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World Press on Cycle of Violence, Feminism, Rohingya, Trump And Anthropocene Era: New Age Islam's Selection, 24 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

24 December 2020

• Breaking the Inter-Generational Cycle of Violence

By Laila Khondkar

• Feminism Has Failed Women

By Kim Brooks

• Reinforcing Respect: Considering Dignity in the Rohingya Humanitarian Response

By Mohammad Azizul Hoque And Jessica Olney

• Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives To Start Their Own Party? I Hope So

By Thomas L. Friedman

• Entering The Anthropocene Era In A Befitting Manner

By Saleemul Huq

• 2020 Has Been A Year Of Nature-Based Solutions.

By Haseeb Md Irfanullah


Breaking the Inter-Generational Cycle of Violence

By Laila Khondkar

December 23, 2020

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, 89 percent of children (1-14 years) in Bangladesh experienced violent discipline in the month before the survey was conducted. The survey also reported that 35 percent of caregivers believe that a child needs to be physically punished. There is a circular (2011) by the Ministry of Education banning corporal punishment in educational settings in Bangladesh. However, children continue to be beaten and humiliated by teachers. In addition, children are subjected to corporal punishment in homes, institutions, workplaces etc.

Corporal punishment includes any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, as well as non-physical forms of punishment that are cruel and degrading.

The high levels of corporal punishment of children in Bangladesh reflect deeply embedded social attitudes that authorise and approve it. We repeatedly hear that beatings by parents and teachers have been going on in our society for long, and this is a common practice. Some even go on to claim that they would not have been able to be who they are if they were not punished! Nobody knows how they would have turned out if parents or teachers had never hit or humiliated them. Many people deny the hurt they experienced when the adults whom they trusted the most thought they could punish them using brute force.

Some argue that many parents are bringing up their children in challenging conditions, and teachers are often under stress from overcrowding and lack of resources, and thus, they often use corporal punishment as the "last resort." In reality, corporal punishment is often an outlet for adults' frustrations in their personal and professional lives rather than an attempt to educate children. In many homes and institutions, adults need more resources and support. However, hitting children is never acceptable even when adults face difficulties.

A 2013 review conducted by the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children, which included more than 150 studies, showed associations between corporal punishment and a wide range of negative outcomes, and presented a convincing case that corporal punishment is harmful for children, adults and societies. This violates children's human dignity and physical integrity and is a blatant violation of children's rights. When adults hit their children in the name of discipline, children learn to "behave" only to avoid punishment, but they do not internalise why that behaviour should be avoided. So, it is very likely that they will repeat it. This means that punishment is ineffective as a disciplining technique.

There is overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment causes direct physical harm to children, and negatively impacts their psychological and physical health, education and cognitive development, in the short as well as the long run. This also increases aggression in children and is linked with violence in intimate relationships and inequitable gender attitudes. There are correlations between being physically punished as a child and attitudes favourable to corporal punishment and domestic violence in adulthood. If societies continue to allow corporal punishment of children, then it will become impossible to break the inter-generational cycle of violence.

Despite its widespread use and proven detrimental effects on children, corporal punishment remains lawful in many countries, provided that this violence is inflicted in the name of so-called discipline. Till now, only 60 countries have banned corporal punishment of children in all settings including homes. Bangladesh is not yet on the list.

When we have a legal system which states that assaulting an adult is an offence, but assaulting a child is acceptable, the law is discriminating against the child and there is no equality under the law. Laws that allow adults to inflict violence on children in the name of "discipline" represent a view of children as subordinate to adults. Reforming laws to ensure that children can no longer be lawfully subjected to violent punishment marks a turning-point in society's relationship with children, signaling the recognition of children as human beings and rights holders. In enhancing children's position in society, it advances all their other rights.

Research is showing that corporal punishment is no longer seen as acceptable and becomes less prevalent over time once it is fully prohibited. Sweden is a good example.

In 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to prohibit all corporal punishment of children. The Ministry of Justice ran a large-scale public education campaign about the new law. Moreover, parents received support and information at children's and antenatal clinics. Since prohibition, there has been a consistent decline in adult approval and use of punishment. In the 1970s, around half of children were smacked regularly; this fell to around a third in the 1980s, and a few percent after 2000.

Ending corporal punishment is essential if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goal's target 16.2 of ending violence against children by 2030. The following are some recommendations to end corporal punishment of children in Bangladesh.

