Latest Analysis

The PM’s China visit

A friendship that has given both political and economic dividends

M Shahidul Islam

It is undeniable that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has, quite deftly, made the most of the fast-changing regional and global geopolitics, eventually emerging as a strong leader in South Asia. The country’s lacklustre institutional development and its deeply divided politics has made it susceptible to external influence. Given its historical ties with Bangladesh and the geographic reality, India closely observes the country’s political development, and successive governments in New Delhi have backed the Hasina government. However, one noticed China’s shifting stance towards the Awami League government immediately after the general elections of 2014. It was China and India’s strong support to the AL administration that facilitated downplaying the United States (US) and European Union’s concerns over the country’s electoral process and human rights violations, among others.
The 2014 poll was a crucial turning point bringing Beijing closer to the AL government. This coincided with the US’ weakening position in South Asia’s geopolitics. Since then, there has been a tectonic shift in the Sino-Bangladesh economic landscape. While the trade and military relations have been strong for the past few decades, China has emerged as the country’s top investor in recent years.
With Beijing’s political and economic backing, the government has undertaken a host of mega projects in the country aimed at improving its infrastructure. There is, of course, substantial investment from Japan and other countries. Some even see Bangladesh becoming next Vietnam, thanks to the growing presence of Chinese companies in the country with cash and technology.
Besides trade and investment, there has been a spike in people-to-people contacts and cultural relations. An increasing number of Bangladeshi students are being granted scholarships by Chinese universities. One notices the growth of Chinese language learning centres in Bangladesh to cater to the growing demand for human resources given the rise in Chinese men and machine in the country.
Sheikh Hasina too has reciprocated it, extending her strong support to the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). She even urged India to join the initiative. India and the US are two major countries that have declined to be part of the BRI. Dhaka and Beijing are on a firm footing to develop the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor. In dealing with the Rohingya refugee problem, where China has an enormous stake given its relations with Myanmar, the action of Dhaka did not cause much concern for Beijing.
While the changing geopolitics is playing a role in moulding China-Bangladesh relations, some economic forces are causing the convergence of the two countries’ economic interests much faster than ever. China is the biggest economic story of our time. According to McKinsey, despite a slowdown in its GDP growth, which has hovered around 6 to 6.5 percent in the past few years, China is adding the equivalent of “another Australia” every year. The country accounted for about 10 percent of global outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2017, up from just about one percent in 2000. Being the largest trading nation, China is the leading source of thousands of products, and the heart of the global supply chain. It is the second largest importer in the world.
Nonetheless, China has been dominating headlines in recent years not so much for its trade and investment might. There is hardly any precedence in history that a country which is far behind the top economy (the United States at present) in per capita income is competing fiercely with it on the technology front. The Middle Kingdom is home to some of the leading enterprises of telecom, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, among others, generating economic tensions with the US. China has become a global giant in financial technology. The country’s mobile payments market, for instance, is worth more than USD 5.5 trillion, 50 times greater than the US’ volume. There is a growing footprint of Chinese financial entities in South Asia.
In Bangladesh, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges acquired 25 percent stakes of Dhaka Stock Exchange. The Ant Financial, the financial services affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has invested in bKash, Bangladesh’s largest mobile financial service provider. Technological cooperation between China and Bangladesh could be the next big story, thanks to the speedy digitisation in both countries.
Amid a host of economic dynamics in the Chinese economy and its growing influence in the regional geopolitical sphere, Sheikh Hasina’s policy to strengthen ties with China has been paying dividends, both politically and economically. Not to mention, China is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations.
Economically, while China has become the top investor in Bangladesh, the volume is much lower than what was expected following President Xi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016. Despite the recent surge in FDI, Bangladesh remains one of the lowest FDI recipient economies compared its GDP size. However, following PM Hasina’s recent visit to China, one might expect a further increase in Chinese investment in Bangladesh.
No government in the past had the privilege to have access to the deep pockets of Beijing as the Hasina-led current government has today. However, her success and the merit of Chinese investment in Bangladesh would be judged based on two factors—first, how economically feasible the China-funded projects are; and second, to what extent those projects are insulated from corruption. The recent experience does not bode well at all as the per unit infrastructure cost in Bangladesh is one of the highest in the world. Besides, Beijing’s investment in some strategic projects in South Asia and elsewhere in the world has fuelled geopolitical tensions, notably in the Indian Ocean regions. Nonetheless, successive governments in Bangladesh have so far made a balance among key regional and global powers.
To sum up, amid the new political reality in Bangladesh and the fast-changing geopolitics in the region in the midst of a de facto withdrawal of the United States from South Asia, Hasina-led AL has managed the relations with China and India well. AL’s new yet less publicised political thought, which apparently focuses more on development than democracy, has made Beijing the most important economic partner of the country. The success of such models, as we have seen elsewhere in Asia, notably in the East, largely depends on a sustained economic growth with job creation, better provisions of infrastructure and other services, among others. It is in this context that one can expect even more Chinese involvement in Bangladesh’s development agenda in the future.

