Seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks held
RM7 Slide

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) jointly organized the seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks based on the theme Remaining Relevant in the Policy World: Sustainability Challenges of Think Tanks. 18 South Asian Think Tanks (SATTs) based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar came together at the meeting to exchange ideas and learnings, discuss challenges and opportunities, share successes and most importantly to develop a post-Thonk Tank Initiative (TTI) strategy in order to sustain the network as the eight years of TTI support is coming to an end. Besides, donor and private sector representatives, development partners, special guests and other policy stakeholders also attended the meeting.

The three-day long meeting, held on 5-7 February 2018, explored how the support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to SATTs has strengthened their capacities in terms of generating new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. The SATTs also discussed how they will continue to pursue policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.

Attending as the Guest of Honor, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman, BRAC told that Think tanks have a crucial role to play since their primary function is to help governments and policymakers understand, and make informed choices about, issues of significant domestic and international concern and relevance. In carrying out this role, think tanks are often required to negotiate and perform a mediating function between the government and the public that helps to build trust and confidence in public officials.

“Thus, by challenging the conventional wisdom, standard operating procedures and business as usual of bureaucrats and elected officials, think tanks can serve as informed and independent voices in the policy arena. In order to do this well, they must strike a balance between research, analysis and outreach - a task that is becoming increasingly challenging in the present fast-changing national, regional and global environment”, he added.

Prof Rehman Sobhan, Board Chairman of CPD and the chair of the opening session told Think Tanks have a wider responsibility to the society at large. Think tanks independence is critical for credibility and shaping own agendas whether in dealings with governments or funders.

Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD, in his welcome speech said, Think Tanks have to come up with more innovative ideas. He urged to all TTs that “We all should be very energetic to utilize our resources. Collectively we can do a lot further and we need to collaborate in order to sustain our own strength and development”.

“Our world, our region and our countries are increasingly looking inward, these are dangerous trends. Independent thinking was never more necessary to engage policy makers and influence public opinion to correct these trends.” he added. Dr. Rahman also welcomed the participants of the Myanmar.

While looking for fund Think Tanks need to be very careful in being engaged with private or corporate sector, says Dr. Fahmida Khatun, ED of CPD.

Mr. Andrew Hurst, Program Leader, Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of IDRC summarized the decade long programme experience with the TTI funded southern think tanks.

The three-day long meeting included nine thematic sessions focusing on how the support from IDRC to the SATTs strengthened their capacities to generate new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. It also focused how the TTs would continue pursuing their policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.

The meeting ended with a consensus that the collaboration among the SATTs towards regional development will be continued with the commitment of sharing collective knowledge and resources. All the think tanks unanimously agreed that an association of Southern Think Tanks is needed to give stronger voice to the region.

TTI, a multi-donor programme funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), managed by Canada’s IDRC, is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of independent policy research institutions in the developing world.
Lack of Education and Skill is
Lagging Behind the Women's Participation in the Formal Sector
ADB CGST report launching

Women’s participation increased to 33.5 percent in 2013 from 26.1 percent in 2002-2003, but 90.3 percent of them are employed in the informal sector and Women's participation in labor force is lagging behind in the formal sector and urban areas due to lack of education and skill, according to the report, "Bangladesh Gender Equality Diagnostic of Selected Sectors” that revealed in The National Dissemination Workshop on January 30, 2018 at a city hotel, jointly organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

National Women Development Policy 2011 aims to establish gender equality in all spheres of life and National Action Plan has been developed for its implementation. The gender vision of the 7th Five Year Plan will ensure equal opportunities and rights for both women and men; and women will be recognised as equal contributors in economic, social and political developments said Ms. Nasima Begum, ndc, Secretary to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs during her speech as a Chief Guest.

Mr. Manmohan Parkash, the Country Director of Asian Development Bank (ADB) chaired the inaugural session. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, the Executive Director of BIGD delivered the introductory remarks. Professor Md. Akter Mahmud, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Jahangirnagar University and Vice President of Bangladesh Institute of Planners; Dr. Kaniz Siddique, Economist, and Ms. Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow of BIGD attended the event as panelists. More than a hundred participants from donor agencies, academics, government officials and development organizations attended the workshop. 

