Nutrition Governance Seminar
Good nutrition is linked with social and economic development of the country
says experts
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Maximum importance should be given to the children and pregnant mothers in order to eliminate the malnutrition of the country and make successful the nutrition programme of the state, said Prime Minister's Economic Affairs Advisor Dr. Moshiur Rahman at a seminar on Nutrition Governance.He also emphasised on the diversification of crops and the spread of social security programmes. He also said the government must work to ensure nutrition for children which are a prerequisite to attain its mission to achieve SDGs by 2030. The seminar was organized by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University at a city hotel in Dhaka on 12 September, 2017.

“Agriculture is the centre of the discussion on nutrition since the agricultural policies affect the national health of a country” said Food Laureate and Co-winner of World Food Prize 2016 and founding director of HarvestPlus, Dr. Howarth Bouis, while presenting a keynote paper titled ‘Agriculture’s Primary Role to Provide Nutritious Diets for National Health’. He suggested that bio-fortification in agriculture would be cost-effective to arrange nutritious food varieties for the poor families.

Adequate zinc consumption is a must to ensure nutrition for all as deficiency of the essential mineral is one of the major barriers to the country's progress in nutrition indicators, he added. Zinc is essential for the function of many enzymes and metabolic processes, and the regular consumption of zinc can reduce different common infant morbidities, like diarrhoea, pneumonia and stunting, he said.

Citing a recent study, Howarth said approximately 70 percent people of Bangladesh do not have adequate zinc, thereby suffering from zinc deficiency. The government needs to put emphasis on the consumption of zinc and other nutrients, he said. It also needs to promote the crops containing nutrients to improve dietary quality, said Howarth.

Good nutrition is linked with effective intellectual capacity and higher productivity - this is critical for the social and economic development of the country, said Mr. Edouard Beigbeder, the country representative of Unicef Bangladesh. He also said the period of vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies starts when a child stays in the mother's womb, and it continues until the child becomes two years old, when brain develops significantly. “If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, the damage is irreversible and the potential to fully thrive in life will be lost,” he said.

Although the country has made a significant progress in the past decade in reducing chronic malnutrition, one in three children here are stunted which accounts for nearly 5.5 million of them being deprived of their right to survival and development, said Edouard.

Ms. Anuradha Narayan, nutrition section chief of UNICEF Bangladesh, said child stunting affected school readiness and performance as well as impacted the country’s economic productivity. She said the impact of nutritional deficiencies in food intake could reduce adult earning of the country by up to 15 per cent.

BIGD research fellow Dr. Shanawez Hossain said a collaborative effort was needed to solve problems in reaching remote areas with nutrition projects and detection of acute malnutrition. Chaired by BIGD executive director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the seminar was also addressed by parliament member Mr. Farhad Hossain, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition director Professor Sandy Thomas, Brac Health, Nutrition and Population programme head Mahfuza Rifat, James P Grant School of Public Health Professor Dr. Malay K Mridha and Dr. Md. Tanvir Hasan, Bidyanondo Foundation Finance Secretary Mr. Jakir Hossain, among others.


Keynote Presentation: Agriculture's Primary Role to Provide Nutritious Diets for National Health

Paper  1: Accelerating Reduction of Under-Nutrition in Bangladesh

Paper 2: Improving Multi-Sectoral Collaboration for Scaling up Nutrition-Specific and Nutrition-Sensitive Interventions in Bangladesh

Paper 3: Community Participation in Nutrition Interventions: Experience of BRAC

Paper 4: Nutrition Governance: Coordination, Cooperation and Collaboration


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International Symposium
on Women’s Labour Market Participation and Gender Norms:
The Cases of India and Bangladesh Held



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Center for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST), BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, in collaboration with British Academy and Manchester University organized an International Symposium on Women’s Labour Market Participation and Gender Norms: the Cases of India and Bangladesh on 30 August 2017at a city hotel in Dhaka.

