Vol. 4 Num 213 Wed. December 31, 2003  

2004 objectives

In a rapidly changing, increasingly uncertain, mostly unknown and developmentally uneven world, the establishment of realisable plans and programmes in the pursuit of creating initial conditions for meeting the needs and expectations of Bangladeshis and those of world people is a formidable challenge. Further, the difficulties associated with the harnessing of existing or new opportunities or both for the achievement of planned objectives at local, national and global levels are taking a toll on weak institutions, limited capacities and fragile resource bases of many developing countries including Bangladesh. Interesting though, the challenges and the opportunities mentioned complement and supplement each other in shaping, among other things, the development objectives of policy-outcome processes.

The following may be a few objectives for the year 2004.

Bangladesh should strive hard to minimise further the wastage of its resources. It should enhance its productive time and advance its development agenda through, inter alia: i) eliminating delays in decision-making; ii) improving further the quality of decisions; iii) identifying and implementing local, national and global priorities for 2004 -- designing, in that respect, implementation strategies and processes having potentials for facilitating in pertinent areas an optimal result and outcome (for example: in terms of number of rural beneficiaries), cross cutting benefit, cost effectiveness, and accountability plus ownership, to mention a few; and iv) using expediters in critical work areas for ensuring outcomes just in time. In the government offices, the senior officers like, deputy secretaries and others may be assigned as expediters with appropriate authority and accountability including time bound reporting obligations.

Bangladesh should improve its fiscal discipline inter alia for promoting a quicker economic growth in the country. The effort of the present Finance Minister in that respect is encouraging.

The country should negotiate external development assistance with the donors on the basis inter alia of per capita assistance to direct beneficiaries -- I will call it per capita beneficiary stake in development, in short, PCBSD. One of the purposes would be to increase the stake of the beneficiaries in the development assistance. A minimisation of the programme and project costs in the areas like, personnel (say, the costs of ex-country experts) and equipment without compromising the quality and timeliness of the expected outputs of the assistance mentioned could inter alia enhance PCBSD and the availability of external resources for local utilisation. It would require Bangladeshis, donor agency staff members and others to be more pragmatic, objective and innovative in the planning and development of project and programme proposals, as well as frameworks.

A more focused and frequent use of PCBSD as a criterion in the formulation and implementation of development programmes could be helpful: improve people-centred orientations in decisions concerning the allocation of development resources; promote the use of people-centred balance sheets in development accounting and auditing; enhance the quality of programme monitoring; and make the transactions in development more transparent. Further, the balance sheet information could assist world people in deciding as to whether or not to call for a public enquiry into pertinent areas, as applicable.

The Human Development Reports may use PCBSD as a criterion inter alia for ranking relevant countries on the basis of per capita allocation and spending of development assistance resources with respect to the beneficiaries, and the resultant losses and gains, (say, in monetary terms) in a given period.

Bangladesh should be more proactive, willing and innovative in dealing with the issues leading to hartals. Hartal in Bangladesh is generally far from being peaceful and its continuing use as a power tool in politics has been constraining the development of a knowledge based political culture in the country. The country should not take a laid back or ignoring attitude when it comes to situations leading to a hartal, per se. The ramification of promoting such attitude over a period of time can be manifold and devastating for the country. It can a) create a perception among Bangladeshis and others about a sitting government's inability to deal with the issues leading to the hartal and that could affect the ruling party(ies) support bases, marginalising their prospects of wining at least in the next election; b) discourage the political parties, trade unions and others to pursue aggressively peaceful means for conflict resolution; c) hit the confidence of the investors in the country's ability to promote and sustain enabling environments for investment; and d) hurt the country's image -- to mention a few.

On the other hand, the political parties (including the ruling parties) by resolving peacefully the issues leading to a hartal, could promote inter alia their respective constituencies at home and abroad. It may not be possible to resolve all the hartal issues all the time though, but an aggressive, productive and publicly known effort of concerned political party(ies) towards, say, averting a hartal could be instrumental in promoting popular and result-oriented support against anti-peace and anti-development aspects of the hartal in the country. The role of Bangladeshi media in complementing and supplementing the above effort would be critical. The enactment of a Hartal Act could inter alia be instrumental in establishing the conditions for a hartal and in defining the responsibility, accountability and liability pertaining to an eventual hartal. A windfall from the above development may witness the creation of an office of Ombudsman in Bangladesh in the foreseeable future.

A recent investigation by American and European intelligence agencies suggests inter alia the transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to a number of countries. The investigation, its findings and other contemporary instances demonstrate inter alia an increasing role of intra- and inter-regional cooperation plus collaboration in the matters of say, global security on one hand and an apparent inadequacy on the part of the UN to perform its role as a global watchdog in areas like weapon of mass destruction, on the other. Those and other pertinent developments should serve as yet another warning for the world organisation. The message is clear: the UN should inter alia be more competitive, result-generative, accountable, synergistic and productive to ensure its continuing existence in the pursuits of promoting and sustaining well beings of all people and development for all.

The UN, its secretariat, its organisations and agencies (hereinafter: the UN unless mentioned otherwise) should undergo a thorough balancing, modernisation and rehabilitation (BMR) exercise with a view to making them more substantive and outcome wise more effective, as well as satisfying. The BMR work should include inter alia:

The review of the UN charter and the current mandates based on the lessons learned, globalisation and the UN's competitiveness, the dynamics of needs, wants, peace, economics, geo-politics and environment, the future of world in the foreseeable period, the technology-human development interface and the emerging human rights context -- in order to determine their effectiveness in the light of a 21st century UN;

The examination of the structure and the voting plus the veto system of the Security Council (SC) and the voting system at the General Assembly (GA) with a view to strengthening the crucial balance that holds the acceptability and integrity of the UN as a dependable and reliable world institution both at the time of crisis as well as peace;

The determination of measures for enhancing collaboration, cooperation and synergy between and among the UN, civil society, world regions and regional organisations in pertinent areas. One of such measures could be the regionalisation of the headquarters based development support and service units (like the regional bureaus) of UN organisations and agencies by relocating them in respective regions;

The establishment of modalities for help making the UN lean, more productive, less bureaucratic and more resourceful. Some of the options in that respect could be: the merger of relevant UN organisations and agencies in the pursuit of a few but more productive UN entities; a planned privatisation of the UN development activities -- facilitating the taking over of those activities by civil society, the idea is to create successors of the UN development entities; a more mutually reinforcing and beneficial relationship between the UN and the WB, as well as other financial institutions; a drastic reduction in the number of assistant secretaries general especially, in UN organisations and agencies; the overhauling of human resource management units of the UN for professional excellence and attitudinal changes (promotion of friends not master attitude in cases); the optimisation of ICT use in the UN operations; and significant improvements in peacekeeping operations plus intra- and inter-agencies coordination, to mention a few.