VOICE is a rights-based, activist organization working mainly on the issues of food sovereignty, aid effectiveness, economic justice, and the right to information and communication, both in Bangladesh and on a global scale. By building a broader constituency of alternative voices to the ‘mainstream development discourse’ through research and public education, VOICE is taking a stand against unjust and undemocratic practices.
[Dhaka, 29 December 2010] Speakers at a workshop on ‘privacy and human rights’ demanded to ensure personal information protection to ensure civil liberty and human rights. The workshop was held today (29 Dec 2010) at the conference hall of Chatholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) in the city organized by rights based activist group VOICE and Privacy International. Speakers also called upon the government to enact a privacy act to protect privacy, personal information, correspondence and means of communication of people.
Syed Marghub Morshed, former chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), eminent socio-economist Dr. Piash Karim from BRAC university, eminent journalist Selim Samad, Tahmina Rahman, country director of Article 19, economist Mohiuddin Ahmed, human rights activist Khairuzzaman Kamal from Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF) journalist Shahidul Shuvra, Khawaza Main Uddin, Kawsar Uddin spoke in the meeting among others. The human rights organizations, women groups, CSOs, NGOs, journalists, and activist groups attended the workshop.
A day long workshop will be held on 29 December 2010 from 10 am. to 4 pm. at the CBCB Conference Hall ( 24/C Asad avenue, Mohammadpur, Dhaka).
The workshop titled `Privacy and Human Rights' aims at raising critical awareness, developing perspective and building capacity engaging the various stakeholders aroundthe issues of privacy and human rights.
Human rights organizations, election monitoring NGOs, media organizations, telecom entities, ISPs, ICT activists, civil liberties groups, journalists, NGOs and CSOs etc, are expected to attend the workshop.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Saturday called for rationalisation of distribution of aid that many donors allocate based on political, economic and strategic interests.
She made the call while she was addressing as co-chair an interactive policy dialogue on quality and quantity of ODA for LDCs and their debt problem in Lisbon, says a press release.
She also called for improving quality of Official Development Assistance (ODA), and rectification of the huge imbalances in terms of ODA per capita among the least developed countries (LDCs).
Dipu Moni highlighted the concern of gradual decrease in grant in the ODA mix and underscored the need for minimising transaction cost of ODA and making ODA disbursement and delivery flexible and predictable.
On external debt situation, she underlined that diversion of money from poverty alleviation initiatives and programmes to service debts has its own economic and social implications.
She stressed the need for full and comprehensive debt relief measures for highly indebted countries and for a case-by-case debt relief for countries like Bangladesh.
Multi-stakeholder Consultation on the Joint Cooperation Strategy in the Context of Aid and Development Effectiveness
The Aid Accountability Group, with assistance from the Reality of Aid Network, organized a multistakeholder consultation on the Joint Cooperation Strategy (JCS) in the context of aid and development effectiveness, 20 September 2010 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The JCS, signed by the Government of Bangladesh and 18 Development Partners (including ADB and WB apart from donor countries) on June 2010, is a strategy for signatories to work together in the spirit of PD and AAA, aiming to translate international commitments on aid into real actions for improved aid delivery and poverty reduction in Bangladesh.
Different positions were put forth during the consultation. According to Dr Qazi Khalikauzzaman (Chairman of Pally Karmasahayak Foundation), aid stands at less than 2 percent of the national budget but the conditionalities attached are unbearable and lead to worsening poverty. This was supported by economist and Professor Anu Muhammad, who stated that a net foreign aid at 1b USD, 90% is spent on logistics, travel and consultancy fees. Instead, the country should concentrate on domestic resource mobilization and remittances.
Conflicting views on role of foreign aid : Some economists say it benefits consultants, others favour it for achieving MDGs
The seminar brought into focus three sheds of opinion on foreign aid utilisation.
Some of the economists believed that it (foreign aid) leads to wastage of resources benefiting only consultants and officials of projects, who spend the money.
While others opined that even though there were some problems in the execution of foreign aided projects, such foreign aid was necessary for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG).
However, there was consciousness of opinion that the foreign aid utilisation was beset with problems and should be streamed line through effective management.
Aid Accountability Group and Reality of Aid jointly organised the seminar on 'Context of aid and development effectiveness' in the auditorium of Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific.
Noted economists at a seminar yesterday urged the government to pay more attention to utilising foreign remittance rather than putting emphasis on seeking foreign aid.