The Symposium presented findings of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded research project on ‘Gender norms, labour supply and poverty reduction in comparative context: evidence from rural Bangladesh and India’. The research examined how poverty programmes have affected peoples' lives in rural Bangladesh and India, focusing on women, work and attitudes to women’s work. The study was a collaboration between the University of Manchester, UK, Jawaharlal Nehru University Delhi, India and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development of BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The symposium consisted of three sessions titled Women’s Labour Market Participation Trends: Research Findings, Methodological Innovations for Assessing Labour Force Participation and Labour Market Participation and Changing Gender Norms. BIGD’s Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman; Dr. Selim Raihan, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka and Executive Director, SANEM and Dr. A T M Nurul Amin, Chair, Department of Economics and Social Sciences, BRAC University chaired the sessions respectively.

Among others the programme was attended by Dr. Wendy Olsen, Professor of Socio-Economics, Department of Social Statistics, University of Manchester; Ms. Simeen Mahmud, Head, Gender Cluster, BIGD, Mr. Amaresh Dubey, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Mr. Anup Mishra, Banaras Hindu University; Mr. Santosh Kumar Singh Jawaharlal Nehru University; Ms. Sayema Huq Bidisha, Dhaka University; Ms. Maheen Sultan, Dr. Sohela Nazneen, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD; Ms. Lopita Huq, Research Fellow; Ms. Sahida Khondaker, Research Associate; BIGD.
BIGD & Copenhagen Consensus Center’s
Seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities

Further priority should be given for the expansion of e-procurement, land digitization and union digital centre. The economic benefits would be much higher and service delivery would improve if the government gives further priority to digitization during the ongoing seventh five-year plan between 2016 and 2020, the researchers of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) urged the government policy makers at a seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities, on 09 January 2017, at the BRAC Centre Inn.

Five different papers on Impact of e-procurement on reducing corruption and promoting competition, by Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow, BIGD; Land Digitization for Smart Governance, by Ms. Sumaiya Kabir Talukder, Katalyst; Justice at the village level: What is the smart policy?, by Ms. Nabila Zaman, BIGD; Strengthening UDCs for Accelerated Public Service Delivery, and RMG Palli and Factory Compliance, by Mr. Hasanuzzaman, Outreach Manager, CCC, were presented at the seminar.

CCC1

Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member, General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission, Ministry of Planning and Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i, Prime Minister's Office (PMO), attended the seminar as the Guests of Honour. 

Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC); Mr. Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, Additional Secretary, Finance Division; Mr. AKM Asaduzzaman Patwary, Research Fellow, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI); and Mr. Shahariar Sadat, Academic Coordinator, South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS)  attended the seminar as panelists.  

Dr. Shamsul Alam, however, said the government should be careful about e-security with the expansion of digitization. Bangladesh Bank lost its US$ 81 million reserve fund due to security breach in electronic payment systems with its account holder, the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Hacking affected the recently held election in the US, he added.

On the basis of cost benefit analysis, the paper on UDC said benefit of Tk 8 would come from spending Tk 1 for expanding UDC service for giving service delivery of mobile banking, citizen certificates, application for machine readable passport and payment of utility bills. The paper also said international migration through the UDCs would generate benefit of Tk 22 from spending Tk 1.

In the other papers on land digitization and e-procurement, the BIDG researchers calculated that there would be big returns against less investment.

In 2011, the government introduced electronic government procurement on limited scale. Only 9.5 per cent of the total government procurement was carried through e-tendering.

Discussants, mostly government officials, lauded initiatives of the BIGD. They said ‘enforcement’ of government policy decisions was more important for improving service delivery than expansion of digitization.

Mr. Muslim Chowdhury said, the cost-benefit analysis was not credible as the researchers did not consider the ‘institutional issues’ and continuous ‘engineering process’. Digitization should not be regarded as a magical tool, he added.

Adviser to ‘a2i project’ of the PMO Mr. Anir Chowdhury said enforcement was always important for implementation of the government policy decisions. Giving an example of Chittagong Customs House (CCH), he said the authorities simplified the delivery system without expansion of the digital devices. He said the CCH authorities decreased the checking points to 6 from previous 42 to implement the government decisions in improving the port services.

Anti-corruption commissioner Nasiruddin Ahmed said the land department was out and out a corrupt organisation. Only digitization would not be able to curb corruption in the sector, he said, adding that long-term reform was needed to tackle the problems in the land sector.

