Bangladesh's state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the conference in Geneva on the Joint Response Plan (JRP). He has said that the JRP will be published on 7 March at Geneva, after which the matter will be made clear.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shahriar Alam said, "A call will be made for the attention of the international community not to shift away from the Rohingya issue. Alongside humanitarian assistance, we will again ask the international community for a political solution. So far 62 per cent of the commitment made in the JRP last year has been fulfilled. So this time we will call for the commitment to be more that 62 per cent."
In the meantime, WFP has announced a cut in its funds. When asked what Bangladesh will say about this, the state minister for foreign affairs said, "If the present rate of financial assistance continues, then the forecast of WFP per head food assistance falling by half by May, is really alarming. We hope WFP raises the issue. Our proposal will be to use local management in order to reduce the administrative costs of the UN and international agencies at Cox's Bazar because our non-government organisations have worked efficiently in various areas of the world, including war zones. Expenditure will be saved if Bangladesh's local institutions are involved. Those funds can be used to meet the food shortage and also be used in the education and training sector which started up last year."
The last influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh started on 25 August 2017. After that, Bangladesh and UNHCR, along with other agencies of the UN, started up JRP, the humanitarian assistance project for Rohingyas. From 2017, a draft of the required assistance has been placed at the meeting of development partners in Geneva.
Russia-Ukraine war has pushed the Rohingya issue to the back burner. And the funds have also decreased due to the economic crisis which has resulted from the war. WFP has officially announced a cut in funds. In such a situation, issues like nutrition must be given priority
According to diplomatic sources, the draft JRP for 2023 has said that assistance will be required for 1.52 million (15 lakh 20 thousand) people, including Rohingya refugees and the local community. It said that USD 876 million (USD 87 crore 60 lakh) will be needed for 1,473,000 people, including Rohingya refugees and members of the local community. Of this, over USD 800 million (USD 80 crore) has been estimated for Cox's Bazar and USD 67 million (USD 6 crore 70 lakh) for Bhasan Char.
This is the second time after 2022 that a budget allocation has been included for Bhasan Char. Last year USD 100 million (USD 10 crore) was asked for the Rohingyas of Bhasan Char. This year USD 67 million (USD 6 crore 70 lakh) has been asked for 75,000 Rohingyas in Bhasan Char. There are presently 29,340 Rohingyas on the island.
The draft JRP this time mentions five strategic targets. These are -- working towards sustainable and voluntary Rohingya repatriation, strengthening safety of the Rohingya refugees and the forcefully displaced Rohingyas, ensuring assistance for those who need it for survival, working for the better live of the local people of Ukhiya and Teknaf, strengthening natural disaster risk management, and tackling the impact of climate change. A total of 116 agencies, including various UN agencies and local and international organisations will work on 160 projects to meet these five targets.
Incidentally, the 2022 JRP stressed the need to consolidate harmony between the Rohingya and the local population. But this year's JRP had dropped the issue of good relations between the two sides.
When his attention was drawn to the matter being dropped regarding harmony between Rohingyas and local people, an official of the foreign ministry said, as it is the Russia-Ukraine war has pushed the Rohingya issue to the back burner. And the funds have also decreased due to the economic crisis which has resulted from the war. The World Food Program has officially announced a cut in funds. In such a situation, issues like nutrition must be given priority.
Ever since the Rohingya refugees took up shelter in Bangladesh, international assistance in the JRP was lowest last year. Development partners only met 62 per cent of the 2022 JRP commitment. Earlier, in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the financial assistance received was 73, 72, 75, 65 and 72 per cent respectively.