The UK's long standing partnership with Bangladesh’s research and development community has been absolutely critical to the country's remarkable progress over the last forty years.
This is what Dr Mushtaque Chowdhury, Vice-Chair of BRAC, the world's largest international non-government-organisation (based in Bangladesh) will tell academics, charity leaders, Whitehall officials and parliamentarians at a series of meetings in the UK this week, including at an event in Westminster hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Bangladesh and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
Dr Chowdhury said: "Collaboration between Bangladesh and the UK has helped to increase our understanding of how to break the cycle of extreme poverty. This learning around what works could make a significant contribution to the reduction of poverty in all of its forms globally, thereby reducing low and middle income countries' need for aid."
Melissa Leach, Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex said: "Bangladesh's economic and social development, despite the many continuing challenges the country faces, provides valuable lessons for the wider region and to all of us committed to reducing global poverty and inequality. The longstanding partnership between the UK and Bangladesh around support for development programmes and life-saving research is something we can be really proud of. It remains more important than ever that the UK continues to play a role in supporting international cooperation and country level innovation around poverty reduction if we want to see a more prosperous and safer world."
Since independence in 1971 Bangladesh has graduated to lower middle-income status, reduced poverty, improved health services and education provision and modernised agriculture. Life expectancy at birth has increased by 18 years and Bangladesh has overtaken India in terms of human development progress.
The UK's partnership with Bangladeshi organisations like BRAC has included a big focus on researching approaches to reducing poverty permanently. The UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID) joined forces ten years ago to set up the Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research, which has supported 150 research projects world-wide and which has been influential in the design of interventions such as BRAC's ground-breaking - Targeting the Ultra Poor Programme. UK and Bangladeshi development experts now argue that Bangladesh's progress could provide valuable learning for the wider South Asia region and proves that development assistance can reduce countries’ dependency on aid from the UK and elsewhere.
BRAC's Targeting the Ultra Poor Programme has helped improve the lives of countless Bangladesh men, women and children. BRAC’s work, which includes providing small loans to poor households to set up small business, combating disease and improving local health and education services in eleven countries including Bangladesh itself, is estimated to have touched the lives of 1 in 55 people in the world.
One such example is Shamsunnahar, from Moulvibazar, Rangpur in Bangladesh. Married at 13 with no access to education Shamsunnahar attended training as part of the Ultra Poor programme and as a result went on to set up her own poultry business, was able to invest in her children's education and continues to encourage women in her community to take action to improve their own lives.