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Prioritization and tracking of actions for the most vulnerable

Prioritization and tracking of actions for the most vulnerable


Abul Kalam Azad

Special Envoy of the Climate Vulnerable Forum Presidency

Prioritization and tracking of actions for the most vulnerable
UN Women, March 2014. “Bangladesh – Rohingya women in refugee camps share stories of loss and hopes of recovery”

A UNDP publication identified different types of deprivation and persons who may be left behind. The first category under discrimination people are left behind when they experience exclusion, bias or mistreatment due to their identity in terms of gender, age, income, ethnicity, caste, religion, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, as well as indigenous, refugee, displaced or migratory status. The second category people, considering geographical condition, lack access to basic services like roads, public transport, broadband, sanitation and energy. Overall, people in rural areas across low- and middle-income countries are far more likely to be multi-dimensionally poor than people in urban areas. Governance matters like inequitable global trade, finance, investment and intellectual property regimes also prevent many countries, particularly smaller ones, from fully engaging in, or benefiting from, globalisation. In the fourth category, socio-economic status and laws determine people’s ability to stay healthy, get education, acquire skills, stay safe and avoid setbacks, inherit or acquire wealth; own land; find and sustain jobs or livelihoods; demand decent jobs and safe working conditions; benefit from insurance and social protection systems; start, form, finance and formalize small/micro businesses; open a bank account; and benefit from trade and investment. Finally, in terms of shocks and fragility, people get left behind when they are vulnerable to risks related to violence, conflict, displacement, large movements of migrants, environmental degradation, and natural hazard induced disasters and other types of climate events, or health shocks.

Against deprivation, four magic word of SDG basics ‘Leave no one behind’ is long practised in Bangladesh even before the SDG inception which got momentum from 2009 and in the last one decade, under the visionary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina it is being called ‘development surprise’ and ‘role model of development’.

Along with other policy decisions, keen political commitment, resource mobilisation, supportive policy interventions, inclusive and pro-poor macroeconomic measures, increased girls’ enrolment and women empowerment upgraded Bangladesh to middle income country and drives to the golden gate of LDC graduation with so many prestigious awards.


Despite many successes in MDGs, the poorest and most vulnerable people are being left behind. Gender inequality persists, big gaps exist between the poorest and richest households and between rural and urban areas, climate change and environmental degradation undermine progress achieved, and poor people suffer the most, conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development, millions of poor people still are homeless, live in poverty and hunger without access to basic services. Pandemic Corona, cyclone Amphan, repeated flood and river erosion this year added further misery to the vulnerable.

‘Leave no one behind’ and ‘Reach the furthest behind first’ the cornerstone along with three dimensions; economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion made SDG a cohesive and integrated package of global aspirations. This means the SDGs require all goals to be reached, for everyone – especially those at the margins of society. It means investing in women and girls, youth and most vulnerable people. It involves mobilising local action and commitment towards one common goal: a better future for all. Moreover, ‘Leaving no one behind’ means ending extreme poverty in all its forms, and reducing inequalities among both individuals and groups. So, the key to ‘leave no one behind’ is the prioritisation and fast-tracking of actions for the poorest and most marginalised people on the way towards progressive universalism. Averages and generalised progress are a misnomer, not enough because they do not ensure inclusion of all; rather marginalised people are missing frequently. ‘Leave no one behind’ puts as much emphasis on who benefits and how much against each delivery. So, decisions need to move away from business-as-usual approaches to the sustainable use of resources and peaceful with inclusive societies.

Unique character of SDG for ensuring inclusiveness used the concept of whole of the society approach with the terminology end, for all, inclusive, universal, equitable, equal and so on. If we analyse the sustainable development goals and associated targets deeply, we will see that the word ‘end’ has been used in two goals: SDG 1 (end poverty), SDG 2 (end hunger) and in eleven targets, the phrase ‘for all’ has been used in six goals: SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 7 (modern energy), SDG 8 (economic growth& employment), SDG 16 (strong institutions)) and eighteen targets. Besides this, the word ‘inclusive’ has been used in five goals: SDG 4, SDG 8, SDG 9 (resilient infrastructure), SDG 11 (human settlement), SDG 16 and five targets. In addition, the word ‘universal’ has been used in eight targets, ‘rights’ has been used in six targets, ‘equitable’ has been used in one goal: SDG 4and seven targets. Finally, the word ‘equal/equality’ has been used in two goals: SDG 5, SDG 10 (reduce inequality) and in twelve targets. All targets of Goal 10 are about reducing inequalities. So, it can be said that no goal can be considered as met unless met for everyone and therefore the ‘Leave no one behind’ imperative applies to all 17 goals. Hence, leave no one behind means reaching every single person and it has been credited as one of the beauties of the agenda 2030.

In the Bangladesh context, the people who might be left behind are landless people, homeless people, people who live in hard to reach areas of char, haor, hilly and disaster-prone areas, widows, divorced, distressed women, aged people, single mother, adolescent girls, persons with disabilities, work injury victims, people who live in the coastal areas and climatically vulnerable areas, small farmers, fishermen with traditional knowledge. Along with the people identified above, people who might be left behind are HIV/AIDS affected people, people suffering from infectious disease, people suffering from mental disorder, drug-addicted youths, injured people through road traffic accident, dropout children from schools, youth not in education, employment or training. Female students who are prone to violence, domestic aides, and transgender also have the possibility to be left behind. Ethnic communities and marginalised people involved in cleaning, tea garden labouring, gardening, drum beating, washing, Bajander, Dai, Hajam, Robidas and Rishi (leather workers/cobbler), barber, snake charmer etc might be left behind in the SDGs. This list has become longer due to Corona with day labour, rickshaw puller, transport worker, worker in micro and small industry, people employed in informal sector, that is almost all the people except in the public sector. Amphan and repeated flood contributed to adding more vulnerability due to tidal surge, saline water, inundation and erosion. Sufferings both in number and dimension have increased manifold in the last eight months due to corona, hard hit Amphan and severe repeated flood and riverbank erosion.

Bangladesh has made significant progress in addressing rights of persons with disability by enacting laws, small loan facilities, allowances for insolvent persons with disabilities, pension facilities after death of parents holding government job, benefit of government family saving certificate, stipend for students with disabilities and so many. Disability Welfare Foundation Act, National Disability Development Agency, Autism Trust, Bangladesh National Building Code 2015, Dhaka Building Construction Act 2008, National Industrial Policy 2016, draft Bangladesh Industrial Design Act 2016, and draft National Web Accessibility standard 2016 which are relevant to SDGs created opportunity to bring the persons with disabilities to the mainstream along with different types of financial support, education facilities, health care, job opportunity, access to government facilities and sale of their products. (to be continued)

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