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OP-ED: For a Bangladesh better served

  • Published at 07:26 pm April 17th, 2021
bangladesh development

We are at the precipice of great change, and there is no more time to waste

Bangladesh’s road to independence was one laden with obstacles, with its tumultuous trajectory to freedom bearing huge losses. In particular, when the Pakistani army tried to cripple the country by systematically murdering intellectuals, it was a tremendous blow to the new state.

With the death of influential poets, writers, teachers, doctors, journalists, artists, and academics -- all those who played an integral role in mobilizing the masses and educating them on their rights -- it appeared that the potential for Bangladesh to prosper would be lost for good. But as history would have it, this budding nation rose from the ashes of destruction to heights no one could predict.

We started with 78% of our population living in poverty, with the majority being illiterate. Against all odds, the country dug itself out of abject horror and is now set to be the next Asian Tiger, alongside economic powerhouses like South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. 

However, as we prepare to graduate from a least developing country (LDC), we face a future riddled with challenges. While the past 50 years saw immense growth and development, there is still a long way to go in terms of education, health care, technology, infrastructure, inclusion, and so much more. The country requires extensive policy reforms in many areas, and it is high time the youth are equipped to take on these challenges headfirst.

People, policy, and progress

Youth Policy Forum (YPF) is a platform for policy dialogue that bridges the gap between experts and the youth. It actively involves the youth in policy-making through research, education, advocacy, and discussions among themselves and with seasoned professionals by providing a safe common space. 

YPF plans to equip the next generation with the knowledge they need to take on the next 50 years through collaboration with experts. This is how YPF’s broader vision of progressing Bangladesh with sustainable policy reforms ties into the YPF Fellowship Program.

Consisting of 100 highly accomplished individuals from a multitude of fields, both from home and abroad, the program is set to be a significant contributor in proposing effective policy solutions in 10 policy areas. From health care to education, justice to economic development, and agriculture to technology, to futures thinking and poverty -- YPF aims to cover the most crucial concurrent policy areas. Our fellows come from diverse backgrounds, and through multi-sectoral cross-cutting of expertise, we intend to address and play an essential role in all necessary sectors.

For instance, the futures thinking sector will make informed reflections and devise new ideas on what will occur over the next many years in all spheres of life. The poverty sector aims to continue the unfinished journey of poverty reduction and spreading social protection to all, with the guidance of leading global experts on poverty and social security.

YPF Fellows are extraordinary individuals who are contributing significantly in their respective roles and fields. Our Fellowship Program brings all the talented and knowledgeable minds worldwide and unites them on a common platform. By bringing together such a large panel of bright minds, YPF plans to utilize their accumulated knowledge and skills to propel Bangladesh towards future growth and reform.

Additionally, YPF has unique programs like Rohingya Advocacy and Road to Reforms. Our Rohingya Advocacy program is a year-long campaign aiming to promote the cause of dignified, safe repatriation of the Rohingya back to Myanmar. This year, our Road to Reforms campaign seeks to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh by promoting a series of reforms across various sectors.

In the words of Arpeeta Shams Mizan, YPF Fellow for Law, Rights and Justice, and a faculty member at the Department of Law, University of Dhaka, “Now that YPF has all of us on a common platform, the easy part is done. We now have to use this platform to do great things for Bangladesh.” 

The fellowship program was kickstarted with a webinar from the YPF Facebook page on April 10 -- the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s first government -- where our respected fellows discussed how they plan to contribute to shaping the country’s trajectory in the next 50 years through YPF. The fellows also shared their innovative ideas and valuable trinkets of wisdom throughout the webinar.

According to Karol Karpinski, YPF Fellow for Global Public Policy, and a financial sector specialist at the World Bank, Washington DC, “Bangladesh has an incredible global footprint … but the challenge for the government and society is translating that footprint into impact, and making that impact positive for Bangladesh as a country and the wider region.”

The idea of an egalitarian Bangladesh coincides with a strong Bangladesh on the global stage. YPF fellowship enables our country, both on the foreign and domestic fronts, to face, deal with, and confront new and continuously evolving challenges. 

This allows accumulated intelligence to collectively forecast and address issues, provide practical solutions, and create a solid foundation for a strong Bangladesh. In turn, this initiative will create a locally, regionally, and globally influential body under YPF’s banner.

As we look forward to the next fifty years, it is up to us to empower our intellectuals and bring them to the forefront of policy discourse and provide them with the platform to propose effective policy solutions and much-needed reforms. History has taught us the importance of knowledge in driving us forward, and this is why we strive towards a Bangladesh better served through empowerment, education, and collective effort. 

With the YPF Fellowship Program, we aim to pave the path for Bangladesh to emerge as a global powerhouse and stand proud on a worldwide scale. We are at the precipice of great change, there is much to be done, and there is no more time to waste.

Afia Ibnat is a student of International Relations at Tokyo International University. Ahmad Tousif Jami has recently graduated high school from Dhaka College. They are both Deputy Leads of the YPF Fellowship Program.

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