, the people left behind.”
Planning Minister MA Mannan welcomed questions and criticisms.
“We have confidence. We are not afraid of criticism. We think critics are our friends. But there are some norms of criticisms,” he said.
“Raise your hand and ask about where the government spends money. You do not need to throw bombs or remove railway tracks to do so,” he said.
The minister said the government has taken several initiatives to attain the SDGs.
On inequality, he said inequality usually rises at the early stage of development and it is widening in Bangladesh as well.
The rich are becoming richer but the living standards of the people in the low-income segment are also improving, he added.
Mannan said poverty is the main problem confronting development and it has to be eliminated. For this, adequate infrastructure should be put in place to open up opportunities for the poor, he added.
Rasheda K Choudhury, core group member of the Citizen’s Platform, said the government is actually the major stakeholder of the SDGs. “We want them to be in the driving seat to reach our destination safely.”
Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of the Platform, said this year 51 countries have volunteered to present their national voluntary reviews to the HLPF and Bangladesh is not one of them.