M Shahidul Islam is a doctoral candidate at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), China, and research fellow at the Center for Governance Studies (CGS), Bangladesh.

This analysis originally appeared in The Daily Star

Bangladesh in Regional Trade and Connectivity
By M. Shahidul Islam

Asia has shown marked economic success in the past few decades. However, economic growth of the world’s largest continent- both in terms of size and population- is far from over. As the global economy’s centre of gravity shifts to the east the region continues to contribute to the lion’s share of global economic output. As the global economic power no longer resides in the trans-Atlantic region, the continent’s economic strengths powered by a number of large economies viz., China, India, Indonesia, in addition to four Asia tigers and Japan, is increasingly demand greater say in the strategic and political future of the world. However, despite much economic success Asia as a continent is not integrated in line with Europe. While ASEAN integrates Southeast Asia, economic integration in other parts of the continent is relatively low. There is high hope to integrate the region and projects such as Pan Asian Regionalism are working in that pursuit. However, it is yet to be known as to what kind of regional architecture will evolve to integrate Asia. There is also huge interest of United States, European Union and other extra regional powers in the region. Lately, the region has witnessed the growth of a number of new initiatives. China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Japan’s Big-bay and ASEAN+3 centric Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), inter alia, are likely to write new script of the region’s economics and geo-politics.

Bangladesh, being sandwiched between the region’s two largest economies, namely China and India, faces unprecedented opportunities as well as geo-political challenges. Given the marked changes in its neighbourhood, this seminar explores Bangladesh’s position as far as regional trade and connectivity are concerned, and how the country can best exploit the emerging opportunities managing geo-politics.
Trade and connectivity are the two key forces of economic integration. As far as direction of trade is concerned, 52% of Bangladesh’s trade is concentrated in Asia. European Union and North America are the country’s two other major trading partners. Moreover, within Asia, there is also a major shift with Bangladesh’s trade has been growing much faster vis-à-vis China than its close neighbor India with the two-way (Sino-Bangladesh) trade exceeding $15 billion in 2016. ASEAN is also the country’s an important trading partner. However, trade growth in South Asia constrained by non-tariff barriers, high trade cost and negative list, among other factors.
Going forward, there are some opportunities as well as threats with regard to Bangladesh’s trade. There is a prospect of trade growth vis-à-vis China as the latter’s size of middle class grows steady. The cost of trade can also be reduced to some extent conducting a part of China-Bangladesh trade in Chinese currency (RMB). To do so, there is a need for creation of RMB liquidity facilitating cooperation between the central banks of two countries. However, while the US withdrawal from TPP does bode well for Bangladesh (as Vietnam, Bangladesh’s one of the key competitors in RMG, was included in TPP), the country’s trade growth in the region might face a major hiccup if the proposed RCEP comes into effect (as Bangladesh is not part of the initiative). Dhaka’s possibility to join RCEP is very slim as Bangladesh’s trade regime remains very restrictive. In fact, according to trade experts, with its current tariff regime, the country will not qualify for entry into any of the meaningful regional trading agreements.