The government circular on banning corporal punishment in educational settings must be implemented and monitored properly. A new law banning corporal punishment of children in all settings (homes, schools, workplaces, institutions including alternative care arrangements etc) should be enacted. In addition, initiatives should be taken to enforce and monitor the implementation of the legal ban through relevant policies and programmes, as well as public awareness raising campaigns.

Positive discipline in homes and schools should be promoted. This is about non-violent child-rearing and education, and giving parents, teachers and other caregivers a framework for responding constructively to conflicts with the children. The messages on positive discipline should be built into the training of all those who work with or for children and families, in health, education and social services.

Governments and other actors involved in combating corporal punishment should engage with children and respect their views in all aspects of preventing and responding to corporal punishment. Let us make corporal punishment of children socially unacceptable in addition to prohibiting this in all settings.


Laila Khondkar is an international development worker.


Feminism Has Failed Women

By Kim Brooks

Dec. 23, 2020

A few weeks ago, or maybe it was a few months ago, I decided to watch my two favorite ’80s movies about working mothers: “Baby Boom,” a rom-com starring Diane Keaton as an advertising executive turned work-from-home applesauce mogul; and “Aliens,” James Cameron’s thriller centered around a woman’s struggle to defeat a race of genocidal aliens. Both mother-protagonists struggle with what has come to be known as “work-life balance.”

In “Aliens,” Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley, a former warrant officer who protects a girl after missing out on her own daughter’s life because she was locked in cryogen sleep for 57 years and lost in space. In “Baby Boom,” Ms. Keaton plays J.C. Wiatt, a career woman who brags about her lack of a biological clock, then inherits an orphan toddler. Before motherhood, J.C.’s boss offered her a chance to make partner at her firm. But first he lays things out plainly. “A man can be a success and still have a personal life,” he tells her. “My wife is there for me whenever I need her. I mean, she raises the kids. … What I’m saying is, I’m lucky. I can have it all.”

It’s not the ’80s anymore, but one thing hasn’t changed: You still have to be Diane Keaton or an alien-slayer to make it as a working mother in America.

Unless you’re affluent enough to pay for the labor of less privileged women, you’re stuck with a patchwork of poorly funded and regulated and prohibitively expensive schools, child care centers and after-school programs. And yet it’s taboo for working mothers to talk too much about the costs, contradictions and compromises they face, often for fear such conversations will be used as fodder against us. Social conservatives are always eager to prove we were better off barefoot behind our white picket fences. The present feels unsustainable, but most women don’t want to go back, and so we charge forward, every mother for herself, each of us laser-focused on our own career and our own nuclear family’s security. Feminism meant cheering on women trying to gain status in this broken system. There was no way out, but if you worked hard enough, you could try to move up.

That was the thinking before Covid-19. That was the atmosphere in which I became a mother. This year it all came undone.

It was around the middle of May that I began to realize how disastrous the pandemic was going to be for mothers. I felt it myself and I saw it all around me, the mounting fear, the feeling of helplessness and isolation as we realized that the institutions we depended on were failing women and children, and that there was no backup system in place. Mothers themselves were the backup system.

Isolating women from larger social communities has historically been a surefire way to disempower them, and Covid-19 has imposed one of the longest periods in modern history of prolonged, social isolation. This is a necessary evil during a pandemic, but all the same, it’s proving to be a perfect social experiment in what happens to women, both single mothers and mothers living in traditional two-parent households, when the drawbridges are raised.

The first coronavirus vaccine has been approved, but the next months will still be dark ones. Of the more than one million workers aged 20 and over who exited the labor force in September, 865,000 were women. Many lost unemployment insurance benefits because they “chose” not to return to work, even if they had no real choice because they had no child care. Of those who remained, one in four were considering reducing hours, looking for less-demanding jobs or planning to leave.

Child care centers are shuttering around the country. According to a report from the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation, the child care crisis could cost women $64.5 billion in lost wages per year. One study found that even mothers who have managed to keep their jobs have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers to work part-time, and only 43 percent of part-time workers have access to paid sick leave, 8 percent to paid family leave and 22 percent to health care benefits.

As any woman who’s ever tried to take more than a month or two of maternity leave knows, extended child-related lapses in employment are at best frowned upon and interpreted as a lack of professional dedication and at worst, for part-time or undocumented workers, grounds for termination. Leaving the work force, even under the most dire circumstances, tends to be a one-way street. What’s more, these exits reinforce the notion that mothers, as opposed to fathers, are the only appropriate primary caregivers for children, that there is something natural, universal and inevitable about this arrangement.

