Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back in Bangladesh

Back after a long summer vacation in Sweden. Time again for a fresh start with the blog, many interesting upcoming events are awaiting the country. Last week it was announced that the voter registration list is finished with about 80 million voters now registered with both finger print and picture. An impressive achievement, but we still have to wait and see if this step helps Bangladesh to a fair and transparent election process. The interrim government has promised national elections in the third week of December and local elections will start taking place within a moth or so.

Updates will follow soon!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lots of applications...

A couple of weeks back the Bangladeshi interim government decided to boost the primary schools in the country through the recruitment of new teachers. 12 000 positions at primary school level was announced to be open for applications. Guess how many applied? 800.000 applications was received the last date of submission! Now just imagine how many the board of education will have to employ just to work through all these applications. Guess they need to announce at least a couple of hundred people to do that job. But wonder how many will apply then...:)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It is busy times at our office in Dhaka. It is time for the yearly audit to take place. Last fall the Swedish "Riksrevisionsverket", a governmental institution, published results after an investigation into how Swedish NGOs canalize aid money to their partner organization. The investigation team looked at small organizations, rather than larger donor agencies. The report showed that many small NGOs have a hard time fulfilling the demands of the Swedish audit system. For me, being in charge of budget and book-keeping here at our office in Dhaka, the report pointed out issues that I learnt from and that we have taken into consideration in our work here. The report thus making this years audit even more interesting.

It is widely known that Bangladesh is a country with widespread corruption, within almost all spheres of society. My startegy is always to pretend that I simply dont understand when I have a feeling that someone wants a bribe. Actually it always works and I am proud to say I have never (at least intentionally) paid a bribe here.

But after a day with the audit guy I just had to ask. I was careful in adressing the question, afraid of being misunderstood. But I just had to ask how an audit firm in one of the most corrupt countries (even if I dont like that expression) in the world handles the issue of corruption. The answer was kind of interesting. When paying a bribe you somehow account for that under a head in your book-keeping called something like "business promotion" or "necessary fees". You show this figure to the audit firm and explains approximately whom you have paid and how much. The audit firm in its statement then mentions the head and adds that there are no verifications of these costs. In this way the audit firm has done its job in showing they have seen the figure and anyone interested in the audit (for us eg the NGO bureau who needs to clear us for further funding) can also understand that a certain sum can be accounted for without verifications. I guess the question remains of how you know if this sum is realistic or not. How do you know if it is just not a person within the company/organization who has put this "business promotion" in his/her own pocket?

Wonder what the Swedish "Riksrevisionsverket" would say regarding those "business promotion"/"necessary costs" heads in the accounts?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another funny e-mail in the office inbox :)

Today has to be the international day of funny e-mails. Unfortunatley the other post is probably true, but what do you say about this one:)

From the Desk of
National Security Adviser to the President
Omar Bongo of Gabon Republic.
Dear Friend,
I am Paulin Obame N’Guéma, National Security Adviser to President Omar Bongo Federal Republic of Gabon. I decided to contact you because of the prevailing security report reaching my office and the intense nature of policy in Gabon. This is to inform you about our plan to send some funds to you via cash delivery. This system will be easier for you and for us. We are going to send a payment of US$10 Million to you via diplomatic courier service.
Note: The money is coming in two sealed security proof boxes. I will use my position as the National Security Adviser to the President to send this fund to you. Please you don't have to worry for anything; the boxes are coming with a Diplomatic agent who will accompany the boxes to your house address. All you need to do now is to send to me your full house address and your identity such as, international passport or drivers license including your contact phone numbers, The Diplomatic attaché will travel with the boxes and he will call you immediately he arrives your country's airport. I hope you understand me. Please don't send money to anybody in Gabon, also, I will let you know when the air-lift takes effect.
Note: The diplomat does not know the original content of the boxes. What l declared to them as the content is Sensitive Photographic Film Material. I did not declare money to them. If they call you and ask you of the contents please tell them the same thing Ok, I will let you know how far I have gone with the arrangement. I will secure the Diplomatic immunity clearance certificate that will be tagged on the boxes to make it stand as a diplomatic consignment. This clearance will make it pass every custom checkpoint all over the world without a hitch. Confirm the receipt of this message and send the requirements to me immediately. If you need more information about this, I will give you the contact of the diplomatic agents for more information on how to carry out the plan. Please I need urgent reply because the boxes are scheduled to leave as soon as we hear from you.
Best Regards,
Lt. Gen. Paulin Obame N’Guéma
National Security Adviser to the President
Federal Republic of Gabon
MY OFFICE NUMBER; +24105335190

The Global Village.....

