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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Policy for domestic workers - Welcome beginning to a long journey

Md. Rizwanul Islam
Every worker in the formally recognised workforce is entitled to at least some degree of legal protection (of course that is not to say that the rights on paper are always translated into rights in practice). In particular, they are legally entitled to some form of holidays and leave, but hundreds of thousands workers who relentlessly render their service to hundreds of thousands of households in this country, often working from dawn to midnight, were not recognised as workers with defined rights in any law (except for a law titled Domestic Servants Registration Ordinance, 1961, which was only to provide for the registration of domestic workers in Dhaka Metropolitan area and had nothing to do with rights of workers) or official policy instrument of the government of this country. It is not only that they were not treated as workers in official instruments; the same psyche of non-recognition of their work as work is prevalent almost throughout the entire community. 
To take an example, almost all employees in the formal sector would complain about the denial of their legal rights if their prayed leave application is rejected or official holidays are curtailed; but it would, in all, probability be very difficult to find anyone among these employees who would even think that the persons working in their homes are entitled to paid leave and holidays as well. Last week's decision of the government to adopt a formal policy for the protection of domestic workers has finally recognised them as workers and vowed to offer them many of the rights which are applicable to millions of workers in the formally recognised sectors already. 
Media reports say that the government is also planning to enact a law for the protection of the rights of domestic workers. The draft version of this recently adopted policy was in existence as early as in 2010 and the High Court Division of the Supreme Court in February 2011,  in BNWLA v Cabinet Division (2012) 17 MLR (HCD) 121,  directed the government to adopt the beneficial provisions of  this draft policy which took more than four years to be implemented. Hopefully, a similarly long time will not be taken in enacting the proposed law on this issue. 
The rights of domestic workers as recognised by the policy is somewhat detailed and their analysis is beyond the scope of this brief essay. But the fundamental concern about the implementation of the lofty objectives of the policy (or even the proposed law) is that domestic workers work in an environment which is basically inaccessible to not just the public officers or representatives of NGOs but generally even to their relatives (assuming that they have someone who cares enough about them). Regarding the situation of many child domestic workers, the HCD in a Bangladesh National Women's Lawyers Association case commented that they “are taken away from their home, from the protection of their family and from the loving surroundings of their kith and kin and placed in a situation where they are confined effectively in servitude.”
On the other hand, the working condition of workers in formal sectors are all open, albeit in varying degrees, to the public eye and more often than not they work as a part of a group of co-workers which gives them at least some form of cushion against abuse. However, these are not applicable to domestic workers. For this reason, the public bodies as well as NGOs working on workers' rights must be proactive in helping domestic workers enjoy their rights. According to the Labour Force Survey by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, more people work as domestic workers in rural areas than in urban areas. Hence, the ambit of the work on protection of domestic workers should be across Bangladesh and should not be confined to urban areas, where most egregious forms of abuse of domestic workers are typically reported in the media.
Despite any limitation of this recently adopted policy, its adoption should be hailed as the first official step for the protection of rights of domestic workers. This is just the beginning of a very long journey in the quest for recognition and enforcement of basic rights of domestic workers. That being said, when there is a legally recognised set of rights, at least any departure from them stands a chance to be remedied. Another, and probably much more formidable, hope for the protection of the rights of domestic workers is the reduction of extreme poverty. Many of us could, and still can, easily subject domestic workers to subhuman treatment simply because extreme poverty has meant that for far too many Bangladeshis, there was (and often still is) simply no alternative other than digesting the indigent. The gradual rate of reduction of poverty and the generation of alternative employment options are already making having a domestic worker an unaffordable luxury for many. We hope that this would continue to be even more so in the years to come.
The writer is an Associate Professor at the School of Law, BRAC University.

Source: Bangladeshi Newspaper- The Daily Star, 30 December 2015

Women on the move

Sarat Dash

Bangladesh has a long tradition of activism against gender based discrimination. By some accounts, it's as old as similar traditions in more developed countries, which have since achieved a good degree of parity between the sexes in areas like civil liberty, freedom, education and employment. It's therefore a happy coincidence that the UN's 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence run through and end right after the very day Bangladesh sets aside to pay its respects to Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a pioneering champion of women's equality in the region and someone who stood up for women during a time when feminist notions were new, anywhere in the world. Begum Rokeya pushed for economic equality between men and women and she might have been pleased to see that today both men and women from Bangladesh are travelling overseas in search of work.
However, employment-related migration is a recent phenomenon for Bangladeshi women. Until 2004, only 1 percent of labour migrants from Bangladesh were women but this increased rapidly to 19 percent by 2015, much faster than the institutional mechanism has been able to keep up, leading to a range of issues particular to female migration being inadequately addressed. Some of these issues are common to both men and women, like access to health care and information, low wage rates, but some, particularly related to skills, education and justice, are slightly more specific. Women are also subject to different risks, including physical, sexual and verbal abuse as domestic workers, who make up the bulk of Bangladeshi women going overseas for work.  
Many migrant women are excluded from social and legal protection as domestic work is rarely covered under labour legislation. This is further complicated by the fact that Bangladesh hasn't ratified the Domestic Workers Act itself, making it difficult for the government to require the same of destination countries. Women migrant workers (domestic workers) are frequently confined to the employer's home, often with no means of communication, social support or security. They also endure lengthy working hours, are paid low wages, and have their papers confiscated.  
There are a number of factors that keep migrant women in a perpetual state of vulnerability. Firstly, they are often from rural environments and are unable to operate optimally in a more sophisticated domestic environment. They struggle to handle appliances, be it washing machines and microwaves, or function in a foreign cultural and linguistic context, and are mistreated because of this. Secondly, their virtual isolation means they have limited social contact and are entirely at the mercy of their employer's whims, with little or no recourse to support. Finally, there is an absence of structures like helplines, associations and legal assistance to which they can turn. 
The government of Bangladesh has attempted to address these by establishing Technical Training Centres (TTC), where IOM supported the introduction of domestic workers' training curriculums and equipment. The government has also appointed an expanding pool of designated Labour Attachés in diplomatic posts to provide support to overseas migrants; again the IOM has supported this initiative. The IOM also provides pre-departure orientation packages to help migrants find their way in a new environment and reaches out to local NGOs in destination countries so that they can provide some support. Domestically, entities like the Bangladesh Obibashi Mohila Sromik Association (BOMSA) and Obhibashi Kormi Unnayan Programme (OKUP) also exist to protect the welfare of migrants.
But more needs to be done. Clearly defined policies and implementation systems to ensure the protection, rights and well-being of women migrant workers are required. These need to be applied to protection clauses in bilateral agreements to guarantee safe working conditions and access to a support system and health services. Embassies overseas should provide socialising opportunities for women migrants so that they can leave their employers' houses and have access to their Labour Attachés, as well as to a community support structure. Recruiting agencies should also play a stronger role is securing better working conditions from companies in destination countries.
The other area of focus is economic opportunity. According to an IOM study (Returnee Female Migrant Workers of Bangladesh – Insights into Improving the Employment Experience and Opportunities in Reintegration, 29 January, 2014), as many as 67 percent of female migrants had no training experience prior to going abroad. But, females migrating for work constitute an important potential source of income for Bangladesh. They can contribute to economic growth by easing pressures in the local job market, but most importantly, it has been found that female migrant workers tend to remit a greater share of their earnings than men. Currently, investments in building a skilled female workforce remain limited, leading to the under-utilisation of migrant women's potential to contribute to local and national development, since they are only able to avail of the lowest paid jobs. 
Women migrants with a low-level of skills and education are also less able to claim their rights and are at a higher risk of exploitation. They are more likely to be employed and (be forced to) accept working in unsafe and unregulated sectors as they rarely have an alternative. 
Recognising the woman migrant worker's potential contribution to local and national development and upgrading current policies, including the National Skills Development Policy 2011, the National Women's Development Policy 2012, and the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013, will be a beneficial situation for everyone - the migrant, the country and the overseas employer. 
Even the simple act of providing a certification of prior learning for skills picked up during a previous job can give migrants better bargaining power and access to higher paying jobs the second time around. Often, migrants have picked up language and technical skills that could put them in a higher bracket instead of having to reapply as unskilled labour.
Bangladesh has made great strides in creating domestic opportunities for women in the workforce. With overseas employment becoming a rapidly growing sector, the country has a renewed responsibility to affirm its commitment to the ideals of visionaries like Begum Rokeya.