The medium to long term challenge for Bangladesh with regard to trade growth is to improve its infrastructure and connectivity given the linkages between them. Moreover, the country needs to adopt policies taking into account the changing pattern of international trade. Integrated factory floor that dominated manufacturing since the 19th century is replaced with a network of individual suppliers specializing in specific services or phases of production. This new paradigm is termed “trade in tasks”.

As far as connectivity is concerned, the recent progress is at best mixed. Bangladesh is involved with a host of regional and sub-regional blocks namely SAARC, SASEC, BIMSTEC, BBIN and BCIM. While the country has witnessed little progress of these entities, bilaterally, there are some favourable developments, particularly vis-à-vis India, in recent years. A number of Integrated Border Check Posts are currently operational facilitating trade and movement of people in the border. Border hats are also drawing a sizable number of buyers and sellers across the Indo-Bangladesh borders.

However, Bangladesh has to connect physically with Southeast Asia and East Asia in order to exploit trade, technology and other opportunities offer by these dynamic regions. India, for instance, is connecting with ASEAN through Myanmar thanks to its Act East Policy. While ASEAN-India FTA is building bloc in this regard, Delhi has invested millions in Myanmar to develop the Kaladan Multimodal Transit and Transport Project as well as in the Thailand-Myanmar-India Trilateral Highway. Bangladesh should also find ways to connect China and Southeast Asia given the stalemate in BCIM Economic Corridor.

For Dhaka, Bay of Bengal can also offer a big opportunity to augment trade and maritime connectivity thanks partly due to its settlement of maritime boundaries with India and Myanmar. This also coincides with launching of some ambitious initiatives such as China’s Maritime Silk Route and Japan’s Big-Bay. Bangladesh can develop sophisticated blue economy in the world’s largest bay drawing funds and technology from China and Japan, among others. This is an emerging opportunity for Dhaka to fully exploit the potentials of its favourable geography.

That said, in order for materializing its trade and connectivity goals, besides expediting the work of BBIN and other bilateral arrangements with India, Bangladesh has to connect itself with Southeast Asia and South Asia. There are three options in this regard. First: BCIM is the best option for Dhaka as it could facilitate physical connectivity with both China and ASEAN. Moreover, all the parties involved with the entity has finalized the routes and made some progress to integrate their markets. However, the biggest roadblock to materialize the goal is the growing rivalry between China and India.
Second: That India and other big powers de facto oppose Bangladesh’s direct connectivity with China via Myanmar, Dhaka should negotiate with Delhi and Naypyidaw to join the ongoing connectivity projects that are being implemented in Myanmar.
Third: If Delhi is less than enthusiast on option 1 and/or option 2, Bangladesh should negotiations with Myanmar and China capitalizing Beijing’s leverage over Naypyidaw. This is the shortest path to link Bangladesh with ASEAN and China. Although it looks a distant reality in the short-run given the ongoing bilateral problems between Bangladesh and Myanmar, largely owing to the ethnic problems in Rakhine province.

There are a host of political constraints to materialize Dhaka’s trade and connectivity goals. Bangladesh’s fragile internal politics limit the country forming political consensus among major political parties on key issues. This invites external powers to meddle through in its internal politics leading to higher external influence in the country. Big powers take the advantage of the political weakness of Bangladesh that often limits the country benefiting from its favourable geography.

To sum-up, as discussed, the existing trade, transit and connectivity arrangements are producing sub-optimal outcome for Bangladesh.
– Dhaka requires a “two-pronged approach” to increase trade and connectivity both bilaterally and multilaterally.
– Bangladesh’s economic future hinges largely on Asia, in particular Southeast and South Asia (given growing trade share, potential access to East Asia Production Network/GVC, World’s most innovative region, inter alia).
– Thus, there should be a strong drive to link the country physically with the world’s most dynamic regions (East and Southeast Asia).
– There is a need for political consensus at home to pursue the country’s strategic interests in the region.

M. Shahidul Islam, HUST School of Economics, China. e-mail:

Governance: A Critical Examination
*By Ali Riaz



The term governance has not only permeated various disciplines, from Political Science to Economics to Business Studies to International Relations, but also has become an integral part of daily discourse. It is easy to notice that no longer is the discussion on government as prominent as it used to be in the 1970s; instead governance has replaced it in many instances.