The discussants, however, admitted that the topics described by the BIGD researchers in their papers were crucial. They said the government already prioritised almost all the issues in its seventh five-year plan that would expire in 2020.

The seminar was jointly organized by BIGD and CCC which aimed to discuss the findings of research on a series of important governance and justice policy interventions. Distinguished personalities, senior government officials, academics and experts also attended the seminar. 

Citizens have every right to know and oversee where and how their money is being spent
Speakers stressed at a National Seminar on Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement

Citizens have the every right to know and oversee where and how their money is being spent. Citizens also have the right to know government procurement rules and whether the government is following the procurement laws, rules and precedents and maintaining transparency and accountability in terms of purchasing goods and services. Often, it is found that roads and bridges are destroyed within a few days of construction due to low quality work, said Abul Kalam Azad, MP, Chair, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Planning at a Seminar titled ‘Citizen Engagement in Public Procurement’.

PPRP National SeminarDr. Mirza M Hassan, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Mr. Farid Uddin Ahmed, Mr. Abul Kalam Azad MP, Dr. Zafrul Islam and Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain are seen at the seminar (from left)

CPTU, IME Division of Ministry of Planning and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University co-organised this National Seminar at a Hotel in the capital on 1 December 2016. Farid Uddin Ahmed, Secretary of IMED chaired the seminar where Md. Faruque Hossain, DG, CPTU and Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD made the welcome remarks. Dr. Mirza Hassan, Adjunct Fellow of BIGD and Dr. Zafrul Islam, Senior Procurement Specialist of World Bank Dhaka also spoke at the seminar.

Dr. Zafrul Islam said that public procurement is highly risky and World Bank is happy to cooperate the government to involve citizens with the initiative. According to the law, citizen has the right to public information and citizen engagement in public procurement can ensure transparency and accountability.

Mentioning the country's recent economic growth, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that this is the perfect time to engage citizens to strengthen the development process.

Md. Faruque Hossain said we are accountable to the people, and the people will decide what they want to do and how. Mentioning the practical field experiences of citizen involvement in public procurement activities in Rangpur and Sirajganj, Dr Mirza Hasan said the quality of work has improved where our citizen committees have monitored the school and road constructions projects.. Generally, the contractors and the people associated with the construction work are more accountable to the people and contractors are bound to use, the best quality construction materials, although many of the engineers and contractors do not like to be held accountable to the citizens. He also added that political parties felt that involving citizens in public procurement had a negative impact on their level of power.

Participants at the open discussions emphasized that the citizens of the relevant project area need to be involved from the beginning, from the stage of project planning to be well informed about the project, and be trained about the project monitoring issues. They also said that the citizen committee should be developed with honest and expert citizens based on certain criteria and a central expert citizen committee can be built. Citizen involvement in public procurement can open up new horizon, they added.

To improve transparency and accountability in the huge amount of public spending in public procurement, and improve the quality of work and stop the wastage to ensure the best use public money, the government has taken the initiative to involve the citizens in public procurement as a third party. BIGD is providing the technical assistance to the CPTU, IMED to help design and implement the social accountability mechanism that aims to institutionalize and develop this third party monitoring system in the public procurement process in the country.

 

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Sharique-BIGD Seminar on
Ward Shabha Operational Guideline held

Sharique ward shabha seminar
Strong political will is needed to improve the poor functioning of Ward Shabhas. To make it more effective. the authority needs to be transferred to the local government institutions to ensure democratic participation of citizens, said Dr. Salimullah Khan, political analyst and Professor, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), at a BIGD seminar. Dr. Salimullah was addressing the even t as a panelist. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University organized the seminar to disseminate the Ward Shabha Guideline among its stakeholders prepared under the Local Governance Programme SHARIQUE, on Aug 30, 2016 at the Lake Shore Hotel in Capital. The operational Guideline was prepared to assist UP elected representatives with practical suggestions for efficient and effective operations of the Ward Shabha. The seminar was a two-hour session in which the guideline was shared with local government experts, practitioners, academics and policy makers to exchange views with them.

