- ending poverty
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- South Asia
- Sri Lanka
A quiet revolution has been sweeping the Indian political landscape. Last year, the reservation (quota) for women in panchayats — rural local self-government — was increased to at least 50 percent, bringing women into the political fold in vast numbers.
However, economic empowerment may not have kept pace with political empowerment. When it comes to female labor force participation, gender disparities remain deeply entrenched. The 2012 World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index ranked India 123rd out of 135 countries on economic participation and opportunity.
Imagine you are an ER doctor trying to treat a very ill patient who has no medical history and only a vague recollection of symptoms. What would you do if you were the doctor? Trust your gut? Trust that the patient has chronicled his symptoms accurately enough to warrant an accurate diagnosis? This is perhaps how policymakers and aid workers felt back in 2001 when they were deciding where to begin the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Can economics trump politics in South Asia, a region fragmented by decades of strife? Will greater regional cooperation and lowering barriers to trade bring harmony along with economic growth?
Those were the questions on the table Thursday as a panel from across the region discussed “Breaking Down Barriers: A New Dawn in Trade and Regional Cooperation in South Asia.”
Most panelists expressed optimism about trade’s pacifying abilities. Moderator Barkha Dutt, an Indian television journalist, opined that “What trade does, in its very ordinariness, is modulate the emotions.” Teresita Schaffer, former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, agreed that “Trade can provide another conversation… and provide reasons why rivalries should not be allowed to get out of hand.”
But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? asked another panelist, Nepali journalist Kanak Dixit. Clearly, he said, it’s the chicken (commerce), because other things have been tried and have not worked. He said that “chicken” will lay two “eggs”: peace and prosperity.
It was a special day on Sunday, December 11, 2011 at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) as Special Advisor to the State for Global Youth Issues, Mr. Ronan Farrow and Ms. Lauren Lovelace, Director of the American Center, visited the institute in Baridhara. Mr. Farrow gave a lecture and engaged in discussions on global youth leadership issues with a classroom packed with enthusiastic BYLC graduates. In his address to the graduates, he expressed his strong belief that they are to play a key role in confronting challenges of the world. He shared that one of the greatest lessons in life that he received is “the realization that how powerful youth can be when given voice and equipped with tools.”
Trade relations between India and Pakistan appear set to improve significantly with Pakistan likely to grant India Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. The potential gains from easier trading relations are considerable for both countries. In 2009-10, official trade between the two stood at $2 billion. Studies suggest this volume could be much higher, absent formal and informal barriers. For instance, a recent SAARC report estimates trade potential to be $12 billion.
What exactly does MFN status mean?
All WTO members are bound to grant MFN treatment to member countries with respect to trade in goods. India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but Pakistan held back, citing strategic considerations. Despite granting Pakistan MFN status, India continued to impose high tariffs on goods of interest to Pakistan—textiles and leather. Thus, merely according MFN status does not imply easier trade. So, does Pakistan’s offer matter? Yes, it does. It signals enthusiasm, goodwill, and a keenness to build peaceful and productive economic and political relations in the region.
Where will the gains come from?
‘Equal to whom?’ seems to be my burning question when I see women in post conflict Sri Lanka battling it out all alone due to their present circumstances.
A three decade old war that ravaged north – east of Sri Lanka is now in the throes of reaping its peace dividends, slowly…
The war changed not just the landscape of the north-east Sri Lanka, but also the demographic profile, leaving many widows and women headed families destitute. While the official head count of this group is yet to be released by the government, it is apparent that the male to female ratio that was almost 50 -50 has now changed significantly in this part of the country.
“I am the mother, father and the entrepreneur of my family” sums up the plight of 26 year old Sutharshini. A widow who has lost her husband and brother to the war that forever changed the lives of many Sri Lankan Tamils. Sutharshini and her two children represent the typical Sri Lankan Tamil woman who has just been resettled after being an internally displaced person (IDP) in a refugee camp for almost a year.
Batticaloa District, in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka is an ethnically diverse city with a population of approximately 490,000. The three decade old civil war wreaked havoc in this beautiful coastal town where the majority of the people are Tamil (74.5%) with a smaller Muslim (23.5%) and a Sinhala (1.3%) community living amidst some amount of tension over their ethnic differences.
Driving into Batticaloa town was a pleasant surprise for me after almost ten years. The bustling town was visually coming alive with the excellent road network that made the long drive from Colombo a real pleasure. Well constructed roads, the new and gleaming centre median lamp posts and the ongoing construction work painted a very positive feeling about the overall development of downtown Batticaloa, which was a welcome change for me. Batticaloa town’s landscape was surely changing. Needless to say I was wowed!
Earlier this year, Mohammed Faruk Ahmed was one of 37,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers forced to flee the conflict in Libya.
Forsaking his job and only source of income, he returned home empty handed. Watch this video to know how returnee migrants like Ahmed, now have a chance to rebuild their life, thanks to a World Bank-sponsored initiative to repatriate and support Bangladeshi migrants from Libya.
The three decade long war in Sri Lanka was instigated due to unmet youth aspirations. Today, Sri Lanka is well known as a post conflict country. No Sri Lankan in their right minds would like to witness the same again. As a Sri Lankan who has lived and worked most of my life in Sri Lanka, I can’t help but feel that my future could have been different if there was no conflict during the best part of my youth. I know many others feel the same.
Right now, most of Sri Lanka’s population is of working age. This demographic bonus was opened in the 1990s and will close in a few years time. According to Prof. Indralal De Silva from the University of Colombo, this demographic dividend will close in 2017, given the current trends.
It's time all decision makers and development practitioners think YOUNG. Youth need to be mainstreamed into development work and given a seat at the table to actively participate in policy making processes.