This paper revisits some of the fundamental issues related to governance. This paper has three objectives: explore the concept of governance and its limitations; trace the pathways of the concept of governance and elements of governance; and critically examine the dominant governance indicators. The central arguments of the paper are that despite pervasive use, the concept of governance has remained contested and has over time pushed away the state as the central element of governance, a limitation which calls for a reexamination of the concept; that the emergence and proliferation of the concept of governance was influenced by neo-liberal orthodoxy about the limited role of the state and by the global political landscape after the end of the Cold War, but there have been reverse waves to counter this notion; and that the institutionalist bias of the extant governance indicators have ignored crucial elements of governance such as the legitimation capacity of the state and power relations within society.

Governance: Definitions and Inadequacies

There is no single universally accepted definition of the term governance. Available definitions include both expansive and circumscribed understandings of governance. Kaufman et al, whose definition is oft-quoted, says, ‘Governance includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them’ (Kaufman et al 2013).  Fukuyama (2013) on the other hand, has explicitly discarded the necessity of democracy or even any representation of citizens as an element of governance. He defined governance ‘as a government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and to deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not’ (Fukuyama 2013).  Hestates, ‘the quality of governance is different from the ends that governance is meant to fulfill. That is, governance is about the performance of agents in carrying out the wishes of principals, and not about the goals that principals set.’

Available definitions not only show the differences among scholars and various international organizations but also how it is variously explained within the same organization. These shifts point to the expansion of the concept both horizontally (state and non-state actors) and vertically (formal and informal rules), but they also show that that the importance of the state in governance has been lessened. This should be noted with some concern, however, because both empirically and analytically the state cannot be divorced from governance.

To start the analysis at the level of state, it is imperative to consider governance as an integral part of the capacity of the state. There are various ways to conceptualize state capacity. Despite differences among scholars, one can identify some commonalities; in the contemporary global political landscape a state must have at least three capacities: extractive capacity, coercive capacity, and administrative capacity (Hanson and Sigman, 2013). These dimensions of state capacity in large measure relyon the Weberian notion of the state where state is viewed as a human community that successfully claims amonopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. The state’s role in each society should not be viewed only in terms of its economic activity but beyond that to those functions that are essential to the economic process, and as an agency of hegemony/domination, or in other words, as the source of ideology. Therefore, I argue,somewhat akin to what Wang (1995) has proposed in his description, that state capacity should include legitimation capacity. In this conceptualization, the state must have four capacities: legitimation capacity, coercive capacity,extractive capacity, and administrative capacity.

The legitimation capacity of a state is dependent on the success of the state in producing and reproducing an ideology and narratives which allow the state to extract material and political resources. As such, the state which succeeds in making the ideological basis of the state and the regime less contentious enjoys more legitimacy and has a better capacity to extract and administer. The legitimation capacity serves as the basis of other capacities of the state and determines the nature of the state.

Based on the premise that governance is about state capacity, particularly the use of administrative and extractive capacities, governance cannot be conceived without taking the fundamental capacity (i.e. legitimation capacity) into account. That raises the question whether the concept of governance is being hollowed out by progressively pushing the state away from the conceptualization of governance.

The concept of ‘political settlement’ is helpful in understanding how legitimation capacity is created. The political settlement, through formal and informal institutions and formal and informal rules, includes various segments of society and provides legitimacy to the system of governance. Different political settlements produce different results insofar as the political systems are concerned. We can identify four types of political systems: personal rule, minimally institutionalized states, institutionalized competitive states, institutionalized competitive states. Political systems determine the regime’s nature, state’s organizational capacity and level of legitimacy. For example, a political system characterized by personal rule has low organizational capacity and low legitimacy while institutionalized competitive states has high capacity and high legitimacy.

