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OP-ED: Creating an inclusive national policy

  • Published at 02:37 am September 6th, 2021
indigenous women
Mehedi Hasan

Involving ethnic minorities in the decision-making process is key

Every year on August 9, indigenous people from all around the world celebrate the “International Day of the Indigenous Peoples.” 

The current government of Bangladesh did not recognize the indigenous groups and rather acknowledged them as “ethnic minorities” through 15th amendment of the Constitution. 

According to article 23A of the constitution, it is a duty of the state to take positive steps to protect the unique identity and preserve the native culture of the ethnic minorities. 

The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. But as UNDRIP is neither a convention nor a treaty, it is not legally binding unless it is adopted in domestic legislation by a state. It is unfortunate that Bangladesh has no definite law or policy on ethnic minorities social, cultural and economic inclusion.

In 2015, the Planning Commission accurately decorated the status of the ethnic minorities by stating: “The ethnic communities in Bangladesh are the most deprived of economic, social, cultural, and political rights, mainly due to their ethnic status. Ethnic identities are creating barriers to ethnic minority people’s inclusion in wider social networks.”

The ethnic minorities want to live in their own country with proper dignity and constitutional rights. It is a constitutional obligation of the state to make an affirmative action plan so that ethnic minorities can raise their voice at the national level and can contribute to every sector of the state. “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract” was the theme for 2021’s International Day of Indigenous Peoples. 

Indigenous Peoples inhabit 20% of the earth’s territory, acting as stewards of a wide range of critical ecosystems and for much of the planet’s biological diversity. These communities are sources of knowledge about traditional resource management strategies that are sustainable and about livelihoods that are compatible with the conservation of some of the earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge systems hold the potential to contribute solutions to global health and food security challenges, and Indigenous Peoples’ support for climate change mitigation and adaptation is already well documented. 

The ethnic minorities in Bangladesh have already faced many obstacles and still facing many problems, the govt. must take inclusive policy and make adequate laws to address the ground reality. 

The ethnic communities want a national policy which will be based on genuine participation and partnership that fosters equal opportunities and respects the rights, dignity, and freedoms of all. 

Ethnic minorities’ right to participate in decision-making is a key component in achieving reconciliation between these communities and the State. 

The government of Bangladesh has expressed its strong commitment to protect the rights and dignity of the ethnic minorities. 

It is time to implement those commitments and make an inclusive policy for ethnic minorities, so that no one can leave behind the true spirit of SDG 2030.

Parban Chakma is a student of law.