The Netherlands’ development cooperation with Bangladesh helps to improve living conditions of the poor, particularly in three areas: water, sexual and reproductive health and rights and food security. Other priority is labour conditions in the Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector. Activities align with national policy and development plans. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh creates partnerships, and complements technical assistance with investment funds from international financial institutes (IFI). Furthermore, the Embassy continues to promote and broker Dutch contracts with IFIs, especially in the water sector. The Embassy proactively communicates lessons learned and successes achieved to all stakeholders. Cooperation between the Netherlands and Bangladesh is reinforced by research institutes in both countries.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
The Netherlands is one of the most active and long-standing partners in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender in Bangladesh. Specifically, the Netherlands aims to reduce maternal mortality and end violence against women and child marriage in Bangladesh.
“The years of adolescence and youth are a critical period in sexual development. We believe that young people are entitled to accurate information and appropriate services, and to an enabling environment that empowers them to take healthy decisions and exercise control over their own bodies. Low teenage pregnancy rates in the Netherlands demonstrate that the vast majority of young people act responsibly when given the opportunity to self-regulate their sexuality”. (Marijke Wijnroks, Special Ambassador for SRHR and HIV-AIDS)
The sexual and reproductive health and rights program in Bangladesh
The SRHR (Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights) program of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands aims to reduce maternal mortality and end violence against women in Bangladesh. The target group includes young adolescents between the ages of 10-19. The SRHR program emphasizes the importance of adolescents being better informed about sexuality and having better access to quality, youth friendly, public and private sexual and reproductive health care services, especially in slums and rural areas. Due attention is also given to the creation of an enabling environment, the importance of male engagement and private sector involvement. Other subjects addressed are the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, access to contraceptives, Menstrual Regulation (MR), comprehensive sexuality education, ending child marriage, improved menstrual hygiene and eradication of violence against women (VAW).
Water, climate and energy
The overall aim of the water program in Bangladesh is to contribute to a healthy living environment and wellbeing for the population, as well as economic growth. Particular focus is on the poor and vulnerable. It is anticipated that there will be more extreme rainfall, higher sea water levels, increasing industrial pollution and further urbanization.
Bangladesh continues to have high needs and expectations for close bilateral cooperation in the area of water management. Important challenges in that area include climate change adaptation, providing protection against storm surges along the coast, preventing floods in cities, and ensuring a sustainable water supply in light of groundwater depletion, arsenic and industrial contamination, as well as saline water intrusion along the coast.
The water program in Bangladesh
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) Water Program for the period 2014-2017 focusses on assisting the Government of Bangladesh in the formulation of a Bangladesh Delta Plan (BDP) and Framework 2100 which will in turn provide the basis for on-going and new activities in the areas of (i) participatory water management in the existing polders and in the reclaimed land of the coastal zone, (ii) river management, (iii) drinking water and sanitation in rural and urban areas and (iv) skills development and institutional strengthening.
Agriculture and food
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands addresses through its Food Security Program all four aspects of food security - availability of food, access to food, affordability of food products and utilization of nutritious food. The overall objective of the Food Security strategy is to increase food security for the most food insecure households by enabling them to get access to sufficient and balanced food throughout the year on the basis of strengthened livelihoods; this is in line with the National Food Policy of Bangladesh and its Plan of Action.
The food security program in Bangladesh
Four focus areas were identified in the strategy: 1) improved water resource management and infrastructure for agricultural production, 2) fisheries and aquaculture development, 3) livestock development and 4) improvement of food quality, the latter focusing on the use of (nutritious) food. Soon it also came to include food safety. Key to agricultural development in general and in the selected subsectors in particular is that small producers develop profitable linkages with input and output markets. The development of these sectors requires the active involvement of the private sector serving local, national and international markets. Market access facilitation and value chain development are therefore critical features of EKN’s approach to food security.
The sectors fisheries/aquaculture and livestock especially still has a large potential to develop in Bangladesh. The development of these sectors can provide a regular income to rural households, especially to women, and can be well integrated into present farming practices. Moreover, fish, eggs, meat and milk help diversify household diets in that they provide much needed proteins. Transporting, marketing and processing in these sectors can generate non-farm employment for resource-poor households, including women. Therefore some Food Security projects especially focus on these sectors
The Netherlands has recognized expertise not only in water management but also in livestock and fisheries development, including logistics, marketing and food safety. Dutch private companies may assist in strengthening value chains in these sectors and expand marketing opportunities, while Dutch research institutions and development organizations may provide know-how in these areas and contribute their skills in working with comprehensive approaches through multi-stakeholder processes. As part of the transitional process (from aid to trade) EKN Dhaka is partnering more and more with Dutch companies, knowledge institutes, Dutch NGOs and actively links the Dutch and Bangladeshi Private Sector actors with each other to generate mutual beneficial outcomes.
Ready Made Garments (RMG)
A priority of the Netherlands is to improve safety and labour conditions in the Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector through political and diplomatic involvement and financial support to various programs. At the core of the Netherlands’ involvement in the RMG sector lies the belief that safe and decent working conditions ultimately lead to increased competitiveness of the sector. Since all actors in the garment value chain share a responsibility for safe and decent working conditions, the government of the Netherlands promotes CSR and gender equality across the entire value chain.
In Bangladesh, assistance is provided to the government of Bangladesh in enhancing its capacity to manage and enforce factory safety, to improve and implement labour laws and regulations and to ensure workers’ rights. Also, the Netherlands’ programme supports government, employers and trade unions in Bangladesh to enhance occupational safety and health, social dialogue and social and environmental compliance.