The pathways of the concept and elements of governance

The emergence and the proliferation of the term governance has a history of more than three decades and can be traced back to the critique of the role of the state in the 1970s. Examination of the history and trajectory of the concept of governance revealed that it experienced transformation as neoliberal policies gained prominence and was implemented with much fanfare around the world as globalization took an unprecedented pace. The abject failure of the reform prescriptions of the multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF, unraveling of the ‘Washington Consensus’ and the rise of the neo-statist intellectual tradition, interrogated the extant notions and questioned the effectiveness of elements of governance.These developments have succeeded in re-inserting the question of the state in the conversation, but only partially. The elements of governance, as currently envisaged, pay very limited attention to the Non-State Actors (NSAs). The NSAs are understood as those recognized as legitimate by the international community, such as the International Developmental NGOs (INGOs). However, in a post-9/11 global environment, Transnational Violent Non-State Actors (TVNSAs) have begun to play vital roles at both the global and national levels impacting the policy-making and implementation arenas on the one hand and actions of civil society, on the other. With this in mind Iinsist that elements of governance need to incorporate TVNAs.

Governance Indicators

With governance becoming the buzz word and ‘good governance’ a de facto criterion for a range of issues including the disbursement of official assistance, foreign direct investments, and the examination of political institutions, it became imperative to develop a set of indicators to measure the success and identify the policy areas which need further attention. The demand has led to the emergence of several governance indicators since the 1990s.

The extant indicators can be divided into two categories: fact-based and perception-based. The World Bank defined the fact-based indicators as ‘indicators [which] utilize quantitative or qualitative data that arenot subject to perceptions, i.e., data that arereproducible and whose value does not depend on the individual providing the information. Thesetype of data can be numerical (prices, amounts, rates) or textual (laws, procedures, rules)’ and perception-based indicators as those which ‘rely on the perceptions of individuals through expert assessments and surveys of individuals or households’ (World Bank2009).

Some of the extant indicators are global in nature, meaning they cover many countries across various regions, whereassome examinethe state of governance in specific regions. The global ones are frequently used by analysts, policymakers and investors alike in making decisions. Of the available indicators four – three global and one regional – have drawn most interest. They are World Governance Indicators (WGI), Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA), World Governance Assessment (WGA), and Ibrahim Index for African Governance (IIAG).

Along with the proliferation of these indicators came a growing acknowledgement of the limitations of these indicators and calls for reexamination of the elements of these indicators. In response to thecriticisms as well as the desire to improve the quality of these indicators, many producers of these indicators have revised their indicators and made the sources of their data available.

Yet, it appears that available governance indicators, both perception-based and fact-based, have a serious limitation that hasn’t been addressed. That is the adoption of an institutionalist approach, in other words, a bias toward institutions. In the extant indicators, institutions are portrayed and considered as if the people within them have few choices. Reification of institutions not only undermines agency but also ignores them altogether. This proclivity towards institutions discounts the power relationships within a society. It is well to bear in mind that power relationships are products of an array of factors including the political economy, history and culture of a given society at a given moment. The informal practices, present in any society, simultaneously reflects and shapes the nature of the power relationship and, by extension, governance as it determines what gets done and how they are done. By not considering their roles in governance, the governance indicators neglect an important aspect. This overdependence on institutions is a result of a limited understanding of the Weberian concept of state and consequent notion of state capacity.

Therefore, I argue that it is long overdue that we re-examine the indicators of governance which will allow us to be free of the shackles of institutional bias and add non-material important indicators and contextualize the indicators within the history and political economy of the country.


[A summary of the paper presented at the Seminar – Governance: A Critical Examination, organized by the Center for Governance Studies, Bangladesh on 1 February 2017 at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies. For the complete paper with references and figures, please contact]


*Ali Riaz is a University Professor at Illinois State University, USA where he teaches political science and chair of the Department. He previously taught at universities in Bangladesh, England, and South Carolina, USA, and worked as a Broadcast Journalist at the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) in London.In 2013, he served as Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at Washington D.C. Dr. Riaz’slatest publications are Bangladesh: A Political History since Independence (2016), the coedited volume Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Bangladesh (2016).


Human Rights Offenders in Asia: Role of the UN
By S. M. Ali Reza.