The writer is Chief of Mission, IOM Dhaka. 

Source: Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 09 December 2015

Rural Women: Holding up half the sky

Shaheen Anam

October 15 was the International Rural Women Day. The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008. This new international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of December 18, 2007, recognises “the critical role and contribution of rural women in promoting agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”  
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, in his speech to mark the occasion, said, “They are farmers and farm workers, horticulturists and market sellers, business women and community leaders. Rural women are the backbone of sustainable livelihoods and provide food security for their families and communities." 
Unfortunately, the contribution of rural women, whether they are involved in care or agriculture work, remains largely unseen and invisible. Their role as the main source of providing food security for the family and community is ignored as most of their work is considered reproductive without any economic benefits. 
Globally, the scenario of rural women is the following: 
Women produce 60-80 percent of basic foodstuffs in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. Women perform over 50 percent of the labour involved in intensive rice cultivation in Asia. Women perform 30 percent of the agricultural work in industrialised countries. Women head 60 percent of households in some regions of Africa: Women meet 90 percent of household water and fuel needs in Africa. Women process 100 percent of basic household foodstuffs in Africa.
However, in spite of these figures, 500 million women in the world live below the poverty line in rural areas. 
In Bangladesh, the contribution of rural women remains unseen and unrecognised as elsewhere in the world. In spite of taking the major burden of household work, including food preservation, preparation and production, they remain invisible and undervalued. According to Mr. Sykh Shiraj, noted agriculture expert, the entire process of rice production requires 22 activities, from sowing of paddy to bringing it home as food. Out of these 22 activities, 17 are performed by women. The world recognises and credits Bangladesh for having attained self-sufficiency in food production. If 17 out of 22 activities are performed by women, who should get the real credit for this miraculous feat?  Incidentally, the Bangla word kishani is not in usage, as the term farmer or krishak is synonymous with men only.  
The reason for women's work remaining unrecognised is because it is not evaluated. The care-work she performs at home - cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and elderly - are all considered household chores and therefore, reproductive work. Ironically, what should be recognised as productive work, such as taking care of animals, poultry, preservation of seeds, drying of paddy, husking, etc., is also considered household work or shangsharer kaaj. As she does not take her  product to the market or does not get paid for her labour at home, she remains as economists will explain, “Out of the System of National Accounts” (SNA). Remaining out of the SNA means her contribution cannot be counted in the GDP. 
In a recent study conducted by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD for Manusher Jonno Foundation, it was revealed that on an average, a female member of a household undertakes 12.1 non SNA activities on a typical day, the corresponding figure for a male member is only 2.7. However, the most stunning finding of the study is “if women's unpaid work were to be monetised it would amount to 2.5 or 2.9 times higher than the income of women received from paid services.” The study goes on to summarise that the estimated value of women's unpaid non-SNA (household) work, if monetised, was equivalent to 76.8 to 87.2 percent of GDP (FY 2014-2014).  
The non-recognition of women's work has led to their marginalisation as a productive force, although they are by and large responsible for the food security, health and well-being of their family and community. The invisibility of their contribution has led to their devaluation and not getting the honour and respect they deserve at home and in society. Consequently, this translates into their lower status as compared to men, both at home and outside. One can go further to add that it is the lower status of women that results in inequality, discrimination and violence against them. 
On the other hand, there are approximately 20 million rural women who are employed in forestry, fisheries and agriculture labour. The situation is no better for them. They are involved in backbreaking work all day, get paid less than men for the same amount of work and yet when they go home, they are required to perform all the duties and responsibilities that society has accorded to them as wives and mothers and homemakers. The meagre salary they earn is spent for the wellbeing of their family, leaving them poor, disempowered and in constant ill-health. 
Manusher Jonno Foundation, with other partners, has launched a campaign titled “Equality through Dignity” to reduce discrimination and violence against women, by highlighting their contribution and thereby, raising their status. Highlighting their contribution through quantifiable evidence would create a change in mindset that presently disrespects and demeans women, seeing them as dependent, a burden and therefore, deserving of discrimination, inequality and violence. It is widely believed that violence and discrimination against women is an offshoot of their lower status at home and in society. Massive campaigns are required to change such negative attitudes towards women.
Although Bangladesh has made great strides in the last 20 years in terms of political, social and economic empowerment of women, the plight of rural women still remains an area of concern. To change the present situation, radical policy support is required side by side with campaigns and awareness raising mobilisation. The present system of counting the national account (SNA) has to be revisited to include the unpaid and un-estimated work of women, so that their contribution is included in the GDP.  Society needs to understand that women have dual roles, reproductive and productive, and they are capable of performing both these roles equally and effectively. Both these roles deserve respect and appreciation.  Disrespecting and demeaning half the population can never take us forward towards a future of prosperity and human dignity. It was Mao Zedong who said, “Women hold up half the sky”; perhaps he understood the importance of women's work and what a catastrophe it would be if they stopped working for a single day. 