As a result, some suggest that a year of Covid-19 may undo decades worth of progress toward gender equity in America, that even after the pandemic is brought under control, a generation of working mothers will never recover what they lost.

It makes you wonder: How meaningful was the progress we’ve made in the last three decades, if it can be undone so quickly and so ferociously?

Pandemics make visible what’s been hidden; they illuminate the connections between us, the dependencies we’d rather not acknowledge. I thought of this word, “dependencies,” when, a few months ago, I stumbled upon another startling statistic related to family life under Covid-19. It turns out that in the United States, the survival rate of infants, the most dependent age group of all, has gone way up during the pandemic. There are reports that premature births, one leading cause of infant mortality, fell significantly in the early months of lockdowns, when women in their final trimester of pregnancy were able to do something many of them cannot afford to do in normal times: Stay home from work.

Additionally, some suggest there have been protective benefits to infants of more attentive, home-based child care, with less exposure to the viruses and infections that circulate in institutional settings.

This highlights what many mothers and child specialists have long sensed but aren’t supposed to say: that whether the primary care taker is a mother, a father, an extended family member or a close friend, newborns and infants do better in homes. We don’t talk about this, we barely acknowledge it, because if we did, we’d have a moral obligation to provide financial support to make it possible for all babies. We would have to acknowledge the social value of infant care and child rearing and empower parents to provide that care in the way they think is best for their children.

We might even have to reconsider our idealization of the nuclear family, which we’ve now seen cannot really function without the support of broken institutions, to make way for the notion that raising children is a communal obligation, of benefit not just to an individual woman or couple trying “to have it all,” but to society at large.

I’m not optimistic about these changes. They would require a new feminism, one that understands that the politics of motherhood are inherently intersectional for the simple reason that while not all women have or want children, those who do come from every race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background. It would be a feminism grounded in solidarity as opposed to “success.”

Rather than a frantic return to normalcy when the pandemic ends, we would need to embrace more sustainable, inclusive models of women’s empowerment, buttressed by truly progressive policies like health care for all, paid leave for anyone caring for a baby and a universal basic income for anyone raising children in the home.

A friend of mine who has been un-schooling her daughter for years (un-schooling is a form of home-schooling that involves teaching children based on their interests rather than a set curriculum) pointed out that some of the people least psychologically affected by the pandemic are those who “don’t expect the systems to work or to protect them, and have gained other survival strategies and ways or organizing and thinking about existence: home-schoolers, for instance, but also people living in communal housing situations or with extended family, people who have figured out how to live without working the way a lot of us feel we have to work.”

Perhaps, she suggested, rather than hurrying back to normal life, “we should see what we can learn from those who have successfully resisted it.”

Another friend, a single mother who runs a gardening nursery and lives in a tiny house with her daughter, told me she wouldn’t have been able to survive this year without the support of her best friend. She lives nearby, is also a single mother, and the two of them instantly formed their own small bubble.

For her, the pandemic has crystallized her long-brewing feelings about the unworkability of the status quo. She has taken this year to further develop her plans for a woman-centered communal living project. She imagines a place where women in different ages and stages of life might come to live and share the work of child-rearing and care taking.

When I asked her why she thought more of these kinds of places didn’t already exist, she answered bluntly: “Because America and the world would collapse in 20 seconds if women were showing up for each other instead of being exploited for every form of labor.”

People sometimes accuse her of misandry, but the project has nothing to do with wanting to “escape men,” she told me. “I just want to live with and raise children with and be neighbors with people I can count on, people who have my back, people who take care of me when I need help and vice versa. In my own experience, that’s been women.”

She also added that the idea is hardly unprecedented: “It’s basically what a lot of women of color and women who are immigrants have been doing all along, because they’ve had no choice. They’ve learned how to support each other beyond the nuclear family in order to survive in an institutionally racist, xenophobic culture. White, middle-class women should be learning from these women. They shouldn’t be our babysitters. They should be our role models.”

By the time she gets her commune off the ground, my kids will be grown. But I still asked her to reserve me a spot. In fact it was right after talking to her, after imagining what life might be in this kind of community and how different it would be from the reality we live in, that I decided to curl up with a pint of ice cream, some newly legal, recreational marijuana, and spend the evening watching “Baby Boom” and “Aliens.” I recommend this double feature to any mother struggling to make sense of what’s happened to her life in the past nine months, or any parent trying to figure out how we got here and where we should go next.

Both movies tell a story about the anxieties of their era, a moment when mothers were abandoning the hearth for broader horizons while their country did nothing to support them or their children. “Baby Boom” seems like the more relatable movie, but really it’s a fairy tale — not because it’s about a woman who manages to “have it all,” but because she manages to do it on her own.

