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Monday, November 21, 2011

UNDP-CHTDF engaged in anti-IP interests in Bangladesh

Courtesy: Rash Alo, Prothom Alo

"Sun Key Moon", as termed by the Rash Alo, a weekly supplementary of the Prothoom Alo, a prestigious daily vernacular in Bangladesh. Why does the Rash Alo term Ban K-moon this way? Does it mean that he is very soft in his stand? Actually, moon signifies for love and sun for strength. In the context of the CHT, the CHT peoples are in need of both- love as well as strength.

This year UNDP-CHTDF (CHT Dev Facility) is possibly going to create a sheer political debate in Bangladesh with the use of “khudra-nri gosthi” (small ethnic sects) terminology in their annual cultural programme, despite of ‘indigenous people’ term they’ve been using since the inception of the CHTDF. This issue has already sparked fire among the facebookers and concerned others. It is feared, many Jummas will boycott this UNDP cultural programme. Since UNDP has invited the Prime Minister to this cultural show and the core indigenous artists are going to boycott it, hence, the only option lies with the UNDP is to depend on the 3 cultural institutes under the 3 hill district councils in the CHT. Yes, UNDP can complete the show some how, but it is, for sure, going to make them distance neighbors to the IPs.

UNDP-CHTDF is going to observe the CHT cultural week in Dhaka on 2nd Dec to mark the signing of the CHT accord, like earlier years. During last two years there was sheer chaos on the indigenous fashion show (allegation of polluting the indigenous culture with western culture) and introduction of vendors for organising the cultural show. Last year, the artists who were brought in Dhaka conducted protest rally and hunger strike to protest sheer maltreatment of vendors and cutting down 50% honorarium, compared to earlier year.

Recently HE Mr. Ban Ki-moon asked at the University of Dhaka to build a tolerant society, referring to Seikh Hasina's speech to the UN General Assembly in Sept "in which all people have space", and according to Moon, that this vision "includes ethnic minorities, such as the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts." The UN Secretary General did not utter the "indigenous people" term in his speech, is it in line with the recent government's stand or as just general term? The Article 23A, as inserted in the constitution by 15th amendment, the indigenous peoples have been termed as "tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities".

The UNDP-CHTDF has all thorough been accomodative to government policies. At the beginning of the CHTDF the UNDP Dhaka was determined for accommodating the Bengali Muslim settlers based on UN "humanitarian approach", forgetting UNDP's own policy on the indigenous peoples adopted in 2000. And, there was a big diplomatic battle between PCJSS-CHTRC (CHT Regional Council) and UNDP Dhaka. PCJSS sent a delegation to the UN Geneva office in 2000 and had meeting with the UN. As a result of this meeting the UN headquarters fielded a 3-member 'stock taking mission’ (actually it was an inquiry mission) and Ms. Elizabeth is one of them who is now in Bangladesh and traveling to Khagarachari tomorrow as the CHT Commission Co-Chairperson. After making the field visit to CHT the UN mission asked UNDP Dhaka to develop relations with the PCJSS-CHTRC formally and informally. The battle affected the project activities for more than six months. It was the Jummas who first fought to keep high the spirit of the UNDP IP policy.

The Australian High Commission and UNDP Dhaka signed an agreement for awarding 100 Australian Development scholarships in 5 years to the CHT indigenous students under the management of UNDP-CHTDF. Surprisingly, they both changed the earlier announcement and reshaped it to award 50% of it to CHT Bengali students (10 in a year and 50 in 5 years) without consultation with CHTRC; once the ERD, under the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of CHT Affairs demanded 50% of the scholarships for the Bengali students. Raja Devasish Roy agreed to make it 18:2 (2 numbers for Bengalis) while CHTRC (Santu Larma) did not agree. Australian High Commission and UNDP became weak to their stand when CHTRC sent a letter to them quoting the contents of the Australia-UNDP agreement and finally continued the awarding of 20 scholarships a year to the CHT IP students.

UNDP, at one stage, was completely against the idea of keeping Jumma officials with CHTDF at policy level. It was PCJSS-CHTRC who made UNDP agree and Mr. Rupayan Dewan, a councilor of CHTRC and a PCJSS top veteran played a very important role in this regard, for which the deputy position in CHTDF hierarchy has been reserved for a Jumma. Unfortunately, at present the lone Jumma deputy has no access to the CHTDF policy, a frequent complaint receives by the CHT Voice.

UNDP is committed to help implement the CHT development and the implementation of the CHT Accord (from the Chairs of Resrep and Resco). Most unfortunately, UNDP Dhaka has all thorough been weak to the government and in many cases surrendered to the govt policy. It, at the earlier stage, conducted Risk Assessment Mission keeping none (no CHT institution) from the Jummas and kept heavy representation from the army. UNDP Dhaka tried to befool CHTRC by providing them with only an innocent part of the report. Now, UNDP-CHTDF has been engaged to implementing most general development projects through NGOs without any qualitative concerns, a common complaints come from some concerned persons. Most serious is that UNDP Dhaka has forgotten to deal with implementation of political issues of the CHT Accord and rather engaged in pleasing the govt, the ensuing cultural programme is one of the examples.

HE Mr. Ban Ki-moon knows that ECOSOC took up “Reports on 1997 Accord on Chittagong Hill Tracts” in July 2011, conducted by Mr. Lars Baers, Special Rapporteur with the authority of UNPFII 9th session in 2009. The report recommends for, “57. International donor agencies in Bangladesh: Act on their commitments to support the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord and to ensure development respecting political, economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights in the region, including a strategic approach allowing for immediate as well as long-term development action.”

The Jumma people are certainly grateful to UNDP for its intervention in the CHT. But, it is not that we shall eat everything the way they cook for us. Now, many people are in belief that the UNDP-CHTDF is engaged in anti-indigenous peoples interests. And, we don't want this kind of UNDP which every year creates problem for us and sleeps on the political issues of the CHT Accord. Therefore, we would hope, the UNDP Dhaka and its headquarters including CHTDF's global partners would be serious in protecting the strength of the CHT Accord and the rights of indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. That is why; we want both moonlight and sunlight from the chair of UN Secretary General.


  1. Hi,

    Nice writing on CHT Voice.


  2. Hi,

    Nice writing on UNDP-CHTDF engaged in anti-IP interests in Bangladesh .