The writer is Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation. 

Source:  Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 23 October 2015

Why gender equality is the most critical of all the global goals

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

At the end of this month, thousands of representatives from all over the world will gather in New York. They will witness the launch of the most ambitious universal effort since the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The reshaping and re-stating of the "larger freedom" of those rights in a new agenda has a deadline of 2030 for a fairer, more sustainable world, with the drive to achieve full equality of men and womenat its center.
It is a threshold moment. Many constituencies, far broader than governments alone, have deeply invested hope and expectation that we have learnt enough, are committed enough, to make this new agenda a success. Through it, we seek to impact some of the key challenges of the 21st century, such as poverty, inequality and violence against women. Women's empowerment is a pre-condition for this.
We know now that without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy, in governance, we will not be able to achieve the world we hoped for. These are the changes for which governments have repeatedly signed their support, with international protocols on non-discrimination, and on different aspects of rights and global goods. To date, that support has not been felt all the way through society; consequently results have fallen short of aspiration.
We have extensive information on what needs to be done. In 2015 we conducted a review of implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on its 20th anniversary. As many as 167 countries reported their own successes in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. These reports are in effect national blueprints for action.
Their assessments revealed important gains in some areas, such as new or amended legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and other barriers; improved enrollment by girls in primary and secondary education, and progress in reducing maternal deaths. But advances were unacceptably slow in other vital areas, such as increasing women's access to decent work or equal pay; no country has achieved gender equality.
There has been a critical gap between those who draw up the commitments and those who carry them out. Gender ministries tend to be underfunded and lack the influence and weight of larger and stronger ministries, such as foreign affairs or treasury functions.
This is where we intend to learn from history – and change it.
On September 27, we ask the highest leaders in each land to take personal responsibility for their commitment to change the trajectory of gender equality and empowerment of women. We ask those who make the undertakings to be the ones to lead their implementation. We believe this level of engagement is crucial to create a new cycle of history.
We have already started this path through the HeForShe campaign that identifies IMPACT champions in top leadership positions, in government, academia and multinational corporations. Each leader has made game-changing undertakings – of a new order of magnitude – that will bring institutional change to their own arena that is replicable elsewhere.
No other issue on the sustainable development agenda will receive this level of special attention. No other issue is as critical to the success of the new agenda as a whole.
The ambition of the 2030 Agenda must be matched with an equally ambitious level of investment with transformative financing commitments, including dedicated funding for women's-rights organisations. This can only happen if governments increase budget allocations across all sectors, states meet their official development assistance commitments, and all other sources of funding are mobilised to achieve gender equality.
As we move toward September's threshold moment, I invite all Heads of States and Governments to prepare for the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 with commitments that are truly visionary, that break barriers, provide solutions, and so put themselves, and the world they lead, on the right side of history.
The writer is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women.

Source:  Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 23 September 2015

When 'empowerment' rings hollow

Nahela Nowshin

As the whole nation basks in the glory of our success in the cricketing arena, the news of a young housewife's eyes being gouged out by her husband doesn't seem to have gotten its deserved attention. Although the ways in which Shukhi was tied up and maimed with a mobile phone tester were nothing short of barbaric, we are not remotely shocked. The story of Shukhi, who was tortured by her husband and in-laws, is one of many incidents of dowry-related violence that pervades Bangladeshi society and usually goes unreported like many other crimes of violence against women.
Such inhumane crimes in this country have become the norm rather than the exception, and at the risk of sounding pessimistic, such instances of domestic violence often seem to be reduced to "examples" in gender and justice related conferences in academic circles, and good fodder for the media as potential "stories" and/or "headlines." Much has been written in academia and the media about the ills of dowry, how it is falsely justified in the name of religion, and the complex factors at play that perpetuate dowry practices in the South Asian region. But we barely understand that whenever a man chooses to manifest his "physical superiority" over a woman in such a brutal way, it has much more to do with his emotional weakness and moral corruption than physical strength. 
To be honest, the term "women's empowerment" starts to seem quite hollow when the higher-ups, who claim that they will tackle gender-based violence, don't assure us that legal action will be taken against assaulters (often the husband) or publicly address these issues in the aftermath of such incidents, further legitimising the culture of impunity where criminals are handed a blank cheque to carry on their heinous acts. Authorities would rather leave it to the media to print a short story on a housewife being beaten in an inconspicuous corner of the backpage until stories of many more Shukhis pile up, eventually being "documented" and preserved as an annual statistic in a report by NGOs. In the midst of these meaningless processes, personal stories of women like Shukhi get lost and we, as a society, continue the pattern of failing to truly empathise as our minds remain occupied with positive stories about cricket.  
How do we reconcile "women's empowerment", whatever that means, with such monstrous acts of violence against women? What do we hope to achieve in terms of "women's empowerment", whatever that means, when an overwhelming number of women remain vulnerable to domestic violence? Maybe we should ask ourselves the question: who are the women who are/can be truly "empowered"? Is there any doubt that "women's empowerment" is a class-based, exclusionary notion? Because given the extent to which our society is highly stratified in terms of wealth, "women's empowerment" seems to be reserved for the privileged few. Semantics is important and using terms such as "financially independent" when referring to women garment workers masks the ground reality which is often quite different from derived generalisations, from statistics. How do we define the "financial independence" of garment workers when there are women who, despite having their own income source, almost always need to resort to the help of a male relative to prevent their hard-earned piece of land being grabbed? What does "financial independence" mean to the less privileged when there are countless Shukhis and working women who are dehumanised and their bodies mutilated by their significant other when the latter's demands for dowry are not met? 
In a society where dowry deaths and violence against women in general is culturally sanctioned, laws like the Dowry Prohibition Act can do little especially when they're poorly implemented. The way in which Shukhi was ganged up on by her husband and in-laws speaks of a deeper national psyche in which mob mentality and violence against the powerless reigns supreme. The same way 13-year-old Rajon was lynched to death by a group of sadistic adults, the same way around seven women were molested by gangs of unruly youths during Pahela Baishakh celebrations. It speaks of a dangerous need for power and a perverted sense of satisfaction for which these mobs and thugs are willing to gouge out a woman's eye and torture a child to death. It speaks of the laidback mentality and nonchalance of the nation as a whole to such crimes. It speaks of a country full of people who don't feel compelled to react until and unless they're faced with a viral video of a woman or child being abused. It speaks of a nation which seems to have accepted, rather than fight at the grassroots level, regular occurrences of violence against women and children as the norm.
The reductive ways in which we tend to "measure" women's worth, be it through dowry or export revenues of RMG, are alive and well. "Women's empowerment" seems like a convenient illusion when we continue to preserve the very power structures that stand in the way of truly empowering women who need it the most. No number of RMG factories and NGO projects can ameliorate the status of women and stop dowry deaths if we fail to educate, in every sense of the word, both our women and men, and we need to do better than simply "boost literacy rates" by teaching people how to write their name.