Internet has been a bit slow the last couple of days here in Dhaka. I would never argue that I am very updated on the latest within information technology, but I have to admit to being a bit surprised to get the follwoing e-mail today from our office internet provider :) What about nanotechnology and satelites?

Dear Valued Subscribers

Greetings from CITech CyberNet Ltd.

The SEA-ME-WE4 submarine cable has been cut in Alexandria of Egypt Wednesday, suspending the BTTB's internet connectivity with the Europe and USA, a BTTB official said.

The BTTB official could not confirm how long it will take to restore the link.

In a statement, the BTTB said the mishap in Alexandria took place at 10:15am Bangladesh time. But the cause of the mishap remains unknown to the authorities. Currently the western hemisphere-bound internet traffic is diverted via Singapore across the Pacific, the official said. But the low capacity of the interim route has caused congestion and slowed the internet speed across Bangladesh.

The mishap at Egypt's Mediterranean coast snapped BTTB's four units of STM4 or 620 megabits per second bandwidth of international internet links.

But the Singapore route is capable of bearing half of the load, the official explained. Both ends of the Suez Canal are infamous for cable cuts due to high maritime traffic. Yet it remains the submarine cable operators'
favourite to link Asia and Africa with the Europe and US, in terms of costs.

"That's why all the neighbours of Bangladesh have connected themselves with the numbers of transpacific submarine networks," a telecoms analyst said.
The telecoms ministry has also been sitting on a similar proposal for three months.

"Bangladesh must have an alternative submarine cable route to span the globe for full redundancy," he said.

"Otherwise, the country will keep suffering from the mishaps such as Alexandria's," the BTTB official said.

Thank you for using CITech CyberNet.s Internet Service and for your cooperation.

CITech CyberNet Ltd.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Social Capital – Thoughts from Traffic in Dhaka

Many students of political science, sociology and development economics are familiar with theories on social capital. In short the argument goes something like this: In a society which has a large degree of social capital people tend to help each other out more. According to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, social capital can de defined as “the collective value of all social networks and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other”. Further, Putnam argues that societies or nations with high degree of social capital are more prone to have democratic governance.

2008 will be an important year for Bangladesh. From January 2007 the country has been under the rule of a military backed care-taker government. Both former prime ministers have been put behind bars on corruption charges; together with many of the country’s other former political leaders. There is a ban on all political activities. In August last year students of universities throughout the country started violent protests against the military rule in place. They had the support of distinguished professors who during the protest were jailed together with students on charges of violating the emergency power rules. Yesterday the professors were pardoned by the chief adviser and they could leave prison. Still, many students are awaiting their sentences and silent protests have been carried out at Dhaka university campus.

The actions of the professors showing support for their students and the support networks for the professors could be seen as signs of social capital. Risking repressions from the military and police, young people still choose to stand up for their political rights. On the other hand, Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world with the highest rate of corruption, in contradiction to most theories on social capital.

Last week I witnessed a traffic incident that got me thinking about the social capital issue. In an intersection of a busy but rather small street (rd 11, Banani for you familiar with Dhaka) a small car hit a rickshaw (one of those bicycles with a seat that fits two-four persons). The rickshaw was hit very lightly with no damage done to the vehicles, the driver and customer of the rickshaw or of course anyone in the car. I had a sigh of relief. Then suddenly the driver of the car just deliberately started driving again, slowly smashing the rickshaw under his front wheel. The rickshaw driver and his customer had to jump of the rickshaw not to be injured and the rickshaw was totally destroyed. The rickshaw puller tried to rescue his rickshaw, pulling it out from beneath the car. He stared angrily at the driver of the car while at the same a police officer approached the situation. The incident was disturbing traffic and the police officer made the not so intelligent decision of starting to abuse the rickshaw puller both verbally and physically with his wooden stick. All this while the driver of the car drove off. It should be added that rickshaw pullers most often rent their rickshaw for a daily, weekly or monthly fee. They earn very little and work extremely hard and are often the subject of abuse from tired and overworked traffic police officers. The rickshaw puller in this incident probably lost an entire day income if not more for the reparation cost and the loss for the time of reparation. The driver of a car is generally much better off than a rickshaw puller.

For me the above situation is just such a clear example of a giant lack of social capital. Of course there are a million counter examples of when the opposite happens, when people instead help each other out. But in Bangladesh the most vulnerable are many times horribly badly treated by their fellow nationals who are better off. It comes on all levels; from rich politicians hiding wealth instead of paying the much needed tax, garment factory owners building large estates while not paying even the ridicules low salaries to the factory workers on time and in incidents such as the one above.

