The week of April 15-21 of 2019, The Richardson Center for Global Engagement and Fringe Diplomacy will lead a trip to Bangladesh focused on the Rohingya Crisis. The trip will provide an opportunity to deeply engage with and understand the refugee community as well as their host community and country, and together search for ways to alleviate and mitigate some of the hardships caused by this crisis.
This first-of-its-kind trip along with 15 other business executives, impact investors, entrepreneurs and creatives. Together, we will engage with the local communities, examine the humanitarian situation in Cox’s Bazar, and explore opportunities for market-based solutions and impact investments to address the needs and concerns of both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi communities.
While this will be our first of its kind trip to Bangladesh, this method of integrating business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and creative into conversations dominated traditionally by policy and aid organizations has proven very effective in other areas of crisis such as Myanmar, Cuba, Lebanon and others.
This promises to be an intense, powerful and meaningful experience for all involved, especially for our partners on the ground: the Rohingya refugees and their host communities.
Some background: In August 2017, in response to coordinated attacks on security outposts, Myanmar’s military launched a series of brutal security clearance operations against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group oppressed by Myanmar for decades. The military’s campaign of arson, murder, rape, and torture forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh and join tens of thousands of Rohingya who fled previously. There are now more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in makeshift camps, including the largest refugee camp in the world, in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District. Despite a desire by many to return home, Myanmar has not demonstrated it can guarantee Rohingyas’ physical security or protect their fundamental rights. It is likely that most Rohingya will remain in Bangladesh for at least several years.
Meanwhile, Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar, already among the poorest in Bangladesh, have been adversely impacted by the influx of the Rohingya and tension between the communities is likely to increase over time. The Bangladesh government, incredibly magnanimous in opening its borders to the Rohingya, remains reluctant to allow for Rohingya refugees to establish a permanent presence within its borders. This hesitancy is borne of concerns for the socioeconomic and environmental impact the refugees have on Bangladesh, the potential for the Rohingya to become radicalized in the future, and a desire to maintain pressure on Myanmar to create conditions conducive to the Rohingyas’ repatriation. While understandable, Bangladesh’s position has made it more challenging to promote self-sufficiency among the Rohingya and to create opportunities for local communities’ to thrive.
Rohingyas who arrived in Bangladesh within the past few years are not recognized as refugees and are formally barred from moving freely, working in Bangladesh, attending schools (refugee camps feature temporary learning centers for children, but almost no opportunities for adolescents), and owning cell phones, among other restrictions. Rohingya are, however, able to open bank accounts, are increasingly receiving vouchers (instead of in-kind humanitarian assistance) and, in practice, many are employed either in the informal economy as day laborers or are engaged in micro-businesses within the sprawling refugee camps. With Bangladesh’s tacit acceptance of market activity within the camps, there are significant opportunities to improve Rohingyas’ self-sufficiency and to reduce the financial and social burdens imposed on Bangladesh and donor governments.
While some Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar have benefitted from the Rohingya influx – such as landholders and medium and large businesses – poorer Bangladeshis in Cox’s Bazar have faced new challenges: lower wages, higher prices, appropriation of communal forest and farmland, environmental degradation, and a reduction in quality and availability of basic services. With nearly all humanitarian assistance directed at Rohingya refugees, local communities feel neglected and overlooked. With the Rohingya providing a big new market, opportunities in environmental management, and the large manufacturing and shipping hub of Chittagong just 80 miles to the north, there is much scope to develop mutually beneficial business relationships among Bangladeshi communities and refugees.
Social Entrepreneurs with relevant & scalable business models
Meet Rohingya refugees; Bangladeshi communities; local Bangladeshi officials and business leaders; humanitarian agencies;Bangladeshi business leaders; senior Bangladeshi officials; foreign diplomats; and humanitarian and development agencies
Explore opportunities for market-based solutions and impact investments to address the needs and concerns of both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi communities
For details on cost of participation please contact email@example.com
Price includes: hotels, meals, domesitc fligths, ground transportation, and local guides & translators.
Subsidized participation based on scholarship availability.