Professor Dr Rehman Sobhan has underscored the need to assess the progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Different international bodies, governments and people also stepped up efforts to meet the SDG targets; therefore, it is time to review the outcome of the efforts, he added.
He made the comments at the closing ceremony of a daylong conference titled 'Democratic Governance and Development: Role of Grassroots Citizens Organisations' at the International Convention City Bashundhara in Dhaka on Wednesday. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the Oxfam in Bangladesh jointly organised the conference in association with the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.
Speaking as the guest of honour, CPD Chairman Professor Sobhan also said achieving SDGs is no longer an agenda of international bodies or any government – this is now an agenda for all.
He also recommended the Bangladesh government to select actual beneficiaries and ensure good governance in order to achieve SDGs.
Professor Sobhan stressed that the financing gap to achieve the SDGs should be tracked. He questioned if the gap arises because governments spend money in other sectors and overlook SDGs, or there is a shortage of adequate fund to address the SDG challenges.
He advised that the SDG sector allocation should not go to any other sector and recommended taking proper measures to check this.
However, speaking on the occasion, lawmaker Hafiz Ahmed Mazumder said willingness and commitment are required rather than funds to achieve most of the SDGs.
He said only some SDG targets require a huge amount of money, and Bangladesh has the resources to finance those.
Achieving SDG educational targets can help meet other targets like wealth and health. Those are positively related to education, he said.
He pointed out, "Education needs an allocation of about 6 percent of the GDP to build strong human capital. But the government is currently spending only 2 percent on education owing to numerous limitations."
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said the government is committed to ensuring sustainable development.
"However, the government alone cannot ensure development without the role of non-governmental organisations and the people in general," said Saber.
He emphasised the importance of finding out a way to ensure efficient spending of government funds for development.
Rensje Teerink, ambassador of the European Union in Bangladesh, said achievements of Bangladesh in some sectors are comparable to other countries. The country is even performing better than others in many areas.
For example, the ambassador believes Bangladesh could be proud of its achievements in reducing the gender gap and empowering people.
"Non-governmental agencies are playing a significant role towards development and it will rise," she commented.
CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun said as people are not equally engaged in formulating and implementing development programmes, they are not receiving the benefits of development equally.
She added that Bangladesh is witnessing profound economic growth. The poor will be the beneficiary if the growth is inclusive.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the CPD, chaired the closing session of the conference.
He said the pledges of the SDGs are to leave no one behind from the development process.
And to do so, it is a must to ensure that the voices of marginalised people of hard-to-reach areas of the country are heard and reflected in the national development policies, he observed.
Participants from the 13 poorest districts and researchers shared their experiences on topics including education, agriculture, vulnerable group development (VGD) programme, health and WASH programme at different sessions of the conference.
The conference was arranged as part of an ongoing project titled 'Enhancing the Participation of Community-based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in Democratic Governance in Bangladesh', funded by the European Union in Bangladesh.