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The AEDSB Washington Seminar Series


Decentralization and Development in Bangladesh

Speaker: Syed Ashraful Islam, Honorable Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, Government of Bangladesh

Moderator: Ahmad Ahsan, Lead Economist, East Asia and Pacific Region, World Bank

When: Wednesday, April 23, 2010; 11.00am - 1.00pm

Where: Room MC 12 - 155, Main Complex, The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington D.C.

Visitors will first need to collect a pass from the Main Complex (MC) Building Visitor's Center on the corner of 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Please allow an extra 15 minutes for this. If you need a pass to attend the seminar, please contact: Syud Ahmed (sahmed20@worldbank.org or 202-473-6454) or Nadia Selim (nselim@worldbank.org or 202-458-5128)



Bangladesh has made significant progress in human development and building rural infrastructure in the past two decades under democratic rule, and is on track to achieve key millennium development goals. However, the current highly-centralized public service delivery arrangement and the NGO based service delivery models may have reached their limit. With little accountability to citizens, especially at the local government level, the coverage and particularly the quality of services are poor for most of its citizens. There have been a number of experiments in decentralization in Bangladesh's history aimed at empowering local governments and improving services. Local governments have always found a place in political manifestos, high level committees have recommended changes to strengthen the local government systems, and there have been frequent policy changes and rearrangements of the tiers of local government. But actual progress has been limited.

Recently however the local government reform agenda has received fresh impetus. After the present Awami League Government was elected in January 2009, elections to nearly 500 Upazila Parishads (sub-district councils) were held after nearly two decades. Several key laws were enacted concerning local governments. Initiatives like Digital Bangla aimed to empower and inform citizens and improve service delivery have been rolled out, while a number of programs aimed at strengthening local governments and service delivery have been introduced with the support of the World Bank and other development partners. Yet, challenges remain acute as illustrated by the recent controversy surrounding the role of MPs in local governance. Increasing resources for local governments and ensuring their accountability to citizens are other long term challenges.

In this context, Mr. Islam will talk about his views on why decentralization is important for Bangladesh, the Government's program to strengthen local governments, the political, administrative and economic challenges that need to be addressed to implement its program, and his prognosis about local government development in Bangladesh.

About the Presenters

Mr. Syed Ashraful Islam is the Honorable Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives in the Government of Bangladesh. He is also the General Secretary of the ruling party - Bangladesh Awami League. Mr. Islam participated in the 1971 Liberation War as a freedom fighter. After the assassination of his father, Mr. Syed Nazrul Islam (who was the Acting President of Bangladesh during its liberation war in 1971), he went to the United Kingdom. He returned to Bangladesh in 1996 and was elected a Member of Parliament from Kishoreganj Sadar. Mr. Islam holds a post-graduate degree in law and is a businessman by profession.