As we limp toward the end of this terrible year, “Aliens” feels more realistic. The film’s hero is a mother trapped in a hostile hells cape that is fundamentally incompatible with the basic human urge to love and protect the young. It is beyond belief that she and her young charge manage to survive. Like most mothers, she is stronger and more resilient than anyone could have guessed.


Reinforcing Respect: Considering dignity in the Rohingya humanitarian response

By Mohammad Azizul Hoque and Jessica Olney

In our work as researchers with the Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ), BRAC University, we strive to understand refugee community concerns, which we share in turn with the humanitarians and decision-makers. From June to November 2020, 30 Rohingya refugee volunteers working with us under CPJ's Refugee Studies Unit in Cox's Bazar consulted over 3,000 other camp residents to address emerging concerns and questions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One frequent complaint from the refugees is about the lack of consultation by humanitarian actors and the failure to reflect community concerns in programme planning and implementation. There is a perception that community feedback is inadequately collected and reflected in programming and aid distribution. As one Rohingya woman shared, "Humanitarian agencies never come listening to our opinions and preferences. We have said that we dislike lentils and certain other foods. Nevertheless, they have yet to replace them with other items." Another Rohingya man said, "Even though we complain frequently, NGOs do not respond to our needs and challenges, which makes us feel as if we are not esteemed."

While NGO staff do sometimes undertake a cursory consultative process, there is insufficient communication to explain if and how community requests end up reflected in programme planning. Refugees are unclear whether agencies' priorities are simply pre-identified—the legacies of a cookie-cutter approach in which identical programming is carried out across different humanitarian responses globally—or whether they do indeed have the right to voice their needs and have them responded to. They want to know that NGOs recognise them as dignified human beings, instead of as passive beneficiaries of aid.

NGOs face many unavoidable limitations in regard to their work with Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, such as the short time span allotted for aid projects, inadequate funding, donor demands, and a shortage of human resources. Despite these, respectful treatment should be placed at the heart of conversations around accountability of humanitarians to the affected population. Fortunately, matters of dignity and respect can always be addressed regardless of these restrictions. Humanitarian agencies can ensure that all staff are equipped with these soft skills as a matter of principle.

Rohingya respondents consulted by the CPJ volunteers emphasised specific social, religious and economic dimensions of dignity. Many of them view formal, polite speech and greetings as expressions of dignity. For instance, according to one Rohingya youth, "You don't need to give us a million dollars to make us happy… just soft behaviour and communication, with empathy and emotional support." Community members widely complained that field-level staff such as security guards sometimes shout at, verbally abuse and even physically hit refugees with sticks. This often happens in an effort to control crowds waiting in food ration distribution queues or at hospitals.

As a result, refugees—including those who are highly esteemed within their own community, such as elders and teachers—often feel insulted and demotivated to engage with humanitarian agencies to receive further services. The resulting lack of trust is compounded by a sense of resentment that arises as people see NGO staff holding higher social status, earning good salaries, and displaying wealth in the form of vehicles, clothes and equipment. Numerous camp residents have expressed to CPJ volunteers that they feel used by NGOs as a means to personal and organisational enrichment.

For the Rohingya, dignity is also linked with religious and cultural practices. Several respondents said that women's conservative lifestyle of staying inside the home is a matter of prestige. Thus, many camp residents say they would prefer gender-segregated queues during rations distributions. In instances where international norms around gender equity do not mesh well with traditional cultural norms, such as women being required to receive aid directly to ensure equitable distribution, these differences can and should be clearly explained to those who receive services by the responsible agencies.

Rohingya respondents also frequently complained about perceived poor treatment in camp health facilities. They explain that a patient's dignity is affected by the doctor or nurse's style of communication and the amount of time that he or she spends talking to a patient, listening with empathy and fostering a comforting interaction. Many Rohingya women also hesitate to receive medical treatment from male doctors. Again, women sometimes feel disrespected if they have to wait in queues with men to receive medical services.

The task of feeding and protecting nearly a million Rohingya, a population larger than that of Bhutan and many Western countries, is not a small one, and over 100 Bangladeshi and international NGOs are working from dawn to dusk across the 34 camps to uplift the lives of refugees. Despite their complaints, Rohingya do show ample gratitude to the government of Bangladesh and its people for their incredible support. A cookie-cutter approach was useful in the early stages of the humanitarian response, but a more responsive situational approach is now needed which is more conducive to meeting the expressed needs and preferences of the Rohingya.