The writer is a journalist at The Daily Star.

Source:  Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 23 Editorial

Violence: An individual problem or a systemic problem?; Research Mesearch

Nadine Shaanta Murshid

For a non-conflict zone, Bangladesh is home to exorbitantly high levels of “everyday violence.” At home and on the streets, at the work place, and elsewhere, taking different forms – physical, verbal, and sexual – overt and covert, with malice or without, with malintent or just following scripts learned from others. Maybe if individuals knew the consequences of violence they would stop, and that's why I write about it; that is why a large chunk of my own research is on this topic. Because I believe that human beings are inherently good; no one is born a bigot or a killer; no one is born with a will to hurt other people.
Bangladesh is a country of primarily poor people in which approximately 40 precent live on less than $1.25 a day and about 70 percent live on less than $2 a day. Given the high rate of poverty and the pervasive use of violence, many are quick to argue that everyday violence is a problem of the poor. That's only partly true; violence is not created by poor people, violence is created by the rich, by those who are in power, and it is used against poor people. At the same time the societal structure is organised in a way that violence between groups and within groups is inevitable. Violence is both cause and consequence of inequality – income, gender, social (whatever have you); violence is the cornerstone of a larger malaise of systemic inequality where individuals bear the brunt of said inequality. It is what ties the structural issues to individual ones, creating the idea that changing individual behaviours will change the system (it will not). And, because people in power use violence, violence has become the currency of power, the shortcut to garnering control in both social and relational contexts.
Violence against individuals, including intimate partners, regardless of gender, arise from a need to “gain control or retribution and to promote or defend self image” (Felson, 2002).  But, we tend to write more about violence against women, not because violence against men do not exist, but because violence against women often takes more insidious forms that have deadly consequences, quite literally.  While violence against men is less likely to lead to homicide and physical danger (in intimate partner relationships – not in combat zones where men are exposed to and experience physical and sexual violence at high rates) the effect of violence (including intimate partner violence) on men, similar to women, include compromised mental health and physical health outcomes (e.g. anxiety and depression and heart diseases are much more likely among men who experience violence in their lives than men who do not).
That said, physical and sexual violence against men by intimate partners in a heterosexual relationship is still less than that experienced by women (Tjaden&Thoennes, 2000). The most common type of violence against men by women takes verbal forms, which has increased potential to affect mental health outcomes. This is because verbal abuse is highly correlated with emotional abuse (and include needling and belittling), which in turn is likely to be emasculating and psychologically jarring for men. Feeling emasculated or weak, on the other hand, is associated with increased use of violence by men who assert machismo, masculinity, and control by using violence. 
Some, however, argue that when there is violence in a relationship it is often because the couple dynamic is conflictual and each person responds to relational conflict by using violence as a tool for conflict resolution (barring situations where the perpetrator is a sociopath or a psychopath or has other mental health issues of which aggression is a symptom). In the absence of healthy communication skills and self-soothing tactics, as well as normalisation of violence, violence has become a pervasive social problem that directly or indirectly affects everyone, for different reasons. Violence affects not only those who experience (or even perpetrate) violence but those who are exposed to it – children, community members, society at large. Be it physical violence, violent language, or sexual harassment – it has the potential to permeate social and economic barriers to become omnipresent, and if we look around us we are likely to see that is all around us.
And once we open our eyes, we are likely to see that individuals with disabilities are more likely to be abused than their “able-bodied” counterparts. Homosexual men and women are more likely to be abused than heterosexual men and women.  Men and women from minority groups are more likely to be abused than men and women who are members of the majority population. While, women are more likely to be abused than men; disabled, homosexual, minority women are more likely to be abused than heterosexual able-bodied women. We need to recognise the hetero-normative patriarchal system that we are living in which heterosexual men have privilege over all others. We need to think about intersectionality and how group membership in multiple categories of identity increases the potential for harm. And then we need to think about who gains from such a system.
And then we must see how violence is systematically created by the system to oppress certain groups, while others are merely collateral damage. Individuals in this system have to work to change individual behaviours as well as the system that allows and maintains violence to come to an end. This should not only be up to activists and rights groups, but all citizens who stand to benefit from the eradication of violence.

 The writer is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, University at Buffalo. 

