European Commission (EC)
The EC funds UNICEF to provide child protection programmes in Bangladsh. Ambassador and Head of the EC Delegation in Bangladesh, Stefan Frowein, discusses the EC’s commitment to working alongside UNICEF for the protection and empowerment of children in Bangladesh.
The European Commission is a major donor of UNICEF’s Child Protection (adolescent empowerment and legislative reform) programmes in Bangladesh. Why are these issues of importance to the European Commission, particularly in Bangladesh?
The EU and the UN share the same values: respect for and the promotion of human rights. We have established a fruitful partnership with UNICEF in Bangladesh to ensure the realization of women`s and children`s rights, giving priority to the fight against poverty and attainment of the MDGs.
We work closely with UNICEF to empower adolescents and promote birth registration. Birth registration provides each individual with a tool to obtain their fundamental human rights. A functional birth registration system also ensures a certain level of protection against human rights violations such as child marriage, deprivation of liberty, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking and other worst forms of child labor. In a country like Bangladesh, where social practices and norms discriminate against women and girls in particular, the empowerment of adolescents project ensures their effective participation in policy implementation and decision making, and enhances family and caretakers` knowledge of gender and child protection issues.
What improvements have you seen in the projects you support in Bangladesh recently (particularly in regard to the programmes you sponsor)?
As the largest provider of foreign aid in Bangladesh, the EC plays an important role in almost all sectors of development, most prominently in education, health, food security, trade, human rights and disaster preparedness. As Bangladesh continues to score better in terms of social and economic indicators, we are pleased to see that our support is having measurable and positive results for the people of Bangladesh.
The adolescents empowerment project effectively changed the lives of many adolescent girls and is a model of best practice. The project shapes adolescents as agents of change within their communities by supporting their participation in livelihood initiatives to develop income generating abilities. Parents and community leaders also participate to strengthen wider community support for adolescents and promote behavioral change. As a result, adolescents, with the support of their families and communities, have raised awareness on issues such as early marriage, dowry, child trafficking and birth registration.
Have you recently visited any local-level projects and seen first-hand the impact they are having on Bangladeshi communities? (If yes, please elaborate).
We frequently go to the field to see the direct impact of the projects we support. Among the most interesting and rewarding project visits, I particularly remember the visit to the adolescent empowerment project in Rajshahi. It was a real pleasure to see that the project received such a positive response by the villagers who recognized the positive changes brought about by the intervention. Facts and figures presented to me by project officers and also the activities carried out by the girls and boys of the centre, made it clear to me that the project had positively impacted the lives of the rural adolescents, but also those of their families. Adolescents are now moving towards a future where they will not have to depend on others to know about their own rights.
What are your priorities in the coming years with regards to work you are sponsoring in Bangladesh?
We work closely with the Bangladesh Government to ensure good governance – the most important foundation for development. Our development strategy seeks to reduce poverty through rapid economic growth, greater inclusion of the poor and increased employment, within a legal and human rights framework and must be seen as part of a broader donor landscape where donors contribute diverse expertise and resources to create a balanced aid package in Bangladesh. Our development strategy was designed and is implemented in cooperation with other main donors.
The EC supports aid projects across the globe. How, in your opinion, is Asia (and Bangladesh in particular) progressing to meet the MDGs?
Bangladesh has made significant ground toward achieving MDG targets. In particular, Bangladesh is on track to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary schools, universal primary school enrolment and reduction of child mortality. However, reduction of school dropout rates remains a challenge. According data relating to 2008, although certain progress has been made, the country is still far from reducing poverty to 29 per cent by 2015. Although, the global financial crisis has had a significant impact and will affect MDG targets, particularly in the world`s poorest countries.