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17 May 2016 | News

ICIMOD’s Contribution to Implementation of the Prime Minister’s Directive to Accelerate Socioeconomic Development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is Recognised

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The Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MOCHTA) considers ICIMOD’s strategic framework for sustainable development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh as relevant to the implementation of the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Directive for the speedy development and improvement of livelihoods in the CHT. At a large public gathering on 8 May 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Complex in Dhaka to promote cultural diversity of ethnic communities. The gathering was attended by Deputy Leader of Parliament, Syed Sajeda Chowdhury MP, Public Works Minister Engineer, Mosharof Hossain MP, Parliamentary Standing Committee Chairman, RAM Obaidul Moktadir Choudhury MP,  and Chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council and President of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma), among others.

On the occasion, MOCHTA launched a book entitled Chittagong Hill Tracts: Long Walk to Peace and Development, which commemorates the end of the two-decade long insurgency through the signing of the peace accord in 1997. This publication outlines the journey towards peace and development, including the directives given by the prime minister for the speedy development and improvement of livelihoods in the CHT. Editor of the book and Secretary of MOCHTA, Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, in describing the journey towards peace and development, highlighted the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD)’s contribution to  visioning and preparation of development goals of CHT. In particular, he noted ICIMOD’s support in organising a consultation meeting between MOCHTA and the National Planning Commission of Bangladesh on 11 May 2015, which resulted in the CHT goals being incorporated in Bangladesh’s 7th Five Year Plan. Mr Tripura also included a relevant chapter of ICIMOD’s Strategic Framework in the book which matches the vision and development goals of the CHT. Mr Tripura refers to the prime minister’s directives for the CHT and recognises that ICIMOD’s Strategic Framework will help MOCHTA in formulating development plans and programmes to implement these directives to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of CHT.

The Strategic Framework suggests measures for ensuring peace, stability, and good governance, including implementing outstanding elements of the peace accord and expediting the process for resolving land disputes. It suggests ways to reduce conflict over land by improving alternative sources of livelihood, strengthening decentralisation and devolving authority to CHT institutions, and improving the coordination of development activities. In relation to the traditional farming sector, the framework suggests initiatives to strengthen agriculture through integrated watershed management; transforming jhum, where appropriate, to other more productive systems (such as agroforestry, horticulture, and animal husbandry); and strengthening post-harvest management and value chain development of CHT products. It also highlights the need to strengthen local institutions such as farmer groups, associations, and cooperatives, and to facilitate their access to credit through rural credit schemes and community-based savings and credit organisations. The framework illustrates CHT farmers’ need to be empowered with timely market information and better access to resources, in particular, by prioritising ethnic communities’ security. Strategies to promote the non-farm sector include skills development and vocational training; encouraging labour mobility and migration; and the provision of financial and other advisory services to enhance the capacity of those living in CHT to find job opportunities. Another area with the potential to generate rural employment is community-based ecotourism. Crucial to these strategies is private sector investment and the framework highlights needed to create an enabling environment and to attract private investment in the region through provide incentives.

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