Speaking as the chief guest Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, said it is a matter of regret that we do not utilise foreign remittance amounting to 10 to 11 percent of our GDP but seek foreign aid.
The discussion titled "Joint cooperation strategy: Context of aid and development effectiveness" was organised by Aid Accountability Group at Cirdap auditorium in the city.
Kholiquzzaman said government officials while negotiating with foreign countries and organisations for aid and loans should be more efficient and careful about securing national interest.
He said government had to take several policies and decisions according to the prescription of donor agencies, for instance, the closure of Adamjee Jute Mills (AJM).
Kholiquzzaman suggested adopting plans and policies according to the reality and need of the country, not following prescriptions of foreign donors.
Former finance adviser to a caretaker government Mirza AB Azizul Islam differed with Kholiquzzaman about the closure of Adamjee jute mills saying it was shut due to corruption and mismanagement.
The JCS itself declared that it was made ‘in order to implement our commitment made in Paris and Accra’ where the major part of these forums of including CSOs in the process was overlooked. Moreover, the JCS described a monitoring flow chart keeping Aid Effectiveness Working Group in the middle of Policy Making and Implementation. However not a single Working Group includes a single representative of CSOs in the process," said the speakers at the multi-stakeholders consultation on Aid Effectiveness on the Context of Joint Cooperation Strategy held in CIRDAP auditorium at Dhaka today, jointly organized by Aid Accountability Group (AAG) and The Reality of Aid Network.
Chairman of Pally Karmasahayak Foundation (PKSF) Dr. Quazi Khalikuzzama presided over the meeting. Former Finance Advisor Mirza Azizul Islam, eminent economist Professor Anu Muhammad, Joint Secretary of Economics Relations Division (ERD) Bijon Kumar Baishya, Former Secretary of Finance and Team Leader of Paris Declaration Evaluation-phase-2 Siddiqur Rahman Chowdhury, Representative of Reality of Aid Ava Danlog, Deputy Country Director of DFID Diana Dalton, European Union Attache of Aid Effectiveness Julia Jacoby, Women Leader Khusi Kabir and Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Convenor of AAG were present among others.
Foreign aid is still playing significant role in eradicating poverty though joint initiative with special emphasize on NGOs' transparency and accountability is essential to boost aid effectiveness, renowned economist Dr Mirza Azizul Islam said Monday, reports UNB.
"Our macro-economic indicators - investment, GDP and foreign exchange earning - show reduced importance of foreign aid but it is still essential for some areas… development funding is one of them. Foreign aid contributes over 40 percent of our ADP funding," he said.
The former finance adviser of caretaker government made the remarks while talking to journalists on the sidelines of a multi-stakeholders' consultation program titled 'Joint Cooperation Strategy: Context of Aid Development Effectiveness' held at CIRDAP auditorium.
Participants at a discussion meeting Monday underscored the need for ensuring the country's "economic sovereignty" by reducing aid dependency.
They said self-realisation about foreign aid use is "a must and aid money should be spent on development purposes, not be squandered."
The remarks came at a consultation programme organised by campaign grouping Aid Accountability Group (AAG) in the city.
PKSF chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad chaired the programme dedicated to 'Context of Aid and Development Effectiveness'.
Former finance advisor Mirza Azizul Islam said Bangladesh needs foreign aid but its effectiveness should be expanded.
He said overseas aid makes up half the country's development budget and the inflow of aid should continue until Bangladesh achieves self-reliance.
Mr Islam, a former UN economist, also said the country has received aid totalling $840 billion since 1972 and this large amount went to development projects.
He urged non-government organisations (NGOs) to use foreign aid in "a fair way" because they receive a large portion of the total inflow.
The nation itself should decide whether it takes aid or says goodbye to external assistance, he said.
Speakers at a roundtable called for enacting a rights law to protect the citizens’ privacy. They said that neither the government nor private companies had the right to infringe on individuals’ privacy on the pretext of security or economic reasons.
They said that these days the government as well as private companies demand too many information of citizens for providing passports, cell phone connections, voter ID. They also opposed phone tapping.
They said that the citizens in Bangladesh were often deprived of using new technologies, like facebook. In recent years, they said, mobile phone tapping and internet surveillance deprived the citizens’ privacy. They said that service providers often infringe into citizens’ privacy by demanding their voter ID cards, which contain too many of their details. They said that Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission was not at all an independent body as it is controlled by telecommunications ministry on the pretext of national security.