Reports from Dhaka, 2:

See also Dhaka meetings, part 1

Meeting with researchers at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, 21 March, 2002

Web page: http://www.bids-bd.org

Present at the meeting:

• Dr. M. Asaduzzaman, Research Director and acting Director. He is interested in rural development, micro-finance, global agricultural trade issues, environment, rural energy, and networking issues.
• Dr. Rita Afsar, interested in urbanisation and migration. She has written a research proposal along with Alia Ahmad at Lund University on social capital. She also gave us a research proposal, which we will have a look at comment upon.
• Dr. Atiur Rahman, senior research fellow, head of the Human Resource Division, interested in environment, informal economies, and participatory development. He presented a paper on ethnic nationalism at the NASA meeting at Møn, Denmark in 1992, where Staffan met him. He also came to Lund at that time and gave a lecture on the Grameen Bank. He is the Chairman of the NGO Unnayan Shamunnay, a non-profit Institute for research, development and cultural learning.
• Dr. Salma Chaudhuri Zohir, research fellow, got her PhD from Manchester and was guided by Diana Elson on a four year scholarship from Sida SAREC. She works on gender, industry, garment workers, etc, and also has some collaboration with IDS.
• Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, presently on leave to work with the NGO Power and Participation Research Centre. Staffan met him in Manchester somewhere in the early 1980s along with Lisbeth Arn, and he also visited Lund in that connection. He has written his thesis on material from Noakhali, and is currently a resource person for the Danish evaluation of the Noakhali project (Sten Folke and Kirsten Westergaard). He was in Copenhagen in December.

Other researchers from the institute present at the meeting:
Dr K.A.S. Murshid, Economics; Dr. Mahmudul Alam, Education, Human Resource Division; Mr Serajul Islam Laskar, Economics and Demography; Mr Md. Mizanur Rahman; Mr Kazi Jahid Hossain; Dr. Kazi Ali Toufique, webmaster; Dr. Anwara Begum, Urban poverty; Mr. A.B.M. Shamsul Islam, Population studies; Mr. Wajid Hasan Shah, Economics; and Mr. Md. Anwarul Islam.
The general impression is that economists and demographers dominate the BIDS staff. We presented the important features of SASNET and the gateway for them, after which a discussion followed:

1. Prof. Asaduzzaman presented the two webpages that is currently maintained, the one presenting the institute, and the other the Gateway presenting the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (see separate report below).
2. Dr. Afsar asked about the scope for collaboration with Swedish researchers and funding possibilities. Staffan answered that there are some possibilities for funding Asian scholars in a research programme, like the Swedish Research Links Programme with Sida/SAREC.
3. Dr. Afsar also asked about the possibility of getting travel grants, and our answer was that SASNET can only give travel grants in connection with Planning and Networking grants.
4. Dr. Afsar asked for help in getting competent referees, especially in non-economic disciplines. Staffan answered that we will try to help.
5. A question was raiswed about possibilities for higher studies in Sweden, and taking courses in special subjects, PhD courses, etc. Staffan informed about the Sandwich system developed in some institutions in Sweden, financed by Sida/SAREC.
6. Dr. Zillur Rahman suggested that one possible collaboration could be in managing the upper end of the research process in terms of copyrights and publication of results (management of knowledge). He mentioned the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP), based at Bergen, Norway, as an example. The question is how to market ideas from research in the South and how to establish ownership.

Meeting with the gateway personnel at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, BIDS, Thursday 21 March

Md. Abdul Hakim, EPD Manager
Md. Hakikur Rahman, PhD, Project Co-ordinator

After our meeting with the professors at BIDS we went to see the production of web pages for the BIDS web site. Here is also produced an excellent web site in collaboration with, and most probably also financed by UNDP, United Nations Development Programme. This web site presents the Sustainable Development Networking Programme Bangladesh (SDNBD), and is found at http://www.sdnbd.org.
It is a tremendously rich site providing material on many different aspects of Bangladeshi society and all development problems that the country faces.
Four people are now employed at the department; one webmaster, two researchers; and one technician, and the equipment is quite modern. The communication is fast, because it is based on satellite links, not on telephone lines. A lot of effort to collect relevant material, which then is edited by the staff here. Mr Rahman mentioned that a copy of the printed catalogue of the medical corps in Bangladesh – which is not available on the Internet – had just been bought and was now scanned, after which the information will be presented on the web site.

