9 February 2011, Dhaka. "Bangladeshis should not portray themselves as victims, but rather should demand compensation for adaptation to climate change as their right", said Mary Robinson, visiting former President of Ireland at a round table meeting hosted by BRAC and BRAC University on Climate Justice. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC, with the State Minister for Environment, Dr. Hasan Mahmud as the chief guest. Dr. Asaduzzman, Director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and Dr. Ainun Nishat, Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University, also spoke on the occasion. Dr. Babar Kabir, head of BRAC's Disaster, Environment and Climate Change programme, moderated the session.
The former head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Ms. Robinson said that her foundation will provide all kinds of help and will work with Bangladesh in making its case to the rest of the world with the urgency it deserves. 'There are real people who are affected and who are affected now', said Ms. Robinson who visited Koira yesterday with BRAC staff to see firsthand the destruction caused by cyclones attributed to climate change. Dr. Ainun Nishat, a climate expert himself, said that 50 percent of the people affected in Koira have already migrated to different parts of the country for economic need and this kind of migration will spread with increasing danger of climate change. He quoted a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that even if all emissions are stopped today, it will take another 30 to 40 years to stabilise the climate.
"The danger is real and it is imminent", echoed chief guest Dr. Hasan Mahmud. But he expressed his outrage that 1400 crore taka that was committed by the international community under the FAST Start funding for Bangladesh has not reached even after 14 months. He stressed the need for prioritising funds for adaptation and expressed confidence in Bangladesh negotiation team comprised of the country’s top experts. "Understanding the importance of this national issue, we did not change the negotiation team even after the government changed and that is why Bangladesh is leading the negotiation on behalf of the LDCs", said Dr. Mahmud.
Dr. Mahabub Hossain, underscored the need for addressing food security and highlighted BRAC's project in the Koira area where in the newly emerged land, although saline, maize is being cultivated with BRAC's technical assistance. He stressed the need for such knowledge transfer, education and innovation in dealing with the worst effects of climate change facing the country.
"It is this resiliency of the people that should be highlighted", said Ms. Robinson who admired the people of the coastal region in Bangladesh and how they were coping by being innovative. She said she will continue to advocate the issue of climate change from a human rights perspective because it highlights the issue of economic and social rights of the people which is often undermined. She said she has been struck by how little understanding there is in the richer world on how damaging climate change has been for real people in countries like Bangladesh. She said her foundation will work with BRAC in portraying a people-centric approach towards climate change. She also expressed her eagerness in working on a project to harness the leadership of women in fighting climate change.
The meeting was attended by experts and civil society members who expressed the need for urgency in tackling climate finance and adaptation.