In recent years, human rights concerns have become more sensitive all over the world, especially in a number of countries of Asia where the UN seems unable to impose punishment on the offending governments/states. Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Syria, Iran are among the top offenders of human rights  in Asia surpassed by a paranoid state of North Korea- “the hermit kingdom”- that tops the list and has become the UN’s Achilles heel. This article portrays the state of human rights in some selective countries of Asia with special focus on North Korea, the worst human rights offender perhaps all over the world; while deals with the effectiveness of the UN as a global institution for the promotion and protection of human rights across Asia and particularly in North Korea. The records show Worsening Human Rights Records in Pakistan. Religious minorities often face violent attacks, insecurity, and persecution, largely from Sunni extremist groups-which the government fails to address. The security forces are accused to be engaged in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to counter political unrest in the province of Balochistan and in the port city of Karachi in Sindh province. Suicide bombings, armed attacks, and killings by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates target nearly every sector of Pakistani society, including religious minorities and journalists, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

State of Human Rights in Bangladesh

The human rights situation in Bangladesh has been continually worsening in recent years. The most significant human rights problems include extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances mostly of opposition party men, the killing of secular bloggers and others by groups espousing extremist views, some restrictions on online speech and the press, early and forced marriage and gender-based violence, and poor working conditions and labor rights. The US State Department in its 2015 reports on Bangladesh human rights accounted multiple disappearances and kidnappings, some committed by security services, continued, especially in the period following the 2014 election anniversary violence.


Human Rights Violations in India

India, the world’s largest democracy, has a strong civil society, vigorous media, and an independent judiciary, but also serious human rights concerns. Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir administered by India are an ongoing issue. The allegations range from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuses to political repression, suppression of freedom of speech, cutting electricity supply and internet as part of wider crackdown on protesters. The Indian army, central reserve police force, border security personnel and various militant groups have been accused and held accountable for committing severe human rights abuses against Kashmiri civilians. he Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) is the killing of Bangladeshi nationals at border areas. Statistics shows that a total of 591 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the BSF in last 10 years. I would like to remind you the tragic killing of Felani Khatun who was gunned down by the BSF on her way home, along with her father, from India through Anantapur border along Phulbari upazila of Kurigram on January 7, 2011. The BSF troopers most inhumanly hung her body on the barbwire fencing at the border. The ghastly photo of Felani’s bloody body hanging from the barbwire upside down sparked an outcry of protest and condemnation.

Myanmar (Burma)

The landslide victory of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November 2015 elections in Myanmar might have reenergized reforms in some areas. Despite a significantly improved environment for freedom of expression and media, in key areas of human rights, the government’s commitment has faltered or failed. Discrimination and threats against the Muslim minority, a manifestation of growing ultra-nationalism, has intensified. The Rohingya Muslim minority continues to face statelessness and systematic persecution.

UN Human Rights Council in June 30, 2016 reports that most Rohingya Muslims suffer government persecution, including statelessness and severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Growing ultra-nationalism has spurred discrimination and threats against Rohingya and other Muslims that the authorities have been unwilling to address. The report also stated that in ethnic minority areas, particularly in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine States, the Burmese military continues to commit serious abuses. These include forcible recruitment, killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and landmine use. Ethnic armed groups are also responsible for serious abuses.

North Korea- Worst Offender

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is an authoritarian state with a dynastic leadership that is among the most repressive in the world. Kim Jong-Un regime is notorious in its record on human rights abuses that includes secretive state extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture of political prisoners. Indeed, his provocative attitude and use of state institutions transformed North Korea into a “rogue state” and a threatening nuclear power while a huge number of people continued to starve for want of food and denied basic human rights and dignity. The United States and its allies for years have been unable to find a solution except for applying sanctions and appealing to China. Obviously, the recommendations of the UN Commission of Enquiry remain as a moral force. In February 2014, an UN-mandated commission of inquiry (COI) found that the nature, scale, and gravity of the long-standing and ongoing systematic and widespread violations of human rights violations in North Korea “reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The commission of inquiry report detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly in November 2015 urged the U.N. Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses of human rights. In recent reports to the UN General Assembly, the UN special representative on the human rights situation in North Korea confirmed that the human rights situation remains dire. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein testified before the Security Council that the “abduction of foreign nationals, the enforced disappearances, the trafficking and the continued movement of refugees and asylum-seekers makes this point clearly. These, in addition to a litany of other gross human rights violations, have still not been halted or reversed by the Government of the DPRK.”

