The United Nations in Bangladesh and key development partners have pledged to further strengthen the work with the government of Bangladesh to achieve prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) leaving no one behind.
The promise came during a weeklong visit of a high-level delegation of the UN and development partners to the CHT to see for themselves the development initiatives in the area Thursday.
The delegation included UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis, EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley, British High Commissioner Robert Chatterton Dickson and Norway Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen.
UNDP Resident Representative Stefan Liller, UNFPA Country Representative Kristine Blokhus, FAO Country Representative Robert Simpson and UNICEF Country Representative Sheldon Yett were also in the delegation.
“Development work in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has been hugely successful. However, lack of access and remoteness of many communities remains an ongoing challenge. The “ethnic minorities” in the CHT have led impressive efforts to preserve and rehabilitate forests and their natural habitat. Climate change has made their work even more vital,” UNRC Gwyn Lewis said.
She also said the visit provided her with a scope of familiarising herself with the region, listening to the concerns of women and adolescents and visiting a range of different programmes.
“UN and partners’ support in CHT must be inclusive and in line with Agenda 2030’s promise of leaving no one behind to achieve a concerted, effective and sustainable development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” she added.
“This is my third visit to the Hill Tracts. I’m always struck by the development challenges in the region and by the opportunities for the government, the UN, development partners, and the communities themselves to work together for a sustainable future. I was particularly impressed by the impact of the Village Common Forests in improving water supplies in remote communities and hope this management of forest resources can be expanded to the benefit of all,” UK envoy Robert Chatterton Dickson said.
“As one of the founding nations of the UN and a major supporter of core support to the UN agencies, our commitment to peace, equality and harmony is unquestionable. I wanted to revisit our partnerships in the hills to see just that,” Norway Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen said.
The envoys met Khagrachhari and Rangamati Hill District Councils chairmen and deputy commissioners, Mong and Chakma Circle chiefs, women leaders, environmental NGOs and the CHT Development Board.
The delegation also listened to diverse community members’ stories, challenges and recommendations while visiting various UN programmes.
One of the many highlights was their visit to the solar power-based safe water supply facilities and the provision of safe drinking water during crises at Jurachari in Rangamati.
The initiative was recently awarded the Local Adaptation Champions Award at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
“We’re addressing the issue of water scarcity by protecting and restoring forests and by using renewable energy to supply clean water in marginalized communities,” said Stefan Liller, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh, after visiting the water supply facility.
“Children must be at the centre of our work in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Investing in children’s well-being today and in their future is not just the right thing to do; it will ultimately benefit all of Bangladesh,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
UNFPA Representative Kristine Blokhus said, “Women in CHT face serious challenges due to remoteness and lack of access to health services. To ensure every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe, as the lead UN agency for reproductive health and rights, UNFPA provides integrated sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence support to the government health system. This includes deploying midwives and other specialist personnel to health facilities and connecting them with local communities.”
FAO Representative in Bangladesh Robert D Simpson stressed the importance of agriculture in the region and its potential to drive development.