Professor Gerd Junne, The Network University, Amsterdam
BASUG is quite a unique organisation, unique organisation for at least four reasons: the very first reason is that it is one of few organisations that work in home and host countries of migrants at the same time. Most other organisations either work on one side or on the other. I find that very, very remarkable. The second aspect which I find very intriguing and very laudable is that BASUG works at all levels of social organisation. So BASUG has on the one hand also excellent relations with grass root organisations, but BASUG has also excellent relations with top level of society, with government, ministers, with civil servants, with the Governor of the Central Bank. So it can bring these two together and that also is something quite unique.
I think that another area which I find extraordinary is the very broad spectrum of activities. BASUG deals on the one hand with issues of climate change and on the other hand with issues of the working condition in the textile industry, so it is a very broad spectrum of topics and it testifies to the flexibility of BASUG to take up urgent issues, problems and to deal with them in a very professional way. And that is what also impresses me so much that this is done with a very small number of people who actually work, in my opinion, for at least 25 hours every day in order to do that.
Ms. Ismat Jahan, HE the Ambassador of Bangladesh in Belgium
The main impression that I got was BASUG as a diaspora organisation has been doing extensive networking not only within the Netherlands but beyond – in some other European countries. It is an excellent initiative and I see that particularly at a time when there is anti-immigration and anti-immigrant mood in Europe, I believe, organisations – diaspora organisations – can do a lot and BASUG is doing projects that the migrants are important contributors to the host country’s economy. This networking also with other stakeholders has really brought BASUG to the limelight, I should say.
Let me first talk about the weakness and I will end with the positive things. The weakness is not really weaknesses as such. But I think BASUG would need to expand its outreach also in Bangladesh. I know they are doing some very good work but it has to be known and also expanded right here in Europe beyond what they are doing now.,. What they are doing in the Netherlands and also in Belgium and Germany, but in other countries where there are Bangladeshi diaspora, because it is very important to integrate.
And next year we would be hosting the 9th Global Forum on Migration and Development in Bangladesh. So BASUG can be associated with that and see how from the point of view of the diaspora the contribution to such forums can be made. And always the focus, as I felt is very important, is empowerment, empowerment of the migrants, empowerment of the women, remittance, micro finance, BASUG has been working on.
Mr. Muhammad Ali Sorcar, Ambassador of Bangladesh in Germany
I have seen BASUG in work while my tenure was in the Netherlands and I have found it very active also while I came to Germany. It is an amazing organisation which I have found to have worked simultaneously both in Bangladesh and also in Europe
There is another aspect of BASUG, which intrigues me, is its vertical spread in addition to the horizontal spread between the countries. It has found its niche in working both with the government and also the NGOs, the grassroots organisations and also the organisations which have international reach. It has worked with people in different strata of the society. So these are all points to maturity of an organisation. A couple of strengths I have already mentioned. The others include its ability to project itself into the media and show its relevance, how its work can be useful for the migrants’ community, who are living in the diaspora, who are living in Europe, as well as how its work can be useful for people in Bangladesh. It has been a very flexible organisation, which has shown dexterity in picking up the contemporary issues. For example, when there is mishap in Bangladesh garments factories two years ago, it has immediately focussed on working and to dispel the misperception that might have been in different countries.
BASUG focuses on diaspora and development and much of its work is in development. In the country it can work more intensively with the government for investment of the high flow of remittances that is going from different countries to Bangladesh. BASUG can join its effort to the government to expand the opportunities of the investment of those who are sending remittances.
Also in foreign countries, for example, in Europe, there are some anti-migration, anti-immigrants sentiment growing in different pockets of the society. Some organisations are definitely working here to dispel this notion. BASUG can join its hands to assist those organisations in increasing its resourcefulness to dispel such misperception from the society.
Mr. Wim Stoffers, Oxfam Novib
Let me start with congratulating BASUG with its ten years existence. These 10 years more or less coincide with the 10 years that I have been working with migrant organizations in the Netherlands and I have seen quite a number of them coming and going as well. I think it is already an achievement in itself that BASUG is reaching its 10th anniversary, so congratulate with that. I think our involvement with BASUG goes back almost 10 years. From the very beginning, we have been collaborating, but the way in which we have collaborated has changed considerably.
