Speakers in a panel discussion titled “Partnering for Reduced Inequalities: How business can contribute to the UN SDGs” emphasized on the participation of the private sector in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations.
Arranged at GPHouse, Dhaka, the panel discussion was participated by a range of stakeholders, including government agencies, development organizations, and private sector companies. The program was jointly hosted by Grameenphone Ltd. and Telenor Group.
Panelists for the discussion were Fakrul Ahsan, Project Advisor and SDG Lead, UNDP Bangladesh; Thomas George, Program Manager and Coordinator at UNICEF Bangladesh; Ms. Rupali Chowdhury, President, Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI); Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser, Access to Information Program; Dr. Ananya Raihan, CEO, D-Net Bangladesh; Asif Saleh, Senior Director, Strategy, Communication and Empowerment, BRAC and BRAC International; and Michael Foley, CEO of Grameenphone. The program was moderated by Ola Jo Tandre, Vice President, Group Sustainability, Telenor Group.
Grameenphone and Telenor Group have decided to focus on SDG 10- Reducing Inequality and implement their role primarily by providing access to information and digital services. Mai Oldgard, Head of Sustainability, Telenor Group presented the company’s vision for implementing SDG 10.
Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Convener, SDG Implementation and Monitoring Committee, who was unable to join the panel, sent a video message expressing the need for public and private sector collaboration and thanked Grameenphone and Telenor for arranging this program.
”The private sector is doing 78% of the development work in Bangladesh so it is impossible to ignore private sector in attaining SDG goals,” said Fakrul Ahsan, Project Advisor and SDG Lead, UNDP Bangladesh.
“UNDP has created a platform to bring both public and private sector together, so they can discuss their needs and adjust the policies that required for further development of the country,” he added.
Thomas George, Program Manager, and Coordinator at UNICEF Bangladesh said, “The whole Bangladesh is not progressing at the same pace,” recommending that “SDGs should be adopted according to local needs.”
Rupali Chowdhury, President, Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, “Bringing more FDI and creation of job is the core of development in Bangladesh. We have many success stories which need to be told and the local and foreign investors in this country can tell these stories to attract more investment. She felt that government should be more transparent while dealing with the investors and the policies need to be more consistent, otherwise, the country would not be able to attract the needed investment.”
Identifying that the needs of the private sector are important for development, Asif Saleh, Senior Director, Strategy, Communication & Empowerment, BRAC, said: “BRAC is working to create skills that are needed for future development.”
Ananya Raihan, CEO, D-Net Bangladesh opined that “Resource allocation should be more streamlined and private entrepreneurs should have better access to government resources so that they can participate in the development process.”
Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley said, “As a technology company we need to create more opportunities for people and entrepreneurs to face the new realities of the market. There is no point in being a large service provider when people don’t have work.”
Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser, Access to Information Program, welcomed the private-public collaboration and suggested that participation of private sector could bring more accountability to development activities.
“Private sector works for a return on investment so they are more efficient and vigilant about resources than government.”
Expressing that digitalization could bring more efficiency in service delivery he said that the government has been “working to deliver services to the citizen digitally, but now the government will open digital service windows for the businesses, which will reduce bureaucracy.”
The panel discussion was arranged as part of Grameenphone’s Sustainability Week. The Sustainability Week had been inaugurated by Sigve Brekke, CEO & President, Telenor Group, during his visit to Dhaka last week. The week has been observed to build awareness regarding company’s sustainability initiatives among the employees and the stakeholders.