Is the UN Inconsistent to Offenders?

The most obvious foci of analysis here is the UN Charter, the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and its associated covenants and conventions. Ironically, United Nations today especially its powerful organ the Security Council seems to be failing in its primary responsibility. The challenges lie ahead for the United Nations to play an effective role in punishing the human rights offending nations.

  • S. M. Ali Reza, Dhaka University




Dimensions of security, governance and development
*By Mr. Mamun Rashid

When we talk about security, we are implying the three aspects of it: Security of people, investments and assets. Security of people includes people working in a particular territory or district; working at a particular location for a particular employer and also people travelling from other locations to live and work in a certain locality for a certain reason. Security of investments ensure the laws of the land while maintaining the environment of conducting business and determining ease or difficulty of doing business in a particular area. Security of assets protects both physical, information based assets and knowledge based assets, where asset value is determined by material and emotional utility, while helping to retain and improve the confidence of the communities, governments, and entrepreneurs.

The dimensions of governance include the governing of people, business and social activities. Governing people means educating people on law and order; implementing the same law and order upon them- partially, diligently, and consistently while allocating resources to perform this governance effectively. The governance of business activities ensures consistency which impacts security of investment and assets   and as result fosters competition, encourages entrepreneurship, and rewards investors in legitimate ways.

Development broadly covers the area of Human development such as Education, Heath and Access to opportunities. Development of skills such as competencies for jobs, readiness for conducting economic transactions and use of automation in everyday life also falls within the boundary of development. It also oversees the progress in economic parameters and decides whether progress is sustainable.

Development and Security – how are they linked?

Obviously, Security and Development are closely linked. Administrative efforts(Rule of law and related) are important to ensure security, but it is the development that is the strongest and the most effective security blanket, that makes population part of the system, strong stakeholder in ensuring that effort to change the system is gradual and not disruptive.

UN (2005) admits no development without security and no security without development, and both depend on respect for human rights and rules of law. In this regard, the vicious cycle is lack of development leading to conflict leading to lack of development. Researchers in Nigeria indentified food sufficiency, water supply, power supply, good roads, good schools, good hospitals, functional infrastructure, decent housing, effective public transportation system etc. as genuine indicators for national security. It can be seen that countries that record high levels of terrorism tend to be under-developed though development indicators do not significantly correlate with levels of terrorism globally. (Global Terrorism Index Report, 2014)

The above puts a lot of weight on ‘Development’. The age old debate about Growth vs Distribution becomes almost invalid as without inclusive growth the aspiration or effectiveness of development is almost nil.

State fragility, radicalism and militancy in the region

During the last decade and so, the world has observed a steady rise in terrorism and radicalism. Many fragile states have lost law and order and have fallen into chaos. Terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda etc. have used the Islamic faith to persuade and bring more people to their cause and to execute their ruthless acts. The primary cause of terrorism is the religious conflict instigated by these organizations both in Southeast Asia and many other parts of the worlds. But their beliefs are founded on ridiculous misunderstanding of Islamic teachings. Statistics show a lot of people in countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan and Nigeria have shown support to ISIS while the majority was hesitant to pick sides (Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey).ISIS has so far been successful in its attempt to recruit more people by spreading its radical beliefs. Several attacks have been carried out by militants during the past year, resulting in massive casualties. There have been shootings all over Europe, bombing and shooting in many Asian countries and the most recent of such events is the targeted killing in the diplomatic zone of Dhaka.

Impact of Terrorism on Development

The global economic impact of violence was $13.6 trillion PPP in 2015. This figure is equivalent to 13.3% of world GDP or $1,876 PPP for every person in the world; approximately 11 time the size of global FDI, which was 1.23 trillion in 2014.  The direct cost of violence in 2015 is 30 times the amount spent on official development assistance (ODA) in 2014. A ten per cent decrease in the economic impact of violence would produce a peace dividend of $1.36 trillion PPP. (Source: Global Peace Index 2016- Institute for Economics and Peace)

How to fight terrorism?

