Yuko Tanaka, one of the JICA volunteers in Bangladesh during the 1980s said, “My life meant to live in Bangladesh. I just discovered I have ties to this nation after. I believe I was meant to live here. “I feel ‘perverse love’ for Bangladesh, which is to say that I become irritated when someone criticizes this nation,” she wrote. Michika Koga, another volunteer who manages waste for the Dhaka City Corporation, told that the warmth of the Bangladeshi people affected her and gave her the motivation to serve here.
Volunteers, according to JICA, are “one of the most promising engines” of Bangladesh-Japan bilateral relations. JICA runs a volunteer program that sends Japanese people to undeveloped countries to help with the local problems those countries are now facing. The volunteers collaborate closely with the citizens of the receiving nations and impart their expertise to the neighborhood. accelerating equitable and sustainable economic growth while lifting people out of poverty to transition to middle-income status. Hence, JICA seeks to address development concerns via collaboration with individuals to advance understanding in international cooperation and to further distribute the advantages of relationships with developing nations to local communities in Japan. Partnerships with NGOs and other organizations, working with local governments, and JICA’s volunteer programs are a few of these initiatives. Japan started sending volunteers abroad in 1965. They presently provide service to at least 72 nations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Oceania.
Since the first group of JICA volunteers was sent to Bangladesh 40 years ago, they have worked in a variety of fields and industries. Since then, like Yuko Tanaka and Michika Koga, thousands of JICA volunteers in Bangladesh are acting as the corners of Bangladesh-Japan’s ongoing robust ties. On February 10th, 1972, Japan officially recognized Bangladesh as the fourth nation, demonstrating its unflinching support for Bangladesh’s independence. This serves as a reminder of the degree of connection that exists between Bangladesh and Japan.
propitiously, Japan will start sending volunteers to Bangladesh in July 2023, seven years after the program was halted following the 2016 Gulshan café assault. At least seven Japanese nationals working for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) were killed in the incident, leading the organization to halt sending volunteers. However, Japan Embassy Second Secretary Yamamoto Kyohei said on Facebook that the application procedure for three Bangladeshi colleges near Dhaka has commenced in eight categories of vocations. Bangladesh is now one of the major partners among the more than 100 partner nations, according to Keiichiro Nakazawa, senior vice president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). Three Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers were sent to Bangladesh to launch J ICA’s operations in that country in 1973. Initially, the newly independent Bangladesh was dealing with severe food scarcity, making increasing food output a top priority. The volunteers started by working in the agricultural sector. They provided farmers with high-producing types of rice, vegetables, and fruits as well as mechanical farming, irrigation systems, contemporary vegetable growing practices, and advanced procedures. Now, more than 1150 volunteers have already arrived in Bangladesh and are working in nearly every sector, including health, education, and the environment as well as rural development. Markedly, the 50th anniversary of the JICA Volunteer’s Activities in Bangladesh and unrivaled friendship will be commemorated in 2023. Against such a backdrop, the resumption of JICA volunteers in Bangladesh not only reflects the growing ties between Bangladesh but also Japan’s increasing engagements in Bangladesh.
JICA Volunteer’s Profound Contribution to Bangladesh
The largest success of Bangladesh-Japan collaboration over the last 50 years has been the mutual trust and confidence that has been created between Bangladesh and Japan based on every effort of each concerned personnel. At first, Japanese volunteers focused initially on the development of Agriculture in Bangladesh. As a result, According to JICA, its volunteers introduced the hand-pump irrigation technology, as well as the growing of watermelons, cucumbers, and Japanese radish, in Bangladesh in 1979. Their volunteers have also introduced mushrooms. Subsequently, JICA expanded its key areas such as technical and technological Assistance is given to promote mutual support groups of poor people, as a means of improving people’s lives in every aspect of education, health, and income generation which also bolstered people-to-people and cross-cultural exchanges between these two countries.
