‘Achievement of Agenda 2030 is not possible keeping aside a large number of the disadvantaged groups, specially the slum dwellers, and urban poor who are fighting for survival’– was the remark of Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) in a consultation program with Slum Dwellers on 17 April 2017 at NGO Forum, Lalmatia, Dhaka. The program titled ‘Slum Dweller’s Rights and Reality: Challenges and Way Forward in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals’ was organized by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) with the support of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) as part of monitoring and reviewing SDGs in Bangladesh.
In her speech Ms. Hafiza also highlighted, rapid urbanization causes high concentration of slum in most countries of the world. Specially, the least and lower income countries face the overflow of population towards emerging cities and towns. This large number of people suffers from lack of access to basic rights and entitlements. She mentioned the existence of national and international bindings for protecting and promoting human rights of every individual.
She also emphasized on the highly people centric initiatives of United Nations and other international and regional organizations which along with the constitutional bindings creates state responsibility to protect and promote human rights of its citizens. Referring to the notable achievements in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), she said that the government should take proper initiatives to assure success in Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs accordingly. Moreover, she argued the slum dwellers must be vocal on their rights and the government should also consider their problems as issues to be addressed immediately.
Subarna Dhar, Coordinator, of ‘Women 2030 Project: National Monitoring and Review of Sustainable Development Goals and Development Justice’ presented the concept paper of the program. Adv. Roushan Jahan Parvin, Senior Deputy Director, ASK presented an elaborate paper on ‘Right to Shelter’ and Md. Moqsud Malaque, Team Leader, Child Rights Unit, ASK delivered an inclusive presentation on ‘Right to Education’. ‘Right to Access to Justice’ was discussed by Adv. Nina Goswami, Senior Deputy Director, ASK at the program.
Following the presentations, the participants discussed the issues of less accessibility to basic human rights in slum areas that creates challenges in achieving SDGs. They argued the slum areas are devoid of most of the basic civic amenities and whatever minimum arrangement of such facilities are there, these are mostly NGO initiatives. These initiatives are not permanent and the settlement itself experience eviction or remains under threat of eviction. The participants demanded without securing the right to shelter of the slum dwellers no attempt to ensure other human rights and basic amenities will sustain. And, as the SDGs call for leaving no one behind, Bangladesh cannot implement it by keeping this larger chunk of slum dwellers at continuous struggle for survival.
The participants suggested a number of recommendations on the discussed issues and urged to make themselves part to the different planning mechanisms to rehabilitate, resettle the dwellers and to upgrade their standard of living. They also without their participation no sustainalbe change can be brought about at their cause.
The day long program was moderated by Adv. Dilip Paul who mentions ASK’s prompt actions in the issues of illegal eviction and eviction without proper rehabilitation initiatives. ASK also initiated and party to various writ petition, public interest litigation against slum eviction. He concluded the session saying, ASK will be monitoring, providing legal support to the slum dwellers as it is doing now. And most importantly, it will continue to take active part in advocacy at national, regional, and international level to assure implementation of Agenda 2030 comprehensively.