The nature of authoritativeness and power distance between the NGO staff and beneficiaries, and bias due to stereotypes, prejudice and preconceived perceptions against the Rohingya, leads to discrimination that should be proactively addressed by those with the power to do so. Finally, while CPJ has not yet studied the ways in which similar dynamics transpire between host community beneficiaries and humanitarian actors, this is an additional area that should be addressed in the interest of overhauling asymmetrical power issues affecting dignity and respect across the aid response in Cox's Bazar.


Azizul Hoque is a Research Associate and Jessica Olney is a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the centre or the university.


Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party? I Hope So

By Thomas L. Friedman

Dec. 22, 2020

As the Trump presidency heads into the sunset, kicking and screaming, one of the most important questions that will shape American politics at the local, state and national levels is this: Can Donald Trump maintain his iron grip over the Republican Party when he is out of office?

This is what we know for sure: He damn well intends to try and is amassing a pile of cash to do so. And here is what I predict: If Trump keeps delegitimizing Joe Biden’s presidency and demanding loyalty for his extreme behavior, the G.O.P. could fully fracture — splitting between principled Republicans and unprincipled Republicans. Trump then might have done America the greatest favor possible: stimulating the birth of a new principled conservative party.

Santa, if you’re listening, that’s what I want for Christmas!

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But here’s why it’s not entirely fanciful: If Trump refuses to ever acknowledge Biden’s victory and keeps roasting those Republicans who do — and who “collaborate” with the new administration — something is going to crack.

There will be increasing pressure on the principled Republicans — people like Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and the judges, election officials and state legislators who put country before party and refused to buckle under Trump’s demands — to break away and start their own conservative party.

If that happens, the unprincipled Trump Republicans — like the 126 House members who joined with the Texas attorney general in a shameful Supreme Court case to nullify Biden’s victory — could have a harder time winning office. That would be a good thing in its own right.

More important, even if just a few principled conservatives came together and created a kind of third party in Congress, they could be kingmakers. With the Senate so finely balanced, moderates on each side have significant leverage.

We just saw that with the relief bill negotiations, which Trump, on cue, is now threatening to undo. It was the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus — coalesced by the centrist movement No Labels — and an informal bipartisan group of senators that produced the deal from the bottom up.

Imagine Biden’s center-left Democrats and principled center-right conservatives working together on fixes for infrastructure, immigration, Obamacare or climate — without Trump around to disrupt any progress.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But one thing I learned covering the Middle East is that there is only one reliable thing about extremists — they don’t know when to stop. So, in the end, they almost always go over the cliff, taking a lot of people with them.

Donald Trump is a political extremist. He does not stop at red lights. He does not abide by norms, ethics or the truth. As a result, his huge disinformation campaign against Biden’s election, and his attacks on Republican officeholders and right-wing media that won’t parrot his lies and conspiracy theories, is already fracturing the party at the state level in places like Georgia and Arizona.

It’s drawing a sharp distinction between principled Republicans who chose to put their constitutional obligations before Trump’s interests and the unprincipled ones who either are too cowardly to speak up or eagerly hopped into the Trump clown car to secure his blessings for their next election.

Think of two recent images. The first is of the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on Dec. 15 briskly walking past a CNN reporter who was asking him a simple question: Would he acknowledge that Joe Biden was the president-elect? McCarthy was too cowardly or too unprincipled to answer.

If you’re a Republican lawmaker, do you really want to spend the next four years running away from CNN every time you’re asked to opine about the latest demented thing Donald Trump has said or done — because you’re afraid that he’ll launch a primary attack against you with his devoted base if you show integrity?

The contrasting image is of Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey. It’s Dec. 1 and Ducey is literally signing the papers certifying his state’s election results and officially awarding Biden its 11 electors — ignoring Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in Arizona.

Ducey’s cellphone rings, but it is no ordinary ringtone. It is “Hail to the Chief,” a ringtone Ducey installed in July so that he would never miss a call from Trump. But this time Ducey simply takes the phone out of his pocket, silences it, puts it aside and goes on signing the papers.

According to a report in The Hill, “Trump later called into a hearing with state Republicans that was happening during the certification” and “tore into Ducey,” declaring, “Arizona will not forget what Ducey just did.” Trump was right, but not in the way he predicted.

