‘Time to opt for skill development approach to meet emerging needs of Rohingyas’
Since five years have elapsed, repatriation is still hanging in limbo, and the flow of funds is more fragile than before, it is time to focus on making a strategic shift towards skills development approach for the Rohingyas sheltered in the camps.
Speakers at a policy dialogue titled: “Rohingya Crisis Response in Bangladesh: Do we need a strategic shift from the current approach?” came up with the observations on 30 November 2022. BRAC and the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka jointly organised the dialogue at a local hotel.
Since the beginning of the Rohingya influx in 2017, the responding agencies have prioritised providing lifesaving assistance to the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs).
Several other issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war, humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and the ongoing global economic crisis appeared as bigger global concerns in the meantime. The prolonged nature of the crisis also tightened the flow of humanitarian assistance from donors and international agencies.
Four idea papers developed by the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka were presented at the dialogue that explored the changing needs of the refugees, potential livelihood mediums for them in 2023 and beyond, and roles of local, national and international NGOs in addressing these issues as well as map new sources of finance.
Citing the papers, speakers stressed on paying attention to the needs of the host communities. Addressing their insecurities would strengthen the host-Rohingya relationship; thus paving the way for determining strategic response, they said.
Honourable Planning Minister Mr. M A Mannan MP graced the opening session as the chief guest. He said, “Unfortunately, we have no direct control over the Myanmar issue. The Government of Bangladesh did whatever was possible on its part. However, Myanmar’s position is still unclear. With help from NGOs, development partners, and UN agencies, we have been able to reach a point to meet the basic requirements of the Rohingyas but it is not enough. We need to reach a consensus with our neighbours and the international community. The government will continue its attempts to repatriate the Rohingyas.”
Ms So-Jin Rhee, UNHCR interim Country Representative in Bangladesh, said, “The solution lies in Myanmar. But in the meantime, we have to bridge the gap. We are in a protracted situation. As a UN agency, we have to look at this strategically. Going into sixth year, funding is dwindling. At this juncture, we need to look into how to ensure the minimum like protection, health, WASH, food. We need to invest in resilience, education, skills development so that the Rohingya refugees become productive members of society.”
H.E. Mr Mustafa Osman Turan, Ambassador of Turkey to Bangladesh, said, “Turkey is best placed to understand the situation in Bangladesh as we are hosting the highest numbers of refugees in the world, which is nearly 4 million. We really appreciate the compassion and generosity that was shown by Bangladesh when the Rohingyas had to flee several times and significantly in 2017. We stood by Bangladesh and have been providing support in many different ways including a field hospital, which is treating 1,500 patients every day, free of charge. I would like to congratulate BRAC and Dhaka University for digging deeper into this very complex problem. I am looking forward to the outcomes. Turkey will continue to support Bangladesh until Rohingyas are repatriated.”
Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, said: “We should now look for a mid-term strategy for the refugees as we continuously advocate for their safe and dignified return to their homeland. There is a growing consensus within the sector that the current work needs to shift towards a development-like approach from a very short-term humanitarian crisis-focused approach. The only solution for the Rohingya refugees is their sustainable and voluntary repatriation to Myanmar.”
Ms Kathryn Davis Stevens, Mission Director, USAID Bangladesh, said, “We need to focus on market based solutions so that the Rohigyas can return to a prosperous future in Myanmar. At the same time, we must educate and ensure essentials for the host communities; going beyond the humanitarian response. Today I would like to stress on livelihoods, educational opportunities, security, stable economic opportunities to guard against dehumanisation of Rohingyas. Our total assistance in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis reached nearly $1.9 billion since August 2017. USAID will continue to provide support to the Rohingya crisis.”
Vivek Prakash, Head of Cooperation, Rohingya Refugee Response, High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh, said, "Canada has been the development partner of Bangladesh since its independence. The Rohingya crisis has moved past the emergency response to a more protracted nature. We are also continuing to mount pressure on the government of Myanmar. Canada continues to provide essential services to the Rohigya community; a key support is LPG gas that is helping in protecting the environment. It is important to maintain social cohesion among the Rohingyas and host communities so that the host community does not feel left behind. But it’s important not to forget this is a humanitarian crisis and in Bangladesh, the Rohingyas have limited opportunity to work so the financial implication is high.
In his concluding remarks the Chair of the Session Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka said, “To make it all inclusive it would have been better if the research considered voices of the Rohingya population as well.”
It may be mentioned, the government of Bangladesh has been striving to expedite the repatriation of about 1.2 million Rohingyas sheltered in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char. However, no significant response is yet perceptible from the Myanmar side.