When we started with BASUG they were what we called a small organisation, which was entitled to receive a small grant for a project. Now 10 years down the line we are actually together involved in large funding application with IFAD and both Oxfam Novib and BASUG together with some organisations are going to play an important role in that project once it is being approved.
I would say in the 10 years between the first subsidy and the joint application that we have done with IFAD, many things have changed.
I think the one of the strong points for BASUG is that it has over the time increasingly focused itself on remittances. The role that remittances can play in the development in the home country. And in the collaboration that we are having with IFAD, BASUG is already looking at ways to make remittances also a way of investing in employment opportunities, investing in community development in Bangladesh, in addition to the extra support that gives on household level.
And I wish the organisation all the best of luck at least for the coming 10 years and hopefully for a long period afterwards as well.
Mr. Pedro de Vasconcelos, Manager, Financing Facility for Remittances, IFAD, Italy
Well the role of the Diaspora, we have recognised that in fact the crucial importance that they have, Diaspora organisations as they come, basically on pushing forward really the needs that we see particularly in rural areas. This is something that we have been following very closely. Bangladesh is a key example of what Diaspora organisations or groups can do. Organisations of the Diaspora such as BASUG are critical in bringing forward the new ideas but particular the realities on how to address development issues that are so important for IFAD. One weak link might be is how to link this with government initiatives or private sector opportunities. There is a common ground right now for the civil society, the private sector and governments to come together and understand how these same priorities can be linked but most importantly ways of working together.
So we’ve been following this at IFAD very closely. We have seen the very good work that BASUG has been doing and we are looking forward in helping and supporting the initiative that can be done in this regard.
Mr. Hubert Boirard, Country Programme Manager, Asia & the Pacific Division, IFAD, Italy
I am quite new with BASUG, but I found that this NGO is very interesting because they are working on the key aspects of the development for migrants, Diaspora and remittances.
BASUG as I have understood started to sensibilise migrants for them to go from informal to formal channel for the remittances and now they are advocating with the migrant community for this community to invest in the country. The country needs investment, the rural area in particular. BASUG has the key role to play to be a facilitator in between the migrants and the Diaspora and the organisation of migrants and in between the country, more particularly in the rural area.
The money is there, the opportunities are there, the major problem is the trust and BASUG can be the bridge in between these two communities entering a good floor of communication and facilitating investment in this rural area.
Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor, Bangladesh Bank
BASUG is an organisation which I knew for quite some time and they have been doing a great job in the area of remittance and development. Although BASUG is based in the Netherlands they do work for improving the images of Bangladeshis, diaspora Bangladeshis and also now they have expanded their operation. They are working in some of European countries and also working in some of the Asian countries, of late they have included Sri Lanka and the UK in their fold so, they are really, I would say, a multi-stakeholder organisation now and. They really work on two legs. When I say they work on two legs – they know European countries, they know the problems of the diaspora people living in that environment but also they work in countries like Bangladesh or Sri Lanka where they bring in lot of good experiences of the European countries and then try to replicate in countries like Bangladesh. But at the same time they take back some of the experimentations from Bangladesh and or Sri Lanka and try to change in an environment in Europe. So I thought this is a very win-win kind of approach they have taken and that is how they are improving the image of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Bank has been promoting remittances a lot and how to use the remittance for developmental activities is one of our major tasks and BASUG has been our partner in that sense. And BASUG has been not only providing their advices to our policies but also they have been partner in organising many of the international seminars and also in the local workshops.
I have seen BASUG working with NGOs here, in Non-Governmental organisations here, to improve the social development status of the people. Particularly their focus on women empowerment is very well taken. In fact many of their activities particularly helping the microfinance organisations or working with the microfinance organisation is also praiseworthy.
And I thought Bangladesh Bank can even work better because we are now preparing a database for the NRBs and BASUG can really help us to develop that NRB. So BASUG and Bangladesh Bank will work together to project these heroes in all the activities. BASUG can really establish that connection. and I really wish BASUG all the success in terms of establishing this connectivity. I think that connectivity is the key word and BASUG and Bangladesh Bank and the government of Bangladesh together can do a lot.