Contrary to the popular belief, leaders of ISIS and other terrorist organizations are often highly educated. Recent Dhaka attack shows people from educated backgrounds being radicalized. So taking this prospect into consideration, meaningful education against violence might be the answer. Spreading the idea of meaningful change will strengthen the fight against radicalism.

Technology proves to be double edged sword in the fight against terrorism. Communication and Propaganda spreads through Internet. A brilliant example of this is the Dabiq magazine of ISIS. Although through better understanding of technology by law enforcement agencies, tracking criminals can become possible and much easier. Through better surveillance security can be assured.

Overcoming security threats

Promoting security is a substantial part of societal progress. There is a need to ensure a clear separation between military and humanitarian actors in line with the core principals of humanitarian action, particularly neutrality and independence. However, the importance in some instances of civil-military cooperation in the pursuit of security and development remains. A comprehensive approach to international and national security must transcend the traditional emphasis on military power and armed competition.

The existence of nuclear weapons and the destructive potential inherent in the velocity and the intensity if modern conventional warfare have given rise to a new understanding of the requirements for security among nations. In the nuclear age, nations can no longer obtain security at each other’s expense. They must seek common security through cooperation, agreements, and mutual restraint. Interdependence has become a compelling fact, forcing nations to reconsider their approach to security.

The Game of Prioritization

While the idea of justice and governance is quite extensively debated and established in both western and eastern philosophies, it is generally perceived very cynically by world population now a days . They think that the establishment tries to make them believe it is a moral issue, while in effect actually defines it as a tool for the privileged to protect their accumulated privileges. The level of governance standard in any state/society strongly depends upon the critical mass that is available in that sphere and any external/exogenous effort to improve that becomes not only futile, but many times lead to the strengthening perception that the system is grossly rigged. Prioritizing governance can sometimes impact local business in a negative manner such as Transportation and Hospitality business in Gulshan and surrounding area. Forced security measures might establish fear of law instead of rule of law.

Prioritizing on security and governance raises some concerns regarding development. Areas of the country needing immediate attention might be deprioritized due to increased resource utilization in security measures. Lack of government measures regarding the flood in the southern region of the country is an example of this. Another concern is the focus on higher security. Increased security and surveillance can blur the line between a secured state and a police state. Unchecked power of law enforcement agencies is likely to result in abuse and harassment of the general people. Though Security is a global concern, it affects the third world countries more as it may deprioritize Governance and Development.


Technological advancements: both breakthrough advancements and incremental advancements are going to create enormous opportunities. The seven most impactful technologies of the coming future are – artificial intelligence, augmented reality, block-chain, drones, robots, virtual reality and 3D printing. Industry 4.04 (4th industrial revolution is going to make a revolutionary change on how we make and sell products, as well as how we buy and use products of the future.

Rapid urbanization has resulted in one-and-half million people joining the urban population every week. The world population is rising by 145 every minute. At the present rate, we will be burning all fossil fuels in another half century. There have been shifts in economic power. Bangladesh is projected to move up to 23rd position in the PPP based GDP ranking.

In summary, we can agree that development is required to ensure security, but to ensure inclusive growth in a very quick time is the big question for which I really do not have any answer. This is indeed a worrisome matter. Looking at history we will see that unique situations like of now were rectified by the emergence of new generations. The truth is evident from the cases of fall of Roman republic, Arabia pre and post Mohammad, advent of renaissance in mediaeval Europe and then in the case of Europe before and after two world wars. This is indeed a grim perspective. It will be difficult for all of us to accept the new order from the generation change. It can be suspected that security issue will continue to trouble us and the policy prescription will tend to put more emphasis on administrative efforts rather than development initiatives.

There is no readymade policy directive to solve this problem. One thing is clear that we need to speed up inclusive growth process. For that, Governance process needs to be far simplistic and nimble, and at the same time transparent and credible. Although how such a model can he achieved is not yet certain.

*Mr. Mamun Rashid is banker, economic analyst & educationist. The article is the excerpt of a key note paper presented at a seminar by center for governance studies.