The Netherlands is a longstanding partner of Bangladesh. Our focus in 2017-2018 was on the following themes: water management, water supply and sanitation (WASH), sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender, food security and nutrition, sustainable value chains (in particular the readymade garments (RMG) sector), and human rights (in particular freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion).
Our engagement with Bangladesh takes place in a context of steady and high economic growth, and remarkable development results, but also in a context in which human rights and political space are under pressure.
Bangladesh hosts more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The Netherlands provided assistance to these refugees and the host community in the areas of gender-based violence, SRHR, WASH, and food security and agricultural development.
In 2018, the first step was taken in Bangladesh formally graduating from the LDC category in 2024. This will have an impact on ODA flows and trade.
Sheikh Hasina has become Prime Minister for the 3rd consecutive term of five years after the Awami League-led alliance won the parliamentary elections in December 2018 with 96% of all parliamentary seats.
In May 2018, Bangladesh’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held. UPR follow-up will be an important mechanism for engaging with Bangladesh on the national human rights situation, in addition to the fact that Bangladesh is member of the Human Rights Council for the period of 2019-2021.
The government of Bangladesh has approved the Delta Plan 2100, which will serve as an umbrella for our future co-operation in the areas of water management and agriculture.
A major issue in the RMG-sector has been and remains the
continuation of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
The Netherlands has significantly contributed to the well-being, economic development and resilience of thousands of people and the country as a whole (see highlighted results). We have initiated systemic changes and development through our programmes and activities, but also via advocacy.
Some highlighted results:
Approval of the Delta Plan2100. The Delta Plan has the high-level support of the present government. The Delta Plan will be an important pillar in the next, eighth Five Year Plan for Bangladesh.
The Netherlands was instrumental in the formulation of the current Food Safety Law and regulations, and the establishment of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority.
Through our rice fortification project with WFP, the Bangladesh government has decided to distribute fortified rice via its social safety net programmes. The project has also resulted in greater commercial production and availability of fortified rice on the market, which is an important contribution to improved nutritional value of the rice.
Through a limited contribution to the World Bank multi-donor trust fund, the Netherlands has succeeded in mainstreaming sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the fourth Health, Population and Nutrition Sector Program (4th HPNSP).
The Netherlands has always pursued a progressive SRHR agenda in Bangladesh and has advocated on sensitive issues, especially in the area of youth sexuality and youth rights. The decision by the government to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education in the school curriculum is a significant result. The material and methods have been developed in a project supported by the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is actively involved in supporting the readymade garments (RMG) sector in transiting to sustainable business practices (focusing on occupational health and safety, responsible sourcing by brands, living wages and responsible environmental practices), and adopting and implementing core labour standards.
Apart from contributing to the Rohingya refugee response, the Netherlands has been advocating for longer-term development interventions (e.g. education and skills development, and livelihoods) and for the safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar.
Human rights are at the centre of the Netherlands’ foreign and development co-operation policy. We take an integrated approach that addresses sensitive political and human rights issues, in the areas of SRHR, gender and RMG, for example, and in the Dialogue and Decent programmes in Bangladesh. Human rights advocacy is mainstreamed in our activities.