Mr. Sheikh Mohammad Belal, HE the Ambassador of Bangladesh in the Netherlands
I think I should begin with greetings to all the audience and also expressing my happiness to be a part of this kind of great initiative. So let me begin by first thanking BASUG and all its executives and members. I should also I think make it a point that we have been working with BASUG off and on for quite some time through the good hands of our friend, Mr. Bikash Chowdhury. And through him we came to know BASUG here in the Netherlands. And when I first came to know that we have an organisation like BASUG which is working for our migrants, I think it was a kind of very auspicious news for me because I am representing my people in this foreign country and I have an organisation which is also working for the same cause. So we are working partners from the day one. In that regard I think I should compliment BASUG that they are kind of complementing our works because we are working at the end of the day for the same cause. I think as a nation we have been able to make the best use of it until today. And we know that over the years we achieved quite a lot in terms of remittance, it’s always billions and now as we speak I think we crossed 15 billion. But do we ever take a pause and came to realise what would be our life if this 15 or 16 billion were not there? It really protects us enough for those hard working people who are sending their hard earned money in terms of kind of trust fund, in kind of benefit funds, in kind of investment opportunities for them. I think as a Bangladeshi, I am also a remittance kind of sending person. I’d be happy to participate in anything say for example one speed train between Dhaka and Chittagong.
If I am given the option, I’d be happy to be a part of it. I think like me, and all NRBs who are living there overseas. They’ll be happy to take part in these things and the most important thing, I think the most important resource is that we happy now in NRBs. We are not using that resource to the extent that we should.
Ms. Julia Harnaus, GIZ-CIM, Germany
I got to know BASUG in 2013 and since then I’ve followed the organization’s activities on diaspora and development very closely.
In 2014, BASUG Germany, the chapter in Germany qualified for project funding within our program migration development, on behalf of Federal Ministry for Economic Development. This project was on ‘Clean Clothes on Occupational Safety and Health Compliance’ in Garment Sector Bangladesh.
Concerning the strength of BASUG as a Diaspora organization. it is a lot easier for me to answer. BASUG first of all is working really professionally on high professional level. It is always a really constructive way of cooperation.
On the other side, what is really special about BASUG is that they have their chapters in lot of different countries, so there are different views coming in, which is really important. And they are both involved on one side in the dialogue and discussions on a global level on Diaspora and development but on the other side they also implement projects on the grounds.
They have shared their experience for example with a Nepali organization in Germany, with just started to work on issues related to the countries of origin and they can learn a lot from BASUG experiences.
Ms. Celine Hoeks, Policy Officer, Migration and Development, the Netherlands Foreign Ministry
I met BASUG as a Diaspora organisation on various occasions unfortunately not as much as I would have liked it to be. And one of such example is a meeting we had with BASUG, a number of Diaspora organisations and civil society organisations including the ministry of Security and Justice, on how to bring the conclusions from the GFMD into practise in the Netherlands and developing countries.
I think BASUG can play a very important role in the GFMD process, the global forum on migration and development. Especially in the next GFMD which will be hosted and chaired by Bangladesh. As an organisation, having close links with the Netherlands and with Bangladesh and working closely with Bangladeshi Diaspora on migration and development, BASUG can play a very important role in also informing the GFMD agenda. And also very important, it can play a role in the coordination and dialogue between the Netherlands and Bangladesh on the GFMD topic.
A suggestion would be to preserve the good partnerships that BASUG already has with organisations, Diaspora organisations, and with international organisations as UNDP and GIZ. I understood through GIZ that they are very satisfied about the relation they had with you.
Mr. Bob van Dillen, Expert, CORDAID, the Netherlands
What I like about BASUG is that it focuses first of all on the role of the Diaspora and development back home in Bangladesh which is an important agenda also for development organisation like CORDAID. We have been active in Bangladesh for many years in areas like education and health, but also in areas of food security and entrepreneurship and we have identified the Diaspora, the Bangladeshi Diaspora, as a key actor in the development work and also in the collaboration with CORDAID and its development activities in Bangladesh.
At this moment, the international community is negotiating an agenda for 15 years on sustainable development goals and we hope very much that CORDAID and BASUG and other organisations collectively help to implement that agenda which is important for migrants all over the world, not only in countries of destination, but also in countries of origins and countries of transit. We’ve been working over the past year with BASUG to our great joy and satisfaction in those agendas on poverty reduction, access to health and education; and we hope to continue to do that in the coming years. Reaching to the attainment of these sustainable development goals and we would like to build on our successful collaboration with BASUG to do that in the coming years, holding our Dutch government and Bangladesh government accountable for very much reaching those important sustainable development goals over the coming 15 years.