Cindy Huang and Kate Gough
Bangladesh is providing a significant global public good by hosting nearly one million Rohingya refugees, including 700,000 who fled violence carried out with “genocidal intent” in 2017. Most refugees are living in camps in Cox’s Bazar District, where local resources and livelihoods are under strain. The situation has exacerbated development challenges and environmental degradation, such as inadequate public services and rapid deforestation.
Safe, voluntary, and sustainable Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar is ultimately the best solution. However, the conditions for return do not exist, and Myanmar has not demonstrated meaningful progress in establishing them. Even if conditions did exist and voluntary repatriation began tomorrow, estimates show a large number of Rohingya will still be in Cox’s Bazar 10 years from now. The refugee situation is likely to be protracted. Medium-term planning is critical.
The international community has an opportunity to recognize Bangladesh’s contributions through a robust responsibility-sharing process. In addition to humanitarian aid, this would include commitments that support development among host communities, as well as broader regional and national development strategies. There is precedent for development financing and beyond-aid solutions for refugees and host communities, such as in the Jordan, Lebanon, and Ethiopia Compacts. These agreements seek to meet the medium-term needs and generate inclusive growth for refugees and hosts, including through policy adjustments that enable self-reliance and reduce aid dependence.
This brief explores the potential range of responsibility-sharing commitments in support of Bangladesh. It does not address the separate and equally important issues of securing justice and accountability for Myanmar’s alleged atrocities and establishing the necessary conditions in Myanmar for safe, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation—nor does it make recommendations on the humanitarian response, which remains essential.
This brief focuses exclusively on the medium-term, development-oriented approach. It covers several categories of contribution and commitment types, including trade and investment, labor mobility, SEZ and infrastructure investment, private sector investment, resettlement, and development and climate finance. Each category includes illustrative examples, some of which are specific to one or a subset of UN Member States and others that are more broadly applicable. Geopolitical factors surrounding the Rohingya situation and potential responsibility-sharing commitments are also discussed.
Building on this mapping, we will prepare a full report in 2019. The report will highlight a subset of anchor contributions that could build momentum for a responsibility-sharing process that delivers a “win-win-win” for refugees, host communities, and Bangladesh’s broader development objectives.