1971 East Pakistan declares independence from Pakistan, following the Bangladesh Liberation War, and becomes Bangladesh 1970s-80s A series of military coups lead to the dictatorial regime of Hussain Muhammed Ershad. The constitution is suspended and martial law declared 1975 Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is assassinated, along with most of his family. Two daughters, including Sheikh Hasina, are out of the country and so survive of Bengali settlement is where they come from they have tiny land holdings, and that in the CHT, per head of population, people have got several hectares each, so it seems sensible to share it out,” says Taylor. “Of course, this is not realistic given that some of this land is very vertical and already subject to extreme erosion.” Tribes in the area have one basic method of mainstay, which extends to tribal people in more or less all mountainous regions – the practice of swidden, or ‘slash and burn’ agriculture, whereby areas of foliage are cut down and burned to make way for fields, which are used for several years before being essentially returned to the forest. In Bangladesh, the practice is known as jum, which is the reason behind the nickname for tribal peoples in the area, Jumma. This practice is thought to be incredibly sustainable when carried out correctly and on a relatively small scale. 2007 The army declares a state of emergency after the collapse of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party government in late 2006, leading to widespread protests 2006 Bangladeshi banker and economist Muhammed Yunus is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on development of microcredit and microfinance 1991 Ershad resigns as President and free elections are held, transitioning the country to democracy © Fowler and Fowler CC BY 2.0 © Faizul Latif Chowdhury CC ASA 3.0 “With increasing population pressure from added Bengali settlers,” Taylor says, “land is not being used for long enough and farming is beginning to take place on land which is too steep for sensible cultivation and used to be left to be traditional forest. So there are now tremendous problems of erosion.” The plight of the indigenous people in Bangladesh, and of the CHT themselves, is of increasing concern. In recent years the international community has been coming together to assist the peace process in the CHT and help end the human rights abuses of the tribes that call the area home. There have been a number of projects to support community development, empowerment and peacebuilding in the CHT, including the large-scale CHT Development Facility, implemented by the UNDP with funding from the European Union. The Kapaeeng Foundation is also engaged In Focus Bangladesh 2009 Sheikh Hasina is appointed Prime Minister after winning a landslide in reinstated democratic elections in several projects throughout the area, including capacity-building activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of indigenous people and their organisations, as well as networking among indigenous peoples’ organisations and the international community, to protect and promote the human rights of tribal peoples. Assistance from organisations such as these can only go so far, however, while issues remain at the very root of indigenous people’s presence in Bangladesh. “What has been lacking so far,” says Taylor, “is an ongoing degree of progress on issues of land ownership and on issues of recognition.” To this effect, it is imperative that the CHT Peace Accord is implemented in full in order to adequately protect the human rights of the tribal people of the CHT. This will give a greater degree of recognition to, and protect the human rights of, the tribal people of the CHT. An economy that has triumphed over natural disasters www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 71 © UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe Bangladesh has a high population density, limited natural resources and an agricultural economy vulnerable to floods and cyclones, but it has nevertheless achieved annual economic growth of about four per cent since its independence in 1971. The country possesses a wealth of natural gas (estimated at 200 billion cubic metres in January 2013) and some coal reserves. Economic policy has long aimed at the alleviation of poverty by encouraging increased agricultural production and investment in education. This is combined with the development of an industrial and technological base. However, severe floods, drought and famine have often frustrated development plans. From the mid-1990s successive governments committed to freemarket policies, privatisation of state companies, attracting overseas investment and banking reform. More than 70 state-owned enterprises – in areas as diverse as manufacturing, agriculture, transport and communications – were either fully or partially divested by the state. Plans exist for the privatisation of 20 further companies into the 2010s, but progress has been slow due to strong popular opposition. These policies led to an improvement in economic performance, which did not even relent in 1998 when the country was devastated by the floods that covered nearly two-thirds of the land area. The country’s financial standing grew strongly at the outset of the new millennium, the economy generating more than six per cent annual growth in the years 2006-13, primarily driven by strong exports. The economy remained strong despite the global downturn in 2008 and high rates of inflation. A share scam resulted in a stock market crash in 2011, the effects of which are still being felt.
Global issue 20
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