No development by destroying the existence-culture-livelihood of any community: NHRC Chairman

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Hill Voice, 20 October 2021, Dhaka: “Development is needed, but development is not desirable by destroying the hills and environment, existence, culture and livelihood of a community,” said Nasima Begum NDC, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

A day-long National Indigenous Human Rights Defenders Conference 2021 was held today (Wednesday, October 20) at the Liberation War Museum Auditorium in Dhaka by Kapaeeng Foundation with the support of the Netherlands Embassy under the slogan “Come forward to ensure the establishment of human rights and justice for Indigenous peoples”.

The conference was inaugurated by Nasima Begum NDC, Chairperson of the NHRC. Ambassador of the Netherlands Embassy in Bangladesh, Anna van Leeuwen, and General Secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum, Sanjeeb Drong, were present as special guests. The inaugural meeting was chaired by Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation while Project Coordinator Hiraman Talang delivered the welcome address at the conference.

Former MP Ushatan Talukder and ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda were present at the concluding session of the day-long conference.

Speaking as the chief guest, Nasima Begum said that human rights activists do protect human rights. The constitution ensures fundamental rights for all. She called on all to abide by the guidelines for the protection of human rights. Referring to the risks to the indigenous peoples, she said that development is needed but the development is not desirable as it destroys the mountain-nature environment, above all the existence-culture-livelihood of a community. Eviction from land is a big risk for indigenous peoples, she opined.

Regarding violence against indigenous women, she said not only indigenous women but also mainstream women are being abused. In this case, the NHRC is in favor of stopping all forms of violence against women. The Commission is even working to stop the ongoing sexual abuse of children and adolescents.

Annie van Leeuwen said, Bangladesh is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country. The Netherlands Embassy is working for the marginalized population of Bangladesh in collaboration with the partner organizations.

Sanjeeb Drong said the indigenous and marginalized people of the country are constantly being deprived. The NHRC continues to work against that deprivation, although he noted some of the Commission’s limitations.

In his speech, Pallab Chakma demanded the assurance and equal participation of the indigenous peoples in the implementation process of the SDGs.

During the day-long discussion of the conference, IPHRD members from different parts of the country shared their experiences in working for the establishment of human rights in the second session. The third session of the conference discussed a strategic plan for how the IPHRD network will work.

The conference was attended by more than 100 indigenous human rights defenders from across the country. Apart from indigenous peoples organizations, representatives of human rights organizations of the country were also present at the concluding session.

The conference adopted 13 recommendations or demands in the light of grassroots problems raised by the indigenous human rights defenders.

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