Source: Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 14 June 2015

Boatloads of human misery

 Ziauddin Choudhury

For full two weeks or thereabouts in April the media in the west, particularly the US, were ablaze with news of hundreds of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean while attempting to cross illegally to European shores. These were people fleeing war torn areas of Syria, and other African countries desperate to land in any country that would give them asylum.  They were in boats that were hardly meant to carry passengers, but these desperate people who were packed like sardines did not care how risky their journey would be. All they cared was the hope for a place safer than their wretched countries and equally woeful existence.  Among those who survived was a Bangladeshi who had thrown himself into this hapless lot, but luckily escaped death.  I did not follow his plight as this was not reported in the press, but I guess he was handed over by local authorities to our diplomatic mission in Spain.
Refugees fleeing from war torn or famine stricken areas to neighbouring countries or even further is easily understandable.  Syria as we know is no place for normal living with a civil war going on for last three years and the country fractured into parts, some of which are under control of a draconian military force.  Flight of refugees from Africa is a phenomenon that has been ongoing since a large number of countries in that continent went from one conflict to another, and humans were disposed of like animals in those conflicts.  What bogs the mind is when people from countries that are purportedly stable seek such desperate means as crossing the seas in dangerous vessels, all in the hope of making it to a liveable place.
The Bangladeshi survivor of the Mediterranean ship wreck is a small example of the desperation of our own nationals to leave their country in search of a better existence. There have been many more like him who have tried, some successfully, to take a life threatening journey across the continents to earn a living. But the story of the thousands now hitting the headlines who have been caught between life and death on the high seas of South East Asia is at a different level. Although a large number are reportedly refugees from Myanmar, the Rohingyas, the rest are from Bangladesh—good and proper.
And this takes us to the nub of the problem.  The flight of the Rohingyas is understandable as in the case of Syrians or Africans leaving a war zone. The Rohingyas are not accepted as citizens in their own country, and they have been hounded for years. For them any place is better than their home because they cannot call their country as home. They will go to any lengths, take any risk, and take whatever course they can to leave their country. What is the driver taking such life threatening risks for the people who have a country, and most likely a home? Is it the lure of higher income, better living, or just simply a more secure life?
We know that the lure of higher income and living standards are the traditional attractions for people leaving for industrialised or oil rich countries. Our people go to extraordinary lengths to go to countries in Middle East and Europe, and perhaps Malaysia. They pay hundreds of thousands to brokers who arrange their employment and travel. But who would like to board a rickety fishing vessel and leave for unknown destinations knowing that this could be their final journey?
The story of hundreds of people, mostly of Bangladesh origin, now marooned in the high seas of Indonesia and Malaysia should be in the conscience of the countries adjoining the seas, but most importantly of Bangladesh. It is possible that the current floating people would be rescued and given some temporary shelter. It is also possible that some, notably the Rohingyas, may get asylum. But the remaining Bangladeshis will be repatriated. They may like it or may not, but at least they will not die like those hundreds who reportedly died in the jungles of Thailand earlier. But will these stop future flights of desperate Bangladeshis?
There are now attempts by the government to track human traffickers and arraign them before law. Human traffickers exist and do their business because there are clients who are desperate to leave their country. And why do they want to leave the country? It is not always a better employment opportunity or higher income; it is also because there is no employment in the country where he lives. It is also because there is no way to have a subsistence income.
In Bangladesh we live in a paradoxical society. In one hand we have impressive statistics that show a growing national income, steadily rising exports, and impressive flow of foreign earnings. What these statistics do not show are the pathetic state of our rural economy, rising unemployment of rural youth, and growing disparity of rural and urban income. Our planners spend time more on industrialisation and supply of energy for industry and less on erasing the menace of rural poverty and the desperation of our unemployed youth.  Stopping a few human traffickers from doing their business will not stem the flow of desperate people seeking desperate means to leave the country.  If we really mean business we have to focus our planning and strategy on employment and income opportunities of our rural mass.

The writer is a political analyst and commentator. 

Source:  Bangladeshi Newspaper - The Daily Star, 24 May 2015

Four reasons to raise women’s pay that should make men happy

Lynn Stuart Parramore

EQUAL pay for women doing the same work as men should be a no brainer because it’s a matter of fairness. But this isn’t just about sisters getting what they deserve or even a convenient political talking point. Equal pay helps everyone, and ever more Americans are voicing their concern about continued disparities.
According to an Ipsos poll conducted for ThomsonReuters from February 27 to March 2, 66 per cent of respondents said that women are not paid the same as men for equal work, with 61 per cent of Republicans, 77 per cent of Democrats and 65 per cent of independents sharing that view. Nearly half of those surveyed viewed the issue as ‘very important’.
The fact is, equal pay benefits men and women, young and old, Democrat and Republican, and everybody in between. Here are four reasons why anyone who wants to see a thriving America should get on board the equal-pay train right away.

Economic growth
WHEN a woman takes home a smaller paycheque, it puts a crimp in her spending power. It’s time politicians in Washington recognised what marketers in America have been clear on for some time: Women are the main consumers in their homes. A whopping 85 per cent of purchasing decisions are made by women. They decide on most everyday items, like groceries and clothing, as well as on half of all automobiles, home-improvement products and consumer electronics purchased in the United States. Over the next decade, women are expected to control two-thirds of consumer spending, according to a 2012 study by strategic communications firm FleishmanHillard and Hearst Magazines.
If women made more, the additional money flowing toward goods and services would act as a much-needed stimulus to a US economy struggling to gain momentum. Just how much? In an interview with the Huffington Post, economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, calculated it would be enough to expand the economy by at least 3 to 4 percentage points — an effect even greater when you take into account the fact that pay hikes would entice more women to join the workforce.

Strengthening the middle class
WANT to help the incredible shrinking American middle class? Paying women fairly would go a long way toward that goal. Smaller paycheques, according to economist Evelyn Murphy, founder of The WAGE Project, cost the average full-time US woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her work life. With record numbers of women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle-class families, including the men and children who rely on their contributions.
In 2010, economist Heather Boushey testified before Congress that the typical American wife brings home around a third of her family’s total income. Boushey further noted that the trend in recent decades has been increased upward mobility for families in which the wife works. This additional income has made the key difference between families who are able to pull ahead economically and those who fall behind. Pay women their fair share, and more families can join the middle class and have a shot at economic security.

