Nov 22, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: EU Ambassador Comments On Funding For Region And Fair Elections

The EU wants to end political stalemate over elections, and supports the CHT peace accord.

Below is an article published by the Daily Star:


The European Union (EU) will encourage dialogue between political parties to end the current stalemate over the modus operandi of holding the next general elections in Bangladesh.

“We want to encourage dialogue between the parties and we want to encourage participation in parliament, which are the key issues,” EU Ambassador William Hanna said Tuesday [ 22 November 2011] in an interview with UNB.

He said the European Union would also continue to support the Election Commission to see free and fair elections where the people could exercise their democratic right to vote.

Referring to the UN secretary general’s remark that political parties should resolve their differences through dialogue, Hanna said the same thing was conveyed by the EU Commissioner for Development Cooperation and the German Minister for Economic Cooperation to the Prime Minister and the opposition leader during their meetings here in last June [2011].

“It shows how much the international community cares about Bangladesh and cares about support for democracy,” he said.

The EU ambassador said: “We have seen the Arab Spring of the last year where it was seen how much the people there are attached with their democratic rights to vote and set up their own government.”

Asked if the EU would be willing to mediate if necessary to end the political standoff here, he said: “We are not being asked to mediate.”

Hanna said: “We are trying to talk with all sides and say the same thing: to resolve the issues through dialogue. We very much support cooperation instead of confrontation.”

Asked if there is any possibility of cutting development aid in Bangladesh in the wake of current economic downturn in Europe, the EU ambassador dismissed the apprehension, saying that he has not seen any proposal to cut down on development aid.

“It is true that economic crisis continues in Europe and there is stress on public financing. Even though, I’ve not seen any proposal to cut down on development aid in Bangladesh.”

On the contrary, he said the United Kingdom, one of the EU member states, has increased its development assistance for Bangladesh.

The EU has pledged around Euro 150million this year for Bangladesh.

However, Ambassador Hanna pointed out the low rate of spending the development aid pledged for Bangladesh. “We are now focusing on how to make development assistance more effective,” he said, adding “money is there but it is not being spent.”

Asked about the reasons, he attributed this to corruption, lack of efficient procedure for disbursement of fund and lack of sound financial management of development fund.

He said a global forum on improving the efficiency and impact of aid is due to take place in Busan, South Korea this month. Delegates of development partners and aid recipient countries will attend the forum, the objective of which is to improve the effectiveness of aid to developing nations.

Asked why the EU is channelling bulk of its development fund to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the ambassador said it is because of cultural diversity of Bangladesh, geographic difficulties of the region and one of the least favoured areas in terms of education and health facilities.

The EU also likes to support the implementation of the CHT peace accord, he said, adding that for overall development it needs stability, security and peace.

Ambassador Hanna said that not only the CHT, the EU programmes also target the people in other disadvantaged areas of the country.