Chittagong, Bangladesh: The Bangladeshi government has disallowed a US 33-million dollar UN project aimed at reducing poverty in Cox's Bazaar District after it alleged that the plan mainly targeted the rehabilitation of Rohingya refugees in the country, said Saiful Islam quoting the officials of Dhaka.
UN agencies such as UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) started the project to reduce the poverty of the people living in Cox's Bazaar District, mostly in Ukhia and Teknaf Union.
The said two unions are home to more than 28,000 recognized and more than 400,000 unrecognized Rohingya refugees who have sought shelter in Bangladesh after fleeing decades-long discrimination in northern Arakan State, Burma.
According to officials, the Ministry of Finance has rejected the UN development scheme, touted as the largest of its kinds for the region, after they found that the project was undertaken with "mala fide intention".
"The Finance Ministry has rejected the scheme because the actual aim of the UN initiative is to rehabilitate refugees in Cox's Bazaar District under the pretext of poverty reduction for locals,” an official said.
"The UN agencies have undertaken the project as part of its long campaign to get the Rohingya rehabilitated in Teknaf and Ukhia. The project has been undertaken as a cover for development of the region," he said.
The UN agencies could not be contacted for comments. But according to the UN project outline, the multi-year-long scheme would reduce poverty by five percentage points in the region and improve the socio-economic status of nearly 300,000 people.
“The project has four major components: improving service delivery, improving livelihoods, reducing food insecurity, and improving governance and institutional development.”
"The UNJI (United Nations Joint Initiative) is based on a more equitable and inclusive development approach to benefit mainly the host population and any refugees in the operational communities," said the project memo.
But the Finance Ministry officials said UN has "overstepped its authority" in taking up the project in the sensitive region where the locals harbor deep animosity against the Rohingya refugees.
"Instead of helping cut poverty in the region, the UN project would only increase tension between the Rohingya and the locals. No doubt, it will annoy the local people," said the official.
“According to the UN memo, part of the project fund would be spent to build schools since people in the region lack basic education facilities and have little choice but to study in Islamic seminaries, or Madrasas.”
“The project set a target to provide a food grant of 30 kilograms of rice or wheat per month for each of the poor women residing in southern Cox’s Bazaar District to support poor families through food for work and food for training.”