Attacking big poverty
RESEARCH from the Brookings Institution paints a disturbing picture of US poverty stuck at record levels, with the number of poor Americans growing by 5 million between 2008 and 2012. Data collected by Maria Shriver in her annual Shriver Report shows that a third of American women either live in poverty or are just on the brink.
Why do women experience an unequal burden of poverty? As economist Hartmann and her colleagues have observed, continued pay inequality is part of the answer.
Just paying women fairly, according to a regression analysis of federal data by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, would cut the poverty rate for working women in half. Women of colour are particularly hurt by pay disparities; African-American women earn only 64 cents to a white man’s dollar, and Latinas take home a mere 54 cents.
The wage gap puts a terrible burden on families with only one female earner, which particularly hits African-American and Latino communities, where women are likely to support families on their own. The wage gap also increases the likelihood that women of retirement age will slip into poverty because their pensions and Social Security checks are shrunken by years of lower pay.

Global competitiveness
Pay inequality is a serious challenge to US competitiveness; it keeps women out of the workforce and renders them less likely to contribute the full benefit of their skills and talents to the economy. A 2014 report by the World Economic Forum, however, shows that the United States ranks 65th in wage equality out of 142 countries studied. The International Labour Organisation’s Global Wage Report 2014/15 shows that the United States was at the very bottom of the rankings on wage inequality out of 38 countries surveyed, behind places you might guess — Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Germany — but also behind Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.
Clearly, something has gone wrong with US policy. One reason countries that rank high on pay equality got there is that they don’t just enact a piece of legislation and call it a day. They are constantly coming up with new policies, amending existing laws and promoting initiatives that attack this persistent problem.
Denmark, for example, passed the Act on Equal Pay for Men and Women in 1976. But it didn’t stop there — the act has been amended several times, most recently in 2008. Every third year, the minister of labour and the minister of gender equality put out a report on measures that guarantee equal pay. Denmark stays on the case. Washington could take a lesson there.
Republicans have blocked legislation that would help ensure that a woman is paid as much as a man for doing the same work. Democrats have seized the issue as one that will appeal to their base as 2016 approaches.
But if ever there were an issue that ought to be bipartisan, this is it. The idea of pay equality is about dollars and cents as much as about common sense. America can’t afford to lag behind., March 5. Lynn Stuart Parramore is a contributing editor at AlterNet, co-founder of Recessionwire and founding editor of New Deal 2.0 and, and has taught cultural theory at New York University.

Source: Bangladesh Newspaper - The New Age, 09 March 2015

Missing link in women’s rights

Yakin Erturk

The continuation of the war on women in an escalated and violent fashion in many parts of the world has provoked me to write a book reflecting on my human rights monitoring experiences of the past two decades. One of the central challenges of the book, Violence Without Borders, has been to unpack the hierarchy of rights that deny women access to critical resources so needed in enhancing their capacity to resist transgressions on their rights. This article stems from a chapter of the book which argues that introducing a feminist political economy approach into the analysis can unravel the missing link in women’s human rights.
The problem
The recognition of violence against women (VAW) as a human rights violation was a turning point in the human rights movement. The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women affirmed that ‘…violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and… violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position….’
Since the adoption of the declaration, violence against women rose to prominence on national and international agendas at the expense of compromising its feminist content as the responses to the problem became dominated by a welfare oriented approach. Thus VAW is treated in a selective, compartmentalised and isolated manner, largely disconnected from gender inequality and women’s socio-economic rights, which impedes their capability to escape violence.
Although Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urges states to ensure women’s enjoyment of their economic and social rights, governments have failed to adopt measures to enhance women’s empowerment and access to productive resources. The detachment of VAW within the human rights movement from the broader struggles for social and economic equality, eradication of poverty and unemployment, livelihood security etc, reduced women’s human rights issues to one of ‘protection’ and women into victims in need of being saved.
Feminist economists’ and women’s rights advocates for long have emphasised the importance of women’s economic autonomy and called for integrating a gender perspective into macro-economic policies. This has become particularly urgent under neo-liberalism and the international financial crisis. The likely adverse impact of the crisis on women’s employment, livelihood security, the realisation of the full range of their rights, including the potential for increase in violence against them as well as on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to slash poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality, and illiteracy by 2015, has occupied the debates.
The exposure of socio-economic rights as the missing link within the women’s human rights movement made integration of a political economy perspective into the feminist approach to women’s right compelling. Political economy offers a materialist understanding of society that reveals the interconnections among the economic, political, and cultural/ideological spheres and incorporates race, class, and culture into feminist analysis. Such an analysis; (i) goes beyond mere distributional aspects of access to economic and social rights; (ii) identifies discriminatory policies, practices and entitlement structures that determine the gendered manifestations of these rights; and (iii) draws attention to the feminist critique of the hierarchy of rights resulting from the differential treatment of ‘first generation’ and ‘second generation’ rights, ie the twin covenants.
The assumption that violation of rights, poverty, and exploitation is not random, but embedded in structural inequalities, is the central principle of the feminist political economy perspective.