On Saturday, CNN described the civil war that has broken out in Arizona: “G.O.P. party leaders and elected officials who’ve gone all-in for Trump, backed by right-wing media, have relentlessly attacked those who can’t bring themselves to go along with the lame-duck president’s refusal to concede. To be sure, similar splits exist across the G.O.P. nationwide. But the infighting in Arizona offers a clear picture of why some Republicans fear that if Trump continues stirring up and directing his followers once he’s out of office, the party may cripple itself at the state and local level.”

The story added: “‘Some Republicans have decided to file for divorce from reality, facts be damned,’ said Barrett Marson, a publicist who worked for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s political action committee. … Perhaps most notable in the subsequent salvos was a tweet from the governor’s chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, to ‘Freedom Caucus’ chair Rep. Andy Biggs calling him nuts and ending, ‘Enjoy your time as a permanent resident of Crazytown.’”

To be sure, calling Ducey a “principled Republican” is a low bar, considering that he had no problem backing Trump all the way until now. Unlike other Trump-friendly Republicans, though, he was ready to draw a constitutional redline he would not cross.

But every day that goes by Trump shows us that as his power decreases, he surrounds himself with more and more unprincipled crackpots, who fan his delusions and propose more and more extreme actions, like Michael Flynn’s neofascist suggestion of declaring martial law and rerunning the election in some states Trump lost.

Therefore, the stress that Trump creates will surely get only worse after he leaves the White House, when, to stay relevant, he’ll need to say ever more extreme things that keep his base — now fully marinated in his conspiracy theories — energized and ready to attack any principled Republican who deviates from Trump. Also, all those Fox News commentators who prostituted themselves to Trump (and their ratings), helping to make his extreme base even more extreme, can’t stop now. They’ll lose their audience.

They’re all extremists who can’t stop, and principled conservatives understand that. Listen to Evan McMullin, the former C.I.A. operations officer and later chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, who resigned in 2016 to run for president as an independent:

“Even though Mr. Trump has been defeated, there is still no home for Republicans committed to representative government, truth and the rule of law, nor is one likely to emerge anytime soon,” wrote McMullin in this newspaper. “So what’s next for Republicans who reject their party’s attempts to incinerate the Constitution in the service of one man’s authoritarian power grabs? … The answer is that we must further develop an intellectual and political home, for now, outside of any party. From there, we can continue working with other Americans to defeat Mr. Trump’s heirs, help offer unifying leadership to the country and, if the Republican Party continues on its current path, launch a party to challenge it directly.”

Call me mad, but my gut tells me that when Trump is just the monarch of Mar-a-Lago — just spewing venom — some Republicans will say “enough.” Somewhere in there a new party of principled conservatives might just get born.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But what a blessing that would be for America.


Entering the Anthropocene Era in a Befitting Manner

By Saleemul Huq

December 23, 2020

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been a pioneer in terms of developing the Human Development Index (HDI), which is a more balanced way of measuring human development that goes beyond traditional, simple economic indicators of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They have also been publishing an annual Human Development Report (HDR) which tracks every country's HDI each year. Each year's report also has a theme to it, and the 2015 HDR was on the theme of Climate Change and Human Development, which I had the privilege of contributing to.

The 2020 HDR has just been launched and the theme this year is Development in the age of the Anthropocene. I am sure that most readers will not know what this word means, as it comes from the realm of geology and environmental studies. For those of us working in the environment arena, it is a term that we have become familiar with, as we are entering a new geological era where human beings are affecting the planet at a scale that has never been possible before. This new era can be a force for good but unfortunately, it is more a force for bad than good at the moment. Hence, we need to develop a major paradigm shift in terms of how we value what really matters as we develop. The 2020 HDR has shown very convincingly that even for countries that have gone up the HDI in terms of enhanced development, they have done so at the expense of their own environment. The paradigm shift that is therefore needed is to make sure that HDI is combined with environmental considerations at the same time.

Therefore, business as usual is no longer good enough and going forward, we need to develop a new normal for decision-making where economic indicators are not the only ones to consider. We need to give equal value to equity and social capital, as well as environmental protection and climate change considerations.

How can we make this paradigm shift? At the global level, we need to make a paradigm shift for each and every individual on the planet to think of oneself as a citizen of planet Earth first and of our country second. This was never true before we entered the Anthropocene era but is now necessary.

At the national level, in Bangladesh, we can indeed be proud that our Parliament was one of the first to declare a planetary emergency. This was not just a climate change emergency similar to what other Parliaments had done, but the recognition of climate change and biodiversity loss together to create a planetary emergency. While this is an excellent example, it does not mean anything if it doesn't lead to more substantive changes in the way we do things in the country in practice.

