Fighting Climate Change, Building Resilience
Charlotta Schlyter & Sudipto Mukerjee
As the cyclone Fani approached the Bangladeshi coast last
month, many were reminded of the horrors that previous super cyclones left in
their wake. In 1970, a cyclone of similar intensity killed half a million
people. Since then, significant strides have been made in planning and
preparedness that have resulted in greatly reduced losses from cyclones. This
time, when Fani intensified, the government of Bangladesh and civil society
partners immediately evacuated 1.6 million people to safety-a feat of
remarkable coordination that makes Bangladesh a study in disaster preparedness.
This level of preparedness was not achieved in a day.
Due to its geography, Bangladesh has always been vulnerable
to climate change and natural disasters. Climate change adaptation and
environment have been a prime focus of the tripartite partnership between the
government of Bangladesh, UNDP and Sweden. Over the years, we are proud to have
supported the government in a range of efforts that helped Bangladesh better
cope with disasters, from expanding the number of cyclone shelters along the
coast to developing an effective disaster management policy.
There is little doubt that Bangladesh has gone through
considerable development. The economy has been growing at a steady pace and in
the past two decades the number of people living in poverty has been halved.
Moreover, girls now outnumber boys in primary and secondary education and
remarkable progress on health indicators has been achieved.
Bangladesh faces daunting problems too. To name a few,
there are still persistent inequalities in income and gender, pockets of
poverty and unemployment as well as challenges of building a robust democracy
with full enjoyment of human rights. At the same time, climate change and the
rising frequency of natural disasters threaten to undo the country's social and
economic progress and may cause millions to slide back into poverty.
In this context, the poor and the excluded are central to
the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, not least through
helping them withstand effects of climate change.
Over the past two decades, UNDP and Sweden have time and
again demonstrated a joint commitment to support Bangladesh in its efforts to
build resilience against the impacts of a changing climate, addressing the
protection of millions who live along the country's vulnerable coasts and other
Through the flagship Comprehensive
Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) from 2010-2015, a joint initiative of the
government of Bangladesh and other development partners, UNDP and Sweden worked
together to reduce disaster risk vulnerability and institutionalised risk
reduction in Bangladesh. Thanks to a new joint initiative with the European
Union, 17,000 Bangladeshi households are now also on their way to becoming
agents of change through the Local Government Initiatives on Climate Change
Traditional gender roles still prevail in Bangladesh, with
women performing the brunt of the housework. Many are tied to their homes and
families, which means that they are often left behind during crises. These
women and girls are the most vulnerable to climate change, and the lack of
female leadership in local disaster management has been an obstacle. We are
working to find solutions to these problems, bringing women into the frontlines
of climate change adaptation and disaster management.
As advocates of human rights and equality, we hold that
full and equal enjoyment is absolutely essential for a life in dignity and
security. Likewise, the rule of law and accountable institutions are
cornerstones of a well-functioning democracy. Thus, we work closely with the
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in generating dialogue on the
strengthening of democracy and gender equality as well as full and equal
respect for human rights. We support the Commission's efforts to connect with
other human rights organisations and citizens alike. Our joint efforts also aim
to enhance the capacity of public institutions to combat violence against
women, and we advocate more broadly to bring women and young people to the
forefront of all developments.
Nearly one million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Cox's
Bazar. Since hundreds of thousands fled their homes in 2017, we have been
working with the government to strengthen local capacity to prevent crises,
focusing on the most vulnerable including women and children. Our efforts to
establish a sustainable system for solid waste management, and thereby reducing
public health risks while protecting the environment for refugees as well as
host communities, is a case in point. Time is of the essence, however. The
needs of both refugees and host communities must be urgently addressed, and the
respect for human rights protected and promoted.
Gradual poverty reduction and improving trends when it
comes to gender equality and education for the children of Bangladesh are
promising developments for the country. Sweden and UNDP will remain partners to
Bangladesh's future sustainable growth and democratic development, standing
with the people in their aspirations.
Charlotta Schlyter is Swedish Ambassador to
Bangladesh and Sudipto Mukerjee is Resident Representative, UNDP.