Ward Shabha is an important tool for ensuring social accountability and citizens’ engagement in the overall local governance of UP. It is expected that a well-functioning Ward Shabha will further strengthen the accountability mechanism in UP addressing the local priority needs.


Mr. Kaspar Grossenbacher, Country Director, Helvetas Swiss Inter Cooperation delivered the opening remarks at the event. Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow and Team Leader of Sharique, BIGD delivered the key note speech and presented the issues and also proposed the Guideline related to Ward Shabha.
The Guideline highlights different issues for making Ward Shabha functional including the needs for drafting agenda for Ward Shabha, documenting its proceedings, making appropriate public announcements, deploying volunteers to manage crowds, among other things.

Following the presentation, a lively discussion held under the facilitation of Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, where participants gave their views and shared experiences on the issue. Mr. Ershadul Hauqe, Deputy Secretary, Union Parishad Wing, Local Government Division (LGD), Mr. Swapan Kumar Sarkar, Former Additional Secretary and Director General, Local Government Division, Mr. Azizur Rahman Siddique, Consultant of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), among others spoke at the event.

Mr. Ershadul Hauqe admitted that the Union Parishads have lot of limitations but change was also taking place. For the progress to sustain, he emphasized on citizen’s continuous and active participation. Mr. Swapan Kumar Sarkar said that the Union Parishad needed resource and capacity to conduct Ward Shabhas, which currently it has not.

Elected representatives from the Sharique working areas also shared their experiences of Ward Shabha and expressed their agreement with all the issues highlighted in the presentation.

Concluding the seminar, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, said, “Although there appears to be lots of constraints with regard to the functioning of Ward Shabha in Bangladesh, the situation is not frustrating if we look at the history of our democracy. With increasing political will, we can turn the picture around and ensure a vibrant Ward Shabha that contributes to the functioning of the whole Union Parishad.”

At the end of the programme, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman and Mr. Kaspar Grossenbacher formally handed over the Guideline and two other advocacy briefs titled “Strengthening Women’s Representation in Union Parishad” and “Strengthening Committees and Standing Committees of Upazila and Union Parishads” of Sharique programme to Mr. Ershadul Haque, Deputy Secretary, Union Parishad Wing, Local Government Division (LGD).

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Bangladesh needs to ensure inclusiveness, independence, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of institutions
Speakers stressed at a seminar on SDG 16

SDG Seminar

To ensure strong institutions, four things are needed -- inclusiveness, independence, accountability, and efficiency, said Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the Executive Director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University at a seminar on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (Goal 16 of the SDGs), held on August 24, 2016 at BRAC Centre Inn in the capital. Citing the preamble of the Bangladesh Constitution, he mentioned that, it is high time for the stakeholders to find out the obstacles in strengthening institutions. He identified Parliament, Election Commission, Public Service Commission, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as institutions of accountability and the judiciary and law enforcement agencies as institutions of the rule of law. He highlighted several policies that the government has formulated to support implementation of SDGs. They include National Integrity Strategy, Seventh Five-year Plan, Perspective Plan: Vision 2021, and National Sustainable Development Strategy. Goal 16 of SDGs reads "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels." He added.

Dr Badiul Alam Majumder, Secretary of Citizens for Good Governance (Sujan) and a Panelist of the seminar said that the country requires statutory institutions more active to stop corruption. He also highlighted the role of non-state institutions, including political parties and civil society in reducing corruption effectively.

Dr Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission said that, public servants work for their own interest rather than the interest of the people. Referring to 25 public hearings that ACC have organised across the country, he said the findings are that the people do not get services from the government offices that they are supposed to get. He highlighted weakness of the institutions in ensuring transparency and accountability of the government offices, in combating corruption and in protecting the people's rights. He also referred that “The reports are forwarded to the Parliament, which is supposed to hold discussions on them. But I've never heard that any such discussion has been held." According to him, simplification and digitalisation of the government's services are required to ensure that the people are getting proper services from the public offices.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) moderated the seminar, while Manzoor Hasan, executive director of South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies, co-chaired the event. Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director of Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (BLAST) and Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) also attended the seminar as panelists. Among others the programme was attended by the representatives from civil society, academicians, political scientist, government officials, NGOs, INGOs, development partners and media.

 

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