United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick and Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells traveled to Bangladesh from November 5-7 to promote expanded U.S.-Bangladesh bilateral relations, increase commercial and security ties, and address the ongoing Rohingya humanitarian crisis.
While in Dhaka, Deputy Administrator Glick met with Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment and Development Authority Sirazul Islam to reinforce USAID’s commitment to supporting the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to improve the business-enabling environment. At an event at the American Chamber of Commerce, she highlighted USAID’s partnership with the Government of Bangladesh and the private sector to diversify Bangladesh’s economy and stimulate new economic growth, and announced the results of a recent USAID assessment of emerging industries that hold the highest potential for economic growth for Bangladesh. These emerging industries include agri-business, information and communications technology, light engineering, tourism, energy, and health.
Acting Assistant Secretary Wells met with Foreign Minister Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, and the Prime Minister’s Advisor for International Affairs Dr. Gowher Rizvi to review the U.S.-Bangladesh relationship; supporting the response to the Rohingya crisis; enhancing defense cooperation; strengthening governance and rule of law; and highlighting the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy’s opportunities for further U.S.-Bangladesh partnership. She also met with Home Affairs Minister Khan to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and U.S. support for fully implementing Bangladesh’s National Plan of Action to eliminate trafficking in persons. Meeting with opposition leaders from the Bangladesh National Party and the Jatiya Party, the Acting Assistant Secretary stressed the importance of credible and contested municipal elections.
During her time in Dhaka, Acting Assistant Secretary Wells also hosted roundtables with representatives of U.S. apparel brands, and manufacturers and labor groups to hear more about ongoing efforts to improve labor rights and working conditions. Shemet with young leaders working to shape Bangladesh’s future through innovative approaches to volunteerism, community outreach and development, and entrepreneurship.
Both Deputy Administrator Glick and Acting Assistant Secretary Wells traveled to Cox’s Bazar to meet with key partners and stakeholders concerning the Rohingya crisis response and observe U.S.-supported programs to assist Rohingya refugees and impacted host communities. The two officials viewed U.S. government activities supporting the refugee response, including a U.S.-supported learning center to observe classroom activities in the camps; a USAID-supported community cooking and learning center, which provides women with a common space to cook safely on gas stoves, learn useful life skills, and build community support networks; and a USAID-supported food shop that gives refugees the chance to select for themselves diverse and nutritious foods using electronic vouchers. Both also met with UN partners to discuss the assistance efforts led by international organizations and NGOs.
Deputy Administrator Glick visited host communities in Cox’s Bazar, where USAID assistance is helping to increase business opportunities by improving agricultural practices and income prospects in aquaculture, livestock, and other industries; providing primary health care services; and countering human trafficking by raising awareness, supporting victim shelters, and improving living conditions of survivors by expanding income opportunities. She also visited a USAID-supported shelter focused on limiting human trafficking and providing support services to survivors, and met with local women who suffer from health and nutrition problems caused by poor sanitation and learned how sanitary latrines are helping them improve hygiene in the community.
Deputy Administrator Glick and Acting Assistant Secretary Wells stressed the U.S. government’s commitment to stand with Bangladesh as it hosts the nearly one million Rohingya community members. The United States is the leading contributor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Rohingya crisis, providing more than $669 million since the escalation of violence in August 2017; more than $553 million of that funding is for programs inside Bangladesh. This assistance supports local Bangladeshi communities, Rohingya refugees, internally displaced persons, and other affected communities. The United States continues to call on others to join in contributing to this humanitarian response. The United States looks forward to the UN technical study of Bhasan Char, which will evaluate its technical, security, and financial feasibility to serve as an additional locale for Rohingya refugees. In her meetings with Government of Bangladesh officials Acting Assistant Secretary Wells stressed that the solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis lay in Burma and condemned the inaction by Burmese authorities to create conditions for voluntary, safe, and dignified returns. Acting Assistant Secretary Wells underscored that the United States will continue its bilateral and multilateral efforts to bring a conclusion to this refugee crisis.
The visits by USAID Deputy Administrator Glick and Acting Assistant Secretary of State Wells are among the many initiatives of the U.S. government to promote greater cooperation, dialogue, and mutual understanding between Bangladesh and the United States, and a strong partnership to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.