Schoolchildren in Bangladesh. The European Union's new multiannual indicative program for the country will focus on education as well as governance and food security. Photo by: European External Action Service / CC BY-NC-ND
The European Union has been a partner to Bangladesh for over four decades and has been delivering development assistance to the country since 2001. Over the past decade, Bangladesh has exhibited laudable success in sustaining a 6 percent average annual growth rate. While the country aims to attain middle-income status by 2021, the EU believes Bangladesh can achieve this goal by 2016 just by maintaining an annual growth rate of at least 5.4 percent.
The country has also seen success in several other areas. The United Nations notes that Bangladesh was able to meet many of its Millennium Development Goals, including reducing its poverty gap ratio, attaining gender parity at primary and secondary education, lowering under-5 mortality, decreasing HIV infections through broader access to antiretroviral drugs, providing insecticide-treated bed nets for children under 5, and improving rates for detection and cure of tuberculosis.
Bangladesh, with the help of its development partners, now seeks to further reduce poverty by addressing its root causes. Incidence remains high at 30 percent placing roughly 50 million Bangladeshis below the poverty line and about 26 million in extreme poverty. Through research and various consultations, the EU has identified a number of factors that allow such levels of inequality to persist in Bangladesh: low youth employment rates, a largely unskilled workforce, limited avenues for the participation of nongovernmental organizations, weak governance and corruption, high rates of malnutrition, violence against women, weak governance in the environment sector, and vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters.