Graduating from the ‘Least Developed Country’ status

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared Bangladesh’s ambition of graduating from being a Least Developed Country (LDC) within a few years. This is no doubt, a laudable aim and should be achievable through the right policies to raise the growth rate and reduce the poverty levels through investment in industries, infrastructure and education.

However, there is one aspect of under-development that is as important as the economic aspects but is sometimes ignored. This is the ability to think for ourselves. As long as we remained dependent on donors, whether bilateral or multilateral, to attract investments, we were tied by the need to depend on foreign consultants for the expertise on where, how and what to invest in.

Becoming economically independent will also require the country to develop its own capacity to carry out research, gather evidence and feed analysis into national planning both for the public and the private sector.

This requires the cultivation and development of the intellectual capital of the country which resides in public and private universities, research institutes and think tanks of which Bangladesh now has many in number. The challenge now is to enhance the quality of research that is done in the country and making sure that it is indeed demand-driven and its results feed into policymaking, planning and practice.

A modest start along these lines has been happening in Bangladesh when it comes to research on how to tackle the global as well as national and local challenges of climate change.

Several years ago, research institutions of the country working on climate change came together to form a platform called Gobeshona that brought together over thirty public and private universities, national and international research institutes and think tanks as well as NGOs and private sector researchers to share the results of their ongoing research though a web-based platform which now has an archive of over a thousand publications on climate change in Bangladesh and to hold regular monthly seminars amongst the research community. Starting in January 2015 they have held an annual conference that linked the researchers to policy makers and planners of the country to disseminate research results to users.

The second annual Gobeshona conference was held in January 2016 and the third will take place on January 8-12 at the Independent University, Bangladesh in Dhaka. The four-day event consists of three days of scientific paper presentations by several hundred scientists from different disciplines and parts of the country and the fourth day is a Science-Policy-Dialogue Day where the latest scientific findings are shared with relevant policy makers and planners who provide feedback and advice on what kind of research they will need in the future. Thus a valuable feedback loop has been established within just three years of developing demand-led research that is relevant to the needs of the country.

One of the features of this year’s third annual Gobeshona conference on climate change research in Bangladesh is the presence of a number of observers from other LDCs in Asia and Africa who have come to learn from Bangladesh’s experience on climbing up the knowledge ladder on how to tackle climate change.

Bangladesh is on the road to becoming one of the leading centres of global research and knowledge on adaptation to climate change and is already starting to share that knowledge not only inside the country but also in other countries around the world.

Thus when it comes to the issue of how to deal with the adverse impacts of human-induced climate change Bangladesh is already well out of being an LDC and on the way to being a global leader on adaptation to climate change.

Originally this article was published on Wednesday January 04, 2017 at Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).