I moved to Bangladesh 3 years ago with a lot of excitement as I considered it a sort of mini-laboratory for development theory and practice.
My task was to oversee the Bangladesh portfolio from a social perspective. From day one, there was one issue that came up in almost all projects: land acquisition and resettlement. Once can expect this, given high population densities in a small country. Surprisingly, while there is a lot of debate about shortages of power and electricity for Bangladesh development, little attention is paid to the land issue. But all infrastructure has a footprint and access to land is complex.
This huge challenge was matched by a dearth of professionals to manage social risks. While the market for such services is growing, there was no institution to train people in those disciplines in the country. I could have continued to hire foreign consultants, but that didn’t seem very smart in the long run. So I thought: “let’s establish a course in a local university that would create that capacity over time and train a cadre of professionals capable of conducting a serious social impact assessment, carry out a good consultation process or design a solid resettlement action plan”. My intention was to fill a systemic gap. That could only happen over time, and it could only happen via local institutions.
And so I did.