The report was prepared by the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) of BIGD, BRAC University, in collaboration with the ADB. The report has analysed the constraints and opportunities for women in the urban development, transport, skills development and in energy sectors, where the realities and priorities for women and men are different. It highlights the key gender issues as well as best practices in the sectors. It also provides guidelines to ensure benefit for both women and men.

Mentioning that the ADB will continue to support the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education in the country, ADB country director Mr. Parkash said the study was conducted to guide the design of gender features of the ADB-supported projects in the sectors including skills, vocational and tertiary education, energy, transport and urban development and the publication will also be a useful resource for ADB, its partner government agencies and other development partners to achieve the gender objectives and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Workshop on “Gender in Research and Organisational Excellence” held
Gender in Research and Organisational Excellence TTI RM7 01

It is necessary to look beyond a uni-dimensional definition of gender and examine the implications of other socio-economic factors (caste, ethnicity, marital status, etc.) on the gender equity discourse. Finding gender disaggregated data is problematic. These data gaps need to be filled so that gender equity issues can be reflected in policy interventions. Significant challenges are faced during data collection on gender violence issues which need to be overcomed. These observations were made at a day-long workshop titled “Gender in Research and Organisational Excellence” held on February 4, 2018 at BRAC-CDM Savar jointly organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).

A total of 38 participants of several South Asian think tanks from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended the workshop. There were two thematic sessions addressing gender in research and organisational excellence, which were facilitated by Ms Ratna M Sudarshan, a gender specialist from India, and Ms Ranjani Krishnamurthy, Researcher and Consultant, Gender and Development based in India.

In the first session, participants from the think tanks displayed and showcased their stories on gender research, and how they contributed in improving knowledge on gender related policy research. They also highlighted the issues of data requirement, data collection and analysis for gender research. They identified lack of real-time and disaggregated data on gender impede policy intervention for the advancement of women. The participants stressed on filling these data gaps so that gender equity issues could be reflected in policy interventions.

In the second session, the participants looked into how gender equality and diversity are maintained within the think tanks through their policies, including human resource  policy, promotion, basic minimum salary, leave policy, travel policy, etc. They discussed on how gender-diverse policies can strengthen institutional performance for achieving a gender-sensitive organisation. The participants also emphasised on how patriarchal dimensions are controlling the access and capacities of women in the society.

Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow of BIGD presented the activities of Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) of BIGD in terms of mainstreaming gender through its research.

Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD, delivered welcome remarks while Professor Rounaq Jahan, Distinguished Fellow, CPD, was the Special Commentator of the day-long workshop.
Inequality increases due to government’s lack of care
for carrying out its responsibility
Said Prof Dr. Sugata Marjit

“If inequality is increasing, it is definitely because of the government’s lack of care for carrying out its responsibilities. When distribution (of wealth) worsens and we are happy that income has increased, we are cultivating the wrong notion of welfare. But the task of ensuring equal distribution of wealth would be unattainable in countries where governments promoted favouritism or nepotism.” Prominent Indian Economist Professor Dr. Sugata Marjit said these at a Talk on Inequality and Distribution-neutral Fiscal Policy - Extending Pareto Principle.

                           Sugata Marjit Talk

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University organised the talk on December 22, 2017 at the city.
Scholars, social scientists, renowned economists, academic and experts attended the talk.

Prof Marjit, Reserve Bank of India Professor of Industrial Economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and the former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University said, A government entertains a wrong notion of welfare as long as it stays happy only with income growth and does not care much about rising inequality in society. He suggested that the government should be careful about growing income as  the failure to distribute the growing wealth among the poor might only raise inequality. 

Dr. Marjit said, Bangladesh is growing because of not everyone is growing, but because some people are growing. He suggested that the greater income group need to bring under more tax.

Prof Marjit said that it was very important to keep the degree of inequality unchanged as otherwise it might lead to unrests that might be detrimental to international trade and economic change. He told, any major economic change such as growth or international trade is likely to be resisted by people who are adversely affected by them or who seem to be losing out in relation to others and such agitation becomes politically and socially detrimental to the sustenance of such a change. This has been reflected in votes favouring Brexit and in the pattern of political support in recent Presidential elections in the US.

