Bangladesh’s hill tribes get special attention from the UN 

The area is home to 11 tribes that have lived for generations in these mountains.
Updated 26 October 2018

Bangladesh’s hill tribes get special attention from the UN 

  • The UN's Development Program and the Asian Development Bank join hands to promote bio-diversity conservation and community cohesion for tribes. 
  • Preservation of indigenous mother tongue among other measures adopted for the hill community. 

DHAKA: “Life in the hills is very tough. We need to work hard to maintain the livelihood here since challenges are there in every step, like agriculture, health, education etc,” says Nelson Mro, 27, an indigenous inhabitant of Bandarban district in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Mro is one of more than a million people living in the CHT, in the southern part of Bangladesh. The area is home to 11 tribes that have lived for generations in these mountains. Some of the popular tribal communities of the CHT are Chakma, Tripura, Marma, Mro, and Bom.

“In my childhood, I did not get any proper facility to learn or go to school. There were not even adequate health facilities available in the villages but things have changed a lot over the recent years,” Mro said while working at his coffee shop in the Faruk Para area of Bandarban district.

Now in every community there are primary schools and government-run clinics to address mother and child health care, he said.

Professor Dr. Mesbah Kamal, a member of the Indigenous Parliamentary Caucus and a CHT expert, said: “Our government is keen to develop the life of the hill people. Since 2017, we have introduced education to promote indigenous mother tongues in primary schools to protect the languages of the 3 tribes of CHT.”

He added: “We still have a long way to go since another eight tribal languages need to be introduced at primary education level.” 

He warned that the environment has become a growing concern in CHT because of the massive deforestation that has taken place in the recent years.

“We have noticed that many of the waterfalls have gone dry recently due to indiscriminate stone mining from the hills. These waterfalls are a major source of drinking water for the tribal community and we need to work immediately to restore this natural water source,” said Kamal.

In this context, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have teamed up with new fund to promote sustainable management of community development in CHT, which will ease the hardships of the tribal people living in these areas. 

According to the arrangement signed on Tuesday, the ADB will provide $471,000 to UNDP to implement technical assistance project entitled “Sustainable Management of Community Development for Chittagong Hill Tracts.”

UNDP Bangladesh Country Director, Sudipto Mukerjee, said: “Currently, we are working on livelihood, natural resource management, bio-diversity conservation and community cohesion among the tribal people. With the support of this new fund, both tribal and non-tribal communities will have access to more inclusive economic and livelihood opportunities and have improved capabilities to manage the environment.”

At the moment, the UNDP is working in CHT in collaboration with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs under the program titled “Strengthening Inclusive Development in Chittagong Hill Tracts,” which will be continued until December 2021.

“Our program in CHT aims at increased civic participation and engagement among communities, which will provide the basis to build social capital and citizenship awareness in the population and deepen participation in decision-making,” added Mukerjee.

He mentions that the increased ability of institutions to respond to local priorities in the delivery of services, in justice and security sectors, and on land issues to provide accountability and legitimacy, will “further strengthen links, between public services and the local populace.” 

UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019

UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”