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A partnership of equals

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Bangladesh and the UK can join forces to do a lot of good, including addressing the global problems of poverty and climate change

The United Kingdom and Bangladesh have a very long and cordial relationship as members of the Commonwealth, as well as of the United Nations.

Bangladesh has also benefited from the overseas development assistance from the UK as its main development partner over many decades.

As we transition towards the third decade of the 21st century, it is a good time to reflect on how this bilateral relationship can evolve over the next decade.

I will focus on the global climate emergency that has been recognized by the parliaments of both countries, which will require a much greater focus, both nationally as well as globally, on tackling climate change, both by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases as well as by building adaptation and resilience in every country in the world.

I will base my discussion on a number of assets that we have that we can build on to enhance the relationship between the two countries.

The first asset that we have is our common interest in tackling the two major global problems, namely poverty and climate change. The former have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the latter has the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to guide our relationship on both fronts. We can easily join forces on both these issues going forward.

The UK and Bangladesh provided a significant joint effort and achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that preceded the SDGs; they can aim to repeat the collaboration for the SDGs.

The big difference between them is that, whereas the MDGs were meant for developing countries only and the developed countries’ role was simply to provide support, the SDGs are meant for all countries and, hence, the collaboration can now be a two-way street rather than one which goes in one direction.

The second asset we have is a long established relationship of citizens of both countries, which includes a significant number of Bangladesh origin British citizens in the UK. This diaspora of Bangladeshi-British citizens is already proving to be a significant contribution to investment in Bangladesh from the UK.

The Bangladesh diaspora in the UK is also beginning to  play a significant role in raising awareness of climate change impacts in Bangladesh for the citizens of the UK. This is again a new way to learn from and help each other, rather than only the UK helping Bangladesh.

The third asset we have is the well-established relationship between academics and researchers from both countries, who have a long history of collaborative research on poverty alleviation, which is now being turned to research to tackle climate change as well.

This was initially established through Bangladeshi students going to the UK for higher studies and can now also include British students coming to Bangladesh for their higher studies.

The relationship between the two countries can thus become a partnership of equals going forward.

This potential opportunity for collaborative research on the twin global problems of poverty and climate change will enable the researchers of both countries to contribute towards a global public good.

Finally, the fact that the UK will be hosting and have the presidency of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in November 2021 and that Bangladesh will be the chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) — this offers a great opportunity for the UK and Bangladesh to play a bigger role globally than just focusing on bilateral relations alone.

In this context, there will be a series of webinars arranged over the next few months, where experts and leaders from the UK and Bangladesh will come together to discuss the four main tracks of COP26, namely adaptation and resilience, nature-based solutions, renewable energy, and climate finance; they can come up with ways forward both bilaterally as well as globally.

Each of the four themes will have two webinars, one on specific solutions from both the UK and Bangladesh, and the second one a high-level discussion on ways forward.

I have been invited to moderate these eight webinars along with Simon Maxwell from the UK, and we are looking forward to some very exciting discussions over the course of the next few months.

We are hopeful that this set of eight webinars will not only address the problems of global climate change but, more importantly, identify ways to tackle them.

In particular, they will showcase how Bangladesh and the UK can become key partners in this process over the coming decade.


Originally this opinion article was published on November 30, 2020 at Dhaka Tribune.

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