Dr. Salehuddin Ahmed, Professor, BRAC Business School, BRAC University and a former Governor, Bangladesh Bank, chaired the event. He said, Unequal distribution of wealth was what mainly led Bangladesh revolt against Pakistan and eventually won independence in 1971. He also requested the policy makers to take neutral decision for the sake of reducing inequality.
                                                                    BIGD Students Took part at BRACU Convocation

BRACU convocation

The 12th Convocation of BRAC University took place on the 13 December, 2017 at the university’s residential campus at Savar in Dhaka. Education Minister Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid attended the convocation as chief guest and presided over the ceremony on behalf of the president of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and university chancellor Md. Abdul Hamid. The convocation speaker, Managing Director of Drik Picture Library Ltd., Mr. Shahidul Alam, spoke of his life in photography and of leaving behind a life of comforts in the UK to challenge the Western perception that Bengalis were poor. BRAC University board of trustee’s Chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and University Grants Commission Chairman Professor Abdul Mannan also addressed at the convocation ceremony. Around 1600 students from various academic disciplines joined the ranks of BRAC University graduates where 90 students were from BIGD. 47 students from Master of Development Studies (MDS), 32 students from Masters in Procurement and Supply Management (MPSM), 09 students from Master in Development Management and Practice and 02 students from Masters in Governance and Development (MAGD) participated in the program and received the degree certificate. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, ED; Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow; Mohammad Sirajul Islam, and Syeda Salina Aziz, Sr. Research Associate of BIGD also attended the convocation, where Dr. Rahman attended a discussion session with the students of MAGD at the end of the event.

Students of MAGD Visited Vietnam and Malaysia
MAGD field visit 1

As part of the degree ‘Masters in Governance and Development (MAGD)’ 17 students along with a faculty member visited Vietnam and Malaysia from 26th November to 8th December.  The participants comprise of civil servants from different ministers and agencies of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal who are pursuing the residential Master Degree Course under BIGD. The program in Vietnam was facilitated by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), Vietnam and in Malaysia by the Institute of Professional Development (IPD) of Open University of Malaysia (OUM).

In the first part of the program from 26th November to 2nd December 2017, the team visited different Ministers and Agencies of the Government of Vietnam and also had number of class room sessions regarding development policies and strategies of Vietnam from distinguished speakers and policy makers. The week long program include sessions on administrative structure and public administration reform, the role of Vietnamese Government in economic development in the context of regional and international integration, anti corruption, local governance and promoting tourism and attracting foreign direct investment. Participants also visited Ministry of Home Affairs and Government Inspectorate of Vietnam in Hanoi, National Park in Hai Phong Province and a daylong river cruise in Ha Long Bay. In the closing ceremony NAPA President Dr. Dang Xhuan Hoan handed over certificates among participants. Congratulating participants for successful completion of the course he hoped that learning’s from the training will be helpful for participants to contribute to their personal, national and regional development. Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Faculty and Research Fellow of BIGD thanked the NAPA officials and expressed that it will strengthen cooperative relationship between the two institutes. Among other  Ms Pham Hoa, General Director of NAPA,  Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Hai, Head of Faculty of Organization and Personnel Management of NAPA, Ms. Le Thi Tuyet Head of the Planning and General Affairs Division Dr. Le Dong Doanh, Senior Advisor of Economic Development for the Vietnamese Government addressed in different sessions.

MAGD field visit 2
Later from 3rd -8th December the team moved to Malaysia and participated in a training program titled, ‘Sustainable Policy Planning and Governance’ organized by the IPD, Open University Malaysia (OUM). Participants visited and participated in number of lectures organized by different Ministries and Agencies of the Government of Malaysia. Addressing in the closing ceremony, Professor Dr. Ahmed Bin Hasem, Vice President of Business Development and Technology, OUM emphasized on the importance sharing knowledge and experiences to promote sustainable economic growth and development in the Asia- Pacific region. Professor Dr. Richard Ng, Director of the Institute of Professional Development also highlighted the importance of sharing innovative technological knowledge for sustainable urban development in particular. BIGD Faculty Dr. Hossain thanked the OUM for hosting the visit and hoped to have more collaboration between BIGD and OUM in future.

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