Unravelling structural hierarchies
Power operates not only through coercion but also through the structured relations of production and reproduction that govern the distribution and use of resources, benefits, privileges and authority in the home and the society at large. Identifying how the institutional and ideological formations of society shape gender identities and statuses and where the boundaries of rights and freedoms are drawn provides viable entry points for altering and re-configuring these structures towards achieving equality.
Applying a political economy approach to women’s rights has been particularly useful in unravelling three interrelated structural factors that underlie women’s subordination and heighten the risk of violence against them.
The first factor is sexual-division of labour within public and private spheres, with corresponding patriarchal gender ideologies. Within this context, women are held primarily responsible for unremunerated and often invisible work in the household, thus undermining their bargaining power vis-à-vis men and other women acting on behalf of male power. Similarly, care related work in the labour market, where women are concentrated, is also devalued. Globalisation has extended sexual-division of labour to the transnational realm and as women from developing countries migrated to provide care services for families in wealthier countries reproductive work became internationalised.
The strict division of roles in the domestic sphere constrains women’s public sphere participation and limits the economic opportunities in domestic or transnational markets, thus entrapping many women into potentially abusive and violent environments.
The second structural factor concerns neo-liberal market forces. In the contemporary global era, capitalist competition has fuelled the demand for cheap, flexible and unregulated labour to maximise profits locally and transnationally. Within this context, the relocation of industries to the periphery disrupted, at times destroyed, local economies and unleashed a ‘free-floating labour-force’ in search for alternative sources of livelihood. Markets, intersecting with gender hierarchies in developing countries encountered dislocated young women and drew them into wage employment in export processing zones or in the care/service sectors of global cities on a scale unseen before.
This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘feminisation of migration’ and ‘feminisation of labour-force’, had contradictory consequences for women. While women became empowered by gaining independence and autonomy from the family, due to the volatile nature of work conditions new vulnerabilities and risks confronted them. At the same time, women’s integration into the labour market, more often than not, destabilised the patriarchal family and created a crisis in masculinity, increasing the risk of domestic violence.
Neo-liberal policies also created an enforcement gap in both property rights and labour contracts as state capacity to regulate the labour market and to tax profits eroded. Lack of enforcement coupled with the withdrawal of the state from social services created a vacuum in human security at large. Unskilled and marginalised women, who lack access to resources and basic capabilities, became particularly burdened and poverty stricken.
Community based enforcement and support mechanisms were quick to respond to the vacuum left from the withering away of the welfare state, thus strengthening communal/tribalising tendencies and allowing non-state actors to seize the opportunity for legitimate representation of identity politics as well as monopolising service provision  to impoverished groups. These trends have reinforced the culture/religion-based discourses that challenge the universality of human rights norms and reject women’s claims for rights and equality.
The third structural factor is related to the gendered dimensions of war, peace and security, which are intimately connected to patriarchy and the neo-liberal global economy.  Violent conflicts, often arising from contestation over land, resources and power are indicative of shifts in hegemonic relations locally as well as globally. When warfare strikes, VAW by state and non-state actors, perpetuated with impunity, becomes heightened, generalised and the norm. Sexual violence as a weapon of war became a salient feature of recent conflicts.
Women alone, no doubt, bear the burden of war, which is often indiscriminate of sex, age, colour or creed. However, it is the systematic, patterned and odious ways, in which they are targeted, both within the community and by the ‘enemy’ side, is what makes their case in need of scrutiny.
Values that motivate war do not necessarily preclude women as soldiers, just as the fact that the ‘motherhood’ motive does not rule out war-prone acts. Women are known to have chosen to take up arms for various reasons, including protecting their children and themselves.
Conflict and war and the security agendas impose trade-offs between military spending and spending for development and human rights protection, particularly that of women. In the post-conflict phase investment in reconstruction projects are prioritised over human security concerns and may involve privatisation of public services and infrastructure that often threatens household survival and places greater burden on women’s labour.
A political economy analysis unveils the intimate link between peace and justice; peace without justice is not sustainable. The prioritisation of national security and electoral machinery by governments over human security in many post-conflict situations has proven to be destabilising in the long run. When women are excluded from access justice, physical security and socio-economic rights, the distinction of war and peace may not be all that meaningful. The war on women transcends conventional notions of  war and peace.

Hierarchy of rights
The preferential treatment of civil and political rights (ICCPR) over economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR), stands as a major constraint to transforming the conditions that underlie gender inequality and VAW.  The Committee on ICESCR noted at the 1993 Vienna Conference that, ‘…states and international community as a whole continue to tolerate all too often breaches of economic, social, and cultural rights, which, if they occurred in relation to civil and political rights, would provoke expression of horror and outrage and would lead to concerted calls for immediate remedial action’.
States continue to perceive civil and political rights as ‘obligatory’ and economic and social rights largely as ‘aspirational’. It is assumed that the latter can only be progressively realised depending on the resources available to a country, where as the former rights must be guaranteed immediately without compromise. Critics have argued that progressive realisation also applies to civil and political rights as both Covenants impose positive duties on governments in their effort to comply with their obligations without discrimination. Budgetary implications of the implementation of human rights norms cannot excuse a state of non-discriminatory compliance with its obligation to improve the socio-economic conditions of people within its jurisdiction, or to adopt macro-economic policies that might undermine the requirements of the ICESCR.

Shared responsibility for women’s human rights
Despite these human rights obligations, states in responding to violence against women have tended to focus more on reforming juridical and legal structures, and less on altering economic and social structures. Combating VAW and ensuring women’s human rights imposes a positive obligation on states to effectively comply with their obligations under the twin covenants. In the context of global restructuring and financial crises, economic and social rights are particularly crucial – not only to women’s enjoyment of their rights, but also for preventing the deepening of gender disparities.
While patterns of economic destabilisation associated with neo-liberal economic policies that facilitate the integration of global markets have varied from country to country, inequalities and vulnerabilities for women, including opportunities for their access to paid work have shown similar cross-country trends. Gender inequality, unequal entitlement structures, economic insecurities of global capitalism, as well as weakening state capacity for regulation and distributional justice have to a large extent determined how women experienced globalisation. Poor women who are systematically denied access to economic social rights are particularly at risk of greater hardship and abuse.

It is important to note here that globalisation has increased the role of corporate power over macro-economic processes. This calls for expanding the concept of positive obligation to include these transnational non-state entities. Sovereignty in the new global order must be understood as shared responsibility of states, the international community and non-state actors alike. The promotion and protection of a holistic view of women’s human rights must be pursued transnationally., March 6. Yakin Erturk’s forthcoming book, Violence Without Borders: the Paradigm, Policy and Practical Aspects of Violence against Women, will be published in April 2015 (Istanbul: Metis Publishers)

