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Bangladesh Development Forum

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

The Government of Bangladesh held a high level Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) meeting in Dhaka on 15-16 February 2010. It was the first such event since 2005, and it took place one year after the current Government took office. The objective of the forum was for the Government to share, and discuss with development partners, their long-term plan to reach middle income status by 2021 (Vision 2021); the content of their new national strategy for accelerated poverty reduction; and their proposed reforms and delivery priorities.

The forum was widely hailed as a success. Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, opened the event, her speech referring specifically to the need for healthy democracy, decentralisation, transparency and anti-corruption. She highlighted the climate change challenge, called for speedy action on Copenhagen “fast-start” finance and emphasised the importance of women’s empowerment and gender equity. Her presence increased the profile of the event, attracting substantial national media attention.

Six business sessions covered: development strategies, governance and human development; power and energy; agriculture, food security and water resources; environment and climate change; transport and communications; and “Digital Bangladesh and ICT development”. The Minister of Finance A.M.A. Muhith chaired all six business sessions, supported by Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister Moshior Rahman and a number of cabinet ministers and secretaries. The event was well attended by development partners, including 36 development agencies and donors, and more than 80 civil society and private sector representatives. Bangladesh was congratulated on its progress towards the millennium development goals, on its sustained economic growth, and on its climate change strategy.

Improving delivery was at the heart of all discussions, with governance issues—the need for institutional and policy reforms, local government strengthening, improved implementation capacity and reduced corruption—and climate change featuring prominently. The importance of regional links in power, trade, transport and communications, and the need to create a better investment climate in Bangladesh was emphasised. The Finance Minister reaffirmed the Government’s determination to increase domestic revenue mobilisation and improve budget implementation.

Commitments were captured in a “BDF agreed action plan”, outlining 25 concrete actions for Government to be supported by development partners. The potential for increased transparency and aid effectiveness was boosted by the Government’s endorsement of the joint co-operation strategy, produced collectively by 32 development partners operational in Bangladesh and centred around the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness and Accra agenda for action.

The themes emerging from the BDF endorsed the direction the UK’s country plan for Bangladesh (2009-2014) is already taking, with our development efforts focused on building effective Government systems and strengthening the political system; improving the delivery of services; working with the private sector to create jobs; and helping the country live with climate change. Future programme direction and ongoing implementation of the existing portfolio will be guided by the BDF outcomes and framed by the joint co-operation strategy.

The Government of Bangladesh used the event to dismiss reports—in the UK and Bangladesh—of a dispute over climate change funding. The Government confirmed their desire to establish a climate change multi-donor trust fund, with grant funding committed from the UK, the European Union and Denmark. The fund will by led by the Government with the World Bank providing technical back-stopping and fiduciary management.

As co-chair of the Local Consultative Group, which represents development partners in Bangladesh, the UK played a central strategic role in preparing for the forum and steering the event. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that the next steps outlined in the action plan are implemented.