Among the most interesting features on the SDNBD gateway is the Library Search, which is a useful catalogue of books available at a number of Bangladeshi research libraries, including the SNDBP Virtual library. In this connection we told them about the discussions about putting working papers from the entire world available on the web, in which SASNET has been involved along with NIAS in Copenhagen, and other Scandinavian institutions.
Another interesting feature is the extensive local news service which SDNBD is able to provide through an agrement with the Bangladesh Press Club. This institution provides SDNBD with fresh news every morning, compiled from 22 different Bangladeshi newspapers and other news sources.
Mr Rahman who is the driving force behind the work was pleased to see the SASNET gateway, which we demonstrated for him. He offered us all possible help in further co-operation in developing our web site.
Similar web sites giving information on developmental and environmental aspects of South Asian countries are available on the Internet. Concerning the entire SAARC region it is is found at www.rainbowsaarc.org, for Pakistan at www.propoor.org, and concerning India it is supposed to be found at a site named Oneworld.

Meeting with Prof. Dr. Raquib Ahmed, Geography and Environmental Studies, Rajshahi University

Dr. Raquib Ahmed had previously written to SASNET and was very keen on seeing us while we were in Bangladesh. Therefore he came down from Rajshahi (six hours away by bus). Rajshahi, the fourth largest city in the country with a population of 500 000 people, has the second largest university in Bangladesh.
Dr. Ahmed is interested in land use and environmental issues, uses the GIS system, and has developed data base management systems. He is also interested in early warning systems, and has done some work in Vietnam on that. Other areas of interest: Environment and land use change; Forest degradation at Sundarbans; and the effects of shrimp farming

Dr Ahmed studied for his PhD in Mysore, India, and has connection with the Remote Sensing Institute in Dehra Dun. He has contacts with Anders Närman and Peter Pilesjö, and visited Göteborg in December 1999. He also visited Kelaniya University in July last year and met with Prof Kamal Karunanayake and others.
He now wants a sandwich programme to strengthen his M Phil and PhD programme, courses, library, etc.

Meeting with Prof. Ishrat Shamim, Chairperson, Dept. of Sociology, Dhaka University

Prof. Ishrat Shamim, visited us and gave some pamphlets and reports on her work with an NGO, Centre for Women and Children Studies. She has worked on children´s problems for a long time, and also on women’s participation in local governance since 1996, that is, concerning the local bodies like Uppazilla panchayats, in which one third of the members are supposed to be women. Those of them who are members of the NGOs do well, while others have no voice at all, being patronised by the men.
She mentioned three networks:
• EU and Least developed countries, with one focal point in Dhaka.
• World Bank and Developing Countries Network (DNG) funding networks
• South Asia Network with a centre in New Delhi, which funds research activities. She had participated along with Indian researchers in one such network.
She promised to send information about these links.

Meeting with Prof. Gyasuddin Molla, Political Science, Dhaka University

Prof. Gyasuddin Molla invited us for lunch. He and his his wife, who is also a political scientist working in a government college, live in an apartment in the Dhaka University compound.
Prof. Molla did his PhD in Bombay and has after that visited many countries, such as Germany, US, Japan, Sweden etc. Currently he is engaged in a comparative study of South and Southeast Asia and may go to Japan this summer to finish a book. His thesis related to the food aid given to Bangladesh, and it showed how the US food aid during the 1970s was deliberately used as an instrument to promote a government of their liking, that was, not the party of the liberation war. He has also written one study on Panchayati Raj and decentralisation. He said that the previous government instituted local village governments called Gram Sarkar, but the current government has abolished these institutions.
Prof Molla is also very interested in studying ethnic insurgency in South Asia and we suggested him to contact Björn Hettne at Göteborg University.

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