Source: Bangladesh Newspaper - The New Age, 09 March 2015

Bangladesh a bright example of women's employment: study

Suman Saha

Bangladesh has made significant progress in women's employment thanks to better education and wider opportunities, according to a study by MasterCard.
Since 2009, the country has gained more than 80 points in overall employment, which is part of an index that consists of 16 countries from the Asia Pacific region, indicating that women are more or less as economically active as their male counterparts.
A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favour of males, while a score above 100 indicates inequality in favour of females. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes.
Of note is the stride made by the country between 2007 and 2015 in 'regular employment', a sub-category of the MasterCard Index of Women's Advancement.
During the period, Bangladesh soared 21.1 index points to 102.4 in regular employment opportunities, which is the second highest rise after India (39.6).  
In terms of female participation in the workforce, the country surpassed India and Sri Lanka by a wide margin, scoring 69.3 against 35.8 and 46.5 respectively. In fact, Bangladesh did better than the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea in this respect.
Yet, in the overall index for women's advancement, Bangladesh managed the second lowest overall score, of 44.6, this year.
Scores are indexed to 100 males to indicate how close or how far women are to achieving socio-economic parity with men.
In the overall index, Bangladesh was slightly ahead of India (44.2) but behind Sri Lanka (46.2). The fact that all three countries scored less than 50 means much more needs to be done to achieve gender parity.
The index consists of three main indicators that were derived from additional sub-indicators: employment (workforce participation, regular employment), capability (secondary education, tertiary education) and leadership (business owners, business leaders, political leaders).
Of the three components, 'capability' remains the strongest indicator of Asia Pacific women's progress towards gender parity for the ninth consecutive year, the survey found.
Five markets, namely New Zealand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand had a score of 100, indicating that women are on par or better represented in secondary and tertiary institutions than their male counterparts.
Comparatively, women in India (85.7), South Korea (85.9) and Bangladesh (87.6) have fewer opportunities than men when it comes to secondary and tertiary education.
However, women in Bangladesh have made the biggest strides in tertiary education enrolment over the past nine years (2007 to 2015), rising 31.7 index points to 76.8.
When it comes to women breaking the glass ceiling and hitting the top rungs of corporate ladder, Bangladesh scored the lowest among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed.
It scored a paltry 6.2, meaning for every 100 male business leaders, the country has around 6 females in top positions.

The study also revealed that business ownership among Bangladeshi women is the lowest (11.7 points) in the Asia-Pacific region. But, the country came in the eight position when it comes to political leadership with its score of 24.7, which is more than Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, India and Sri Lanka. 

Source: Bangladesh Newspaper - The Daily Star, 08 March 2015

MACRO MIRROR: WTO's Nairobi Package for LDCs

 Dr Fahmida Khatun

The outcome of the Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation has received mixed reactions. From very depressing expectations, the WTO members finally made some progress on the Doha Round negotiations, though not exactly the way it should have. Initially set to discuss and reach agreements during December 15-18, 2015, the conference was extended by another day in a bid to show the world that the multilateral trading system is not yet defunct in an advancing global economy. Still, the draft declaration of the tenth WTO Ministerial Conference indicates that there are sharp differences among member countries on a number of critical issues.
Some of the most difficult areas of the Doha Round negotiations, which were initiated in 2001, have been agricultural and non-agricultural market access, reform of domestic support policies in agriculture and market access of services. Demands of least developed countries include duty-free and quota-free market access, preferential rules of origins, operationalisation of the services waiver, and monitoring mechanism on Special and Differential Treatment. Bangladesh, an LDC and the coordinator of the LDC group, has been active in raising its demands during the run-up to the Nairobi conference. 
While the decision of the Nairobi Ministerial is yet to be scrutinised in detail, one may have a quick look at what is there for LDCs. In particular, the Nairobi text on rules of origin and services trade carries significance for LDCs and Bangladesh.
The use of simple and transparent rules of origin in trade preferential schemes has been reiterated by LDCs. Even if LDCs are given various preferences, such as generalised system of preferences (GSP), they cannot fully realise preferential market access due to stringent rules of origin. It has been urged that the threshold level of value addition for LDCs should be kept as low as possible so that they can comply with it.
The Nairobi Ministerial's decision on rules of origin sets a timeframe for preference, granting members the opportunity to undertake the commitments contained in the decision by December 31, 2016. On the value addition threshold, the rules of origin text mentions that the use of materials not originating from an LDC can make up to 75 percent of the final value of a product for it to qualify for preferential treatment. The Nairobi text also calls for the deduction of any costs associated with the transportation and insurance of inputs from other countries to LDCs. Developing countries declaring themselves in a position to do so are also asked to undertake similar commitments.
The decision of allowing 75 percent of non-originating material is also considered to be prohibitive in view of the fact that increasingly global value chains in modern manufacturing sometimes require very little domestic content. Therefore, LDCs may not be able to reap full benefit of the rules of origin agreement.
In case of services, the existing services waiver has been extended until December 31, 2030. This is due to the extended period between the adoption of the waiver in December 2011, and the notification of preferences in 2015. One would recall that on December 17, 2011, during the 8th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Geneva, LDCs were given services waiver, under which these countries would receive some preferences in case of exports of services. LDCs can gain market access in different sectors and modes of services which are of interest to them. The waiver was to be granted immediately to all LDCs, with preferential treatment being conditional to complying with non-trade issues. The waiver also has the provision of rules of origin which would not allow any other country to be a free rider, i.e. it prohibits other countries to take benefit of preferential access by establishing companies in LDCs. Given LDCs' weak capacity, members are also requested to provide capacity building and technical support to LDCs so that they can take advantage of the services waiver.
At the previous WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, members decided that the Committee on Trade in Services at the WTO would initiate a process for operationalisation of LDCs' service waiver and review the progress periodically. Developed and developing country members in a position to do so, would indicate “sectors and modes of supply” for providing preferential treatment to LDC services and service providers.
But the operationalisation of the services waiver has been challenging. Therefore, the Nairobi declaration points out that preferences to LDCs should have “commercial value” and “promote economic benefits.” LDCs face market access and national treatment restrictions in case of cross-border movement of professionals. Therefore, flexibilities are required. These include removal of entry barriers, creation of a special temporary entry visa quota for LDCs, removal of restrictions on the category of contractual service suppliers and independent professionals, residency permits, Economic Needs Test and labour market tests and conditions on local. In addition, removal of various non-tariff barriers related to visa, work permits, residency permits and recognition of professional qualifications and accreditations are necessary for operationalisation of the services waiver.
A lot of issues are left to be dealt with in the coming months in Geneva. Therefore, the post-Nairobi landscape will be as difficult as before. This may also have implications for the implementation of other global commitments, such as the Istanbul Plan of Action for LDCs adopted in 2011 and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations in September 2015. How the trade negotiators look at these issues and perform in the WTO discussions will shape the achievements of these global announcements to a large extent.

The writer is Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

Source: Bangladesh Newspaper- The Daily Star, 21 December 2015