Integrating SDG14 and Blue Economy into the next Five-Year Plan in Bangladesh

Recently after being asked by the officials of Planning Commission in Bangladesh, I and Professor Dr. Kazi Ahsan Habib of Aquatic Bio-resource Lab at the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University have submitted a Concept Note about how the government can integrate SDG14 and Blue Economy into the next Fiver-Year Plan. Following is a summary of the Concept Note.

As a highly climate-vulnerable country, Bangladesh needs to focus on building resilient communities. To do that, particularly in Low Elevation Coastal Zones (LECZ), SDG14 targets and Blue Economy offer windows for the public agencies to mobilize resources; as both are the priorities of the public agencies since the last couple of years. But the progress made in the Blue Economy sector is very negligible, it is not even integrated into any long term plan yet. In this context, the next 8th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) is an excellent opportunity to integrate SDG14 and Blue Economy in national planning.

Healthy coastal and marine ecosystems, and protection of biodiversity could be the main powerhouses to build resilient communities through creating new job opportunities and social benefits. There are lots of options for people-based solutions where it’s possible to do more with the less in coastal and marine conservation. So, for Bangladesh, mobilizing resources is not the main challenge, rather the most important tasks are to building capacity in terms of knowledge, trained human resources, and policies towards integrating Blue Economy into long term national planning such as the next FYP.

The goal 14 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’ can be the best available source of framework for a national pathway to incorporate blue economy in the 8th FYP, because SDG 14 targets are focused on increasing knowledge and research capacities as well as the transfer of technologies. The public agencies already have a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of SDGs. If necessary, a separate Monitoring and Evaluation Framework of Blue Economy can be adopted once setting the targets are done.

Based on recommendations made at the 2nd Marine Conservation and Blue Economy Symposium held in Dhaka in 2017, we think the aforementioned targets should be included in the 8th FYP to make progress towards a ‘blue economy’ in Bangladesh.

Major Core Targets: Building an Ocean-literate citizenry, and reviving coastal economies through the restoration of ecosystems.

Poverty: To reduce extreme poverty in the coastal region, and to create good jobs for the underemployed populations; resources should be allocated to restore Chakoria Sundarbans and other ecologically collapsed or degraded habitats through private land-owner conservation schemes.

Fisheries: To reduce extreme poverty and offer good jobs through leveraging fisheries sub-sector, first, public investment should be mobilized to make sure that millions of fishers either own their necessary boats and gears or they are employed as fish workers. Secondly, Similar to large scale industrial fishing, marine commercial fishing also should be recognized as a formal economic sector, and taxations should be extended to it (prior to that, a classification and certification process need to be completed to identify and classify recreational, subsistence, artisanal, and commercial fishing); and third, initiating the process for sustainable certification of marine industrial fishing with any of the global certification consortium.

Transportation and communication: First, building necessary infrastructures and implementing Ballast Water Management in all seaports. Secondly, ensuring all coastal embankments, roads, and protection infrastructures are compliant with ‘living shoreline’ standards; and third, reclaiming and maintaining the intra-coastal waterways in the central and western coast, and the greater Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin areas.

Environmental sustainability: Creation of an autonomous institution to operate a public grant mechanism for coastal and marine research and extension. It will ensure that public agencies have continuous knowledge and community support through the works of a next-generation professional workforce in participatory conservation.

Urban settlements: In light of rising sea level and extreme weather events, there should be sectorial targets to re-build coastal and riparian urban settlements as ‘Ocean friendly’ using new and modified public and private infrastructures.

Energy and infrastructure: A reasonably ambitious target should be set for marine renewable energy generation.

We hope our proposal will be useful for the Planning Commission to integrate SDGs and Blue Economy into the 8th Five-Year Plan more effectively. We also call on the Civil Society Organizations, Educational, and Research Institutions to work together to help public agencies to achieve the goals of a sustainable blue economy.

Why should affiliative leadership be a priority in environmental organizations?

In August, we participated in a discussion about ‘Being a Self Aware and Adaptive Leader’ organized under an Exchange Program at Georgetown University. In our group, we were more than half a dozen people from different countries discussing our experience and opinion about leading teams under different circumstances in culturally diverse spaces. Facilitated by famous Deidre Combs of Combs and Company, we were given Daniel Goleman’s six styles of leadership (Goleman, 2000) as a reference. Here’s a PDF file summarizing Goleman’s classification.

I asked the fellows about which leadership styles they have found as best suitable for environmental organizations. The responses were diverse, but there was a consensus about one thing that each of this styles has different purposes to serve in different circumstances. Which means, according to my fellow leaders, no single style is adequate for an organization. Having said that, one of our fellow Firuza Gulayozova prioritized about ‘affiliative’ leadership style in environmental conservation.

Based on her experience in Tajikistan she thinks for organizations engaged in environmental conservation, adopting ‘affiliative’ leadership style is very necessary. This observation intrigued me, and we talked about it later again, on another occasion. So, thought before I forget, I should write it down.

Personally, until very recently, I didn’t think of any particular leadership style. I have led a few collective endeavors in mass communication, civil and human rights, and conservation with certain successes and a number of terrible disasters. Looking back at those times now, I see I was always relying on others to lead together. I still am; leading like a diver; slow and steady, and always looking out for each other. Because for me, more than to achieve some goals the important thing is working with people we love; works which we are passionate about.

Leading like a diver; slow and steady, and always looking out for each other.

Also, I am still not convinced that, we can effectively identify exclusive features of leadership to attribute them to a certain style or category. But, of course, for the sake of communication, we can’t avoid classifications and terms like these categories of style. So, the necessity of discussion on prioritizing ‘affiliative’ leadership style in conservation organization resonated with me to some extents. I hope, it is just not a confirmation bias for me.

Firuza’s professional focus is Tolerance and Conflict Resolution, and she is ‘an expert in youth psychology and has developed skills in listening to the problems of young people and helping them find solutions.’

For any organization, Firuza said, it is important that everyone has the scope to bring many ideas into the process; and, affiliative leadership is a very powerful tool to create such an institutional environment. The affiliative style is best for ‘supporting the team morally and make them feel useful and effective’, she said. She thinks the job of conservation groups is not easy because the main task is ‘working with people’, not otherwise. The team members in such organizations need the highest degree of mutual patience and support. And the affiliative style of leadership serves this purpose ‘very well’ under any circumstances.

I get it in a sense that, ‘conservation is about people’ approach needs to be first mainstreamed through the institutional process of conservation organizations. And, the leadership traits which we identify as ‘affiliative’ is based on ‘people come first’ mantra and recognizes that empathy, building relationships, and communication are very important emotional intelligence competencies. I think, maybe these are the things we need to prioritize to revive our conservation organizations which are in very badly affected by failing bureaucracy (‘commanding’ style?).

Reference

Goleman, D. (2000, March-April). Emotional Intelligence: Leadership That Gets Results. Harvard Business Review, pp. 82-83.