Ambassador Abdul Momen, till recently Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN discusses sustainability and resilience with Nosh Nalavala
Nosh Nalavala: As the MDGs get phased out this year, Bangladesh is on track in achieving those targets in a number of areas. Where do you see a shortfall in MDGs and how are you transitioning to the SDGs?
Ambassador Abdul Momen: Bangladesh, has, despite limited resources, achieved most of the MDGs. We did pretty well with poverty reduction. In 1991 we had 59% living below the poverty line at $1.25 a day, but today 22% are living below the poverty line. At the same time we have gender parity of about 53%. So out of the eight MDG goals we achieved six goals.
Q: Where was the shortfall in the MDGs?
A: We are afraid that if there is a disaster many of our achievements would be washed away. In the coastal areas the water levels are increasing and while we have achieved near sufficiency in food and agriculture, a large proportion off our population in the South are vulnerable to sea level rise. Nearly 25% of our land would be lost. We have not had a severe impact of climate change for the last six years, but looking at the climate change trends, we are concerned. At this time our focus is on resiliency and sustainability.
Q: So when you think the SDGs will fill the gap?
A: The SDGs have 17 goals. These are basically building blocks from MDGs to SDGs. If you look at the LDC list, only 16 countries could achieve the MDGs. Out of 32 LDCs in Africa, only four could fulfill the poverty reduction goal. In the area of sanitation, only five could achieve it. MDGs is an unfinished agenda.
Q: As the world prepares for a new sustainability framework, obviously a number of critical partnerships will need to be strengthened. What areas of the green economy will Bangladesh focus on towards successfully achieving the SDGs?
A: Climate change is highly interlinked with development. If anything goes wrong with climate change our development achievements will be washed away. To achieve the SDGs we will need more resources. To achieve the SDGs we will need to do resource mobilization since our ODA is miniscule. We are looking at innovative ways of financing; for example, duty-free quota, free access to markets.
Q: As far as green economies are concerned, are you focusing on any specific areas?
A: Yes, sustainable energy, solar energy. Today 1.34 million houses in Bangladesh are with solar energy. Since 2009 we were in dire need of energy, but new sustainable energy programs have increased our energy capacity threefold.
Q: While the MDGs had 8 goals, the SDGs have 17 goals and 169 targets. Do you foresee a successful road to the SDGs for LDC countries?
A: The targets will be reduced, but the goal of LDCs is pro-people, pro planet, more equitable and a more inclusive sustainable world for all — no one is left behind. LDCs depend on ODA, the main source of funding. They will need much more funding.
Q: With $100 billion dollars fund for SGDs, will most of it go to the LDCs?
A: We have been arguing that half should go to the LDCs. Even the OECD countries are in agreement. These are good beginnings. Unless the LDCs get additional funding, even the goal of technology transfer, unless it is at affordable prices, will not be realized.
Q: Talking of technology transfer, is there a lot of South-South cooperation? And is there progress towards North-South cooperation?
A: Yes, the countries of the South are becoming more dominant with investible funds; one third of the total investible funds are in the South. Even trade is on the increase and there is a lot of potential in South-South cooperation. A lot of issues are now being brought onto a multilateral forum and there is tremendous scope for partnership. The essence of sustainable development goals is to “ work in partnership.”
Q: Ambassador the pursuit of sustainable development is a constitutional obligation for Bangladesh. Rapid economic growth coupled with a rising population is putting a high toll on the environment, ecology and natural resources in Bangladesh. How do you see the SDGs mitigating the impact of climate change and do you visualize support from the Green Fund?
A: We are committed to the SDGs. We have to work towards sustainable development, biodiversity and the alleviation of the impact of climate change. We are one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. If 25% of our land goes under water, 40 million people will be displaced. Therefore, we need a tremendous amount of funding, particularly towards adaptation.
Q: Do you feel that there will be a binding treaty at the Paris talks in December?
A: The LDCs are playing a major role at the Paris talks and we hope to see a binding resolution. I am confident that the countries will come up with a strong framework for the developing countries.
Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT
Ambassador Abdul Momen being interviewed by Nosh Nalavala