The implementing organization (Shapla Neer) is providing support depending on the living conditions of the people, for example, to the groups of especially poor people such as widows who are forming their groups. to reduce economic disparity that exists even among poor people and practice some empowerment at the individual level. The practice may have the desired effect of empowering some of the poorest groups. Not only that, Polio and Filaria were the most serious diseases in Bangladesh where 205 Japanese Overseas volunteers have made an invaluable contribution in the country’s remote areas to eradicate these diseases. To assist the nation’s efforts to achieve economic growth and lift people out of poverty via sustainable growth with equality, JICA will support the country’s economic activities and measures to combat social vulnerability through its volunteer program. Considering the contribution of JICA Volunteers in Bangladesh, the resumption of sending them back to Bangladesh will contribute positively to the socio-economic contexts of Bangladesh at a large scale.
Manifestation of Bangladesh -Japan’s Increasing Engagements
The resumption of sending JICA volunteers to Bangladesh is an indication that Bangladesh and JICA relations are getting deeper and will continue in the future. Hence, the 50 years of JICA’s volunteers in Bangladesh in 2023 will be uplifted by the resumption of JICA volunteers. Besides, it demonstrated that Bangladesh is perfectly capable of resolving the current crisis, particularly with assistance from its friendly nations and the sincerity of its bilateral and multilateral development partners to help the administration. The relationship of trust and reliance between the two countries and people lies at its core. This relationship of mutual trust and reliance has been built by bonding with Bangladesh and Bangladeshis by having dialogues and solving challenges together. Hence, Bangladesh and Japan continue to have a strategic alliance and the resumption of JICA volunteers will be the crux of the biscuit. The secret to this collaboration is mutual gain, increased commerce, and ensuring sustainable growth. Japan and Bangladesh have a dependable and established partnership.
Not only that, in recent times, Japan is trying to increase its engagements in Bangladesh as Bangladesh is also highly significant to Japan from a geostrategic standpoint, in addition to this bilateral closeness or economic alliance, in part because of its location next to the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh serves as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia and is quickly emerging as the region’s economic center. Japan has been obliged to include Bangladesh as a key aspect of its strategic-diplomatic agenda as a result of the geostrategic demand for this area growing in recent years. Besides, it is predicted that Japan’s workforce would decrease by 20% from 2017 to 2040 owing to population reductions. Hence, Japan is attempting to deepen its connections with Bangladesh. Here, JICA volunteers can provide training and their expertise to Bangladeshis then Bangladesh can be a source country with its approximate 170 million population if Japan will face any challenges in the future.
Bangladesh’s clarity on Security, Economic, and Political Domains
Amid the global pandemic and Ukraine crisis, Bangladesh has enjoyed steadfast economic growth and political stability compared to other countries in the world. Besides, Bangladesh has removed the security concerns of Japan’s Governments for their citizens in Bangladesh. Seven individuals who have been given death sentences by a Dhaka anti-terrorism court about the tragic siege of a well-liked café in the Bangladeshi capital in 2016. With this ruling, Bangladesh affirms legally that it has zero tolerance for militancy and terrorism. Besides, the most recent US State Department Country Report on Terrorism gave Bangladesh high marks for its counterterrorism efforts (2013). The Government of Bangladesh has exhibited political will and a clear commitment to battle internal and international terrorist groups, and its counter-terrorism operations made it more difficult for terrorists to operate or create safe havens in Bangladesh,” the report said. Bangladesh is also making every effort to support worldwide peace by firmly opposing all forms of terrorism, local, regional, and global.
According to the GTI 2022, Bangladesh has significantly improved its terrorism threat matrix. A comprehensive study called the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) looks at the effects of terrorism by integrating four metrics: incidents, fatalities, injuries, and property damage. According to the most recent Democracy Index report from Economist Intelligence, Bangladesh moved up two spots to claim the 73rd position with a score of 5.99. (EIU). The research has been done based on the factors like political stability, culture, election, and political party participation. Bangladesh’s GDP is expected to grow by 7.2% in 2022 and 6.6% in 2023. It also maintained its previous projection of gross domestic product growth of 7.2 percent for the current fiscal year, ending in June. Hence, the success story of Bangladesh in various domains has influenced JICA to send its volunteers back to Bangladesh. The resumption will bolster the 50 years of Bangladesh-JICA relations and promote mutual ties and understandings in the future.
– Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).
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