Another positive feature of Bangladesh is its excellent planning systems under the leadership of the Planning Commission, who have prepared the Delta Plan to 2100 and the 2041 Prospective Plan as well as the regular five year plans, of which the 8th Five Year Plan will start from next year. All these plans have actually taken environmental and social issues into consideration in a very thoughtful manner. However, the problem is again with not being able to implement the plans in a manner that actually delivers the promises made in the plans.

There are two very important opportunities for Bangladesh in the immediate future to make this paradigm shift. The first is to do with the soon to be opened Padma Bridge linking the southwestern region of the country with the capital, which will lead to significant development. But if we leave it to the business as usual practice, then we will see haphazard industrial and commercial development around the Sundarbans mangrove forest, which is a world heritage site that Bangladesh is responsible for conserving, not only for ourselves but for the whole world. We need to ensure that only nature-based solutions (NBS) are allowed to be invested in that region and prevent the way things are going now. If we fail to take action immediately, it will not be possible to reverse things later.

The second opportunity we need to make a very quick paradigm shift on is the development of Dhaka city towards the east. While expansion of the capital city to accommodate its rapidly growing population is essential, the way it is done matters a great deal. The whole of the Dhaka region sits on a very substantial series of connected wetlands of rivers, canals and big and small water bodies. The current part of Dhaka city is built over those water bodies and has meant that we have to suffer flooding due to drainage congestion whenever we have a heavy downpour. If the expansion towards the east takes the same path of building over the hundreds of existing water bodies, then we will have learned nothing from our mistakes. The most important point is that the Dhaka Plan is aware of this and we have laws against destroying our wetlands, but that does not stop dishonest developers from breaking the laws and getting away with it. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Finally, let me end on an optimistic note which is to do with the youth, especially the girls of our country. They are, in my opinion, by far the biggest assets in our country and we need to invest in them in a non "business as usual" manner. This will not require a single additional Taka or Dollar, but will in fact require a major paradigm shift in our approach to education. We need to turn away from the rote learning approach and make our young people citizens of planet Earth and problem-solvers, not just for our own country but for all of humanity. This may sound ambitious but it is entirely doable if we make the decision to do so.

Bangladesh thus has the opportunity to show the rest of the world what it means to enter the Anthropocene era in a befitting manner.


Dr Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University Bangladesh.


2020 Has Been A Year Of Nature-Based Solutions.

By Haseeb Md Irfanullah

December 24, 2020

In 2020, Nature-based Solutions, or NbS, has emerged as a much-talked-about environmental concept in Bangladesh. While the Covid-19 pandemic has put the whole world in turmoil, we do have other challenges to tackle—climate emergency, disaster risks, food and water insecurities, extreme poverty, and unprecedented biodiversity loss. In simple terms, NbS are the actions we take with the help of nature to overcome these societal challenges.

When we protect our ecosystems like forests and wetlands, sustainably manage their resources, restore them when these are in bad shape, or create a new one to get its services, we practice NbS. But we perform these activities keeping in mind one or more societal challenges, like climate change. And, most importantly, we design and implement our activities in a way that they improve our wellbeing and also give biodiversity benefits.

So, we can see that NbS is not a completely new idea. It is rather a recent attempt to bring together different existing nature-based activities and approaches—like establishing protected areas like the Sundarbans, creating a "green belt" along our coastline since 1965, participatory management of Hakaluki haor, or ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change in Satkhira—under one umbrella called NbS.

As I look back now, I see three milestones generating strong interest in NbS in Bangladesh in 2020.

First, NbS activities in Bangladesh now have a go-to platform—the NbS Bangladesh web portal (—thanks to the collaboration between the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and the University of Oxford, UK. This portal has created a good opportunity to bring together cases and documents capturing Bangladesh's long NbS experience in the form of peer-reviewed research papers, grey literature, and relevant policy and planning instruments.

The ICCCAD-Oxford initiative has also established the NbS Bangladesh Network. By being part of this network, interested individuals and organisations can take forward the NbS conversation in Bangladesh, share experiences, and undertake joint actions.

The second milestone is an improved understanding of NbS in Bangladesh through discussions and publications. The first webinar on NbS was organised by ICCCAD in May, giving the audience an opportunity to learn about NbS and how to harness their benefits. The American Center's NbS webinar provided a platform for sharing NbS experiences from experts from Bangladesh Forest Department, UNDP, and the Center for Natural Resource Studies. The "NbS Digital Dialogues" organised by the University of Oxford was this year's largest global NbS event. In the session on people's participation in NbS, Bangladesh government's 20-year effort to sustainably manage Tanguar haor was showcased, which was later captured in an op-ed by The Daily Star in August.

The ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis started its fourth year on August 25, 2020. An opinion piece in The Daily Star highlighted the nature-based actions that different agencies were taking in the highly degraded camp areas through plantation, hilly slope and stream bank stabilisation, and wetland creation, for example.

In September, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a brief entitled "Rethinking Nature: A Pathway towards Sustainable Development?" Written by two Bangladeshi environmentalists, this article showed that NbS is not only about climate action (SDG 13) or biodiversity conservation (SDGs 14 and 15), but also about improving urban resilience (SDG 11), community empowerment and ensuring gender equality (SDGs 1, 2 and 5), promoting sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12), and achieving economic growth (SDG 8).

Young environmentalists working in different research organisations showed increasing interest in NbS. They tried to understand different aspects of it, like the role of indigenous knowledge in NbS, or NbS as an alternative development pathway for Bangladesh, and shared their understanding and thoughts on different platforms.

The third milestone took the NbS conversation to a higher level so that our policies and practices appreciate the benefits of ecosystem-based actions. Just before the Covid-19 lockdown, on March 15, a meeting was held at the Bangladesh Planning Commission with ICCCAD to discuss how NbS could be integrated in the country's planning processes, such as in the Eighth Five-Year Plan. An analysis presented in that discussion showed that Bangladesh was well ahead in appreciating nature-based actions and approaches as seen in the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100, Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP, 2009), the Seventh Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015. Among others, the participants recommended inclusion of NbS in government project formulation documents, like the Development Project Proforma (DPP), and establishing a NbS database to guide planners and practitioners to choose appropriate nature-based solutions and include them in development projects and programmes.

In August, the ICCCAD and the University of Oxford analysed the NbS scenarios in Bangladesh from the perspectives of knowledge, practice, policy, and planning. Their policy brief, entitled "A Roadmap for Nature-based Solutions in Bangladesh: Promises and Challenges", gives us a comprehensive direction towards nature-based actions for Bangladesh.

The UK holds the presidency of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to be held in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. The UK has long been a partner of Bangladesh in fighting climate change, which has gained further momentum in 2020. On December 8 and 9, the UK-Bangladesh Climate Partnership Forum brought together experts, practitioners, and politicians from both countries in two webinars to discuss the experiences, challenges, and opportunities they share on nature-based solutions and approaches to fight climate change.

Despite the restrictions and limitations imposed by the pandemic, it has been a promising year for raising the profile of NbS as a concept in Bangladesh. So, what awaits us in 2021?

There are a number of events already lined up to continue the NbS conversation. The first Gobeshona Global Conference (January 18-24, 2021) will have NbS as one of its central themes. The University of Oxford is organising a NbS conference in July where Bangladesh's experience is expected to be highlighted. Given that NbS is one of the core themes of the COP26, we can expect more activities in Bangladesh in this regard leading up to November 2021.

In terms of creating new knowledge of NbS, a number of ongoing research projects are expected to give us more understanding of and insight into Bangladesh's NbS, once these are complete. We may also expect the NbS Bangladesh Network to gain further momentum and contribute towards evidence-informed policy discussions.

Regarding broader policy and strategic planning scopes, we believe the Eighth Five-Year Plan will maintain its focus on nature-based approaches as it did in the Seventh Five-Year Plan. The projects to be designed under the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 will include NbS, as discussed on March 15 at the Bangladesh Planning Commission. Bangladesh is currently preparing the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) with support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Given the country's long-term commitment and experience with nature to protect its people from climate change impacts, NbS should be one of the core adaptation approaches of the "Bangladesh NAP" due in May 2021. We also expect that the revised NDC, to be submitted to the UNFCCC by December 31, will keep NbS as the core actions as Bangladesh updates its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

While we show our enthusiasm in using nature to solve our problems, we must be careful not to interpret the NbS concept wrongly. NbS means creating forests with diverse species and maintain biodiversity, not planting the same species mile after mile. NbS must empower the indigenous and local people and engage them in their design and implementation, and must not be injected from the outside. NbS is not the ultimate solution to climate change by reducing carbon from our air, however. Without rapidly decarbonising our economy and adopting clean energy strategies, it is impossible to survive the climate crisis. As we continue the conversation in 2021, we must be careful about possible misapplication and abuse of the NbS concept.


Dr. Haseeb Md. Irfanullah is an independent consultant working on environment, climate change, and research systems.



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