Hopefully, a national spirit very distant from the one presented here will rise and prosper, and social capital will somehow grow stronger in Bangladesh to create an environment where true democratic forces can be created and voted in power in the elections that should be held as promised during 2008. Next time I write I will try to be in a more optimistic mode, writing about one of the millions of great examples of people showing each other solidarity and respect as you also see often here in Dhaka.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Challange!

Check out your travel IQ - Asia:

Try out the test, it's fun!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in Bangladesh

Back in Bangladesh after three weeks of wonderful vacation.

Wish you all a Happy New Year! Posts will start coming soon.

Hope you all had fantastic holidays and are full of new energy for 2008.

Hope to hear from you all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No beer, its elections...

Landed in Bangkok airport and stopped by one of the many, little restaurants offereing a wide selection of Asian foods. Four of us, on our way away from a Bangladesh where another Eid holiday is on the way, felt like having some good food and beer. To our surprise the waiter told us that no beer was available. We looked down at the menu in front of us, offering a selection of beers and wine.
-Why, we asked. Dont you have any kind of beer availabe?
The polite waiter then explained that because of the elections taking place right now in Thailand, alcohol is not allowed to be served.

Interesting. As well as the elections. The outcome of this election, after the former prime minister Thaksin was ousted in a military coup last year, is important in showing the future path politically for Thailand. Many interesting elections around, hopefully later this year in both Pakistan och Bangladesh. Not to talk about the election of a new president in the US. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what 2008 will bring when it comes to political leaders.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A journalist from the Swedish daily Sydsvenskan called the other day for an interview. It is always a bit weird to read what you are trying to explain in an article when you dont get a chance to give long explanations. Anyway, for those of you who read Swedish:

Bättre beredskap begränsade dödstalen

Vattnet har dragit sig tillbaka från de stormdrabbade kustområdena i Bangladesh. I många byar står bara husens lergrunder kvar.

Men snabbare än efter någon tidigare naturkatastrof börjar livet återgå till det normala.

En tröst inför framtida översvämningar är att dödstalen hamnade på en rekordlåg nivå.
– Det finns en vana vid katastrofer, system som sätts i gång med kort varsel, säger Gabrielle Jönsson, biståndssamordnare på hjälporganisationen Svalornas kontor i Dhaka.

Gabrielle Jönsson kommer från skånska Höör och har mångårig erfarenhet av biståndsarbete i Sydasien. Hon berättar på en sprakande telefonlinje från Dhaka om hur Bangladesh enbart i år drabbats av tre svåra naturkatastrofer.

I januari förstördes många skördar av en köldknäpp, i augusti drabbades kustområdena av svåra översvämningar och nu i november ödelades stora delar av landet av den tropiska cyklonen Sidr.

Som en följd av cyklonen ställer Svalorna om en del av sin långsiktiga jordbrukshjälp till snabba krisinsatser. I dagarna får organisationen CFD, Campaign for Sustainable Development, ett kontant stöd på 20000 kronor för inköp av ris – dels som nödmat, dels för nya utplanteringar.
– Den hjälpen gör stor skillnad för dem som får del av den, säger Gabrielle Jönsson.

Häromdagen besökte hon några av de områden i Bagerhatdistriktet som låg i stormens öga. Det finns byar där ingenting finns kvar. Husen är totalförstörda. Det syns tydligt var den tropiska cyklonen drog fram.
– Hjälpbehoven är stora. Folk vandrar omkring utan kläder och mat. Många bryter ihop när vi västerlänningar kommer. Vi symboliserar att hjälp är på väg. Men på individnivå är det svårt att hjälpa, säger Gabrielle Jönsson.
– Många nödställda berättar sin historia och vädjar om stöd. Men de betonar att hjälpen inte bör gå genom lokala politiker och partier. I så fall försvinner den på vägen. Korruptionen är utbredd i Bangladesh.

Mitt i allt elände visar katastrofen på förbättringar. Sidr skördade visserligen 3500 dödsoffer. Men det är ändå en rekordlåg siffra. I 1991 års cyklonkatastrof, som var mindre turbulent rent metereologiskt, omkom 1,4 miljoner människor.
– Bangladesh har utvecklat sitt förvarningssystem för annalkande tropiska cykloner. Dessutom spelar det roll att militären styr landet. Av rädsla för plundrare vill folk ogärna lämna sina hus, men nu tvingade militären fram en evakuering av utsatta byar, säger Gabrielle Jönsson.

Även i Bangladesh ökar den folkliga medvetenheten om att naturkatastrofer kan bero på klimatförändringar. Bangladesh är det land i världen som påverkas mest av stigande havsnivåer. Om hundra år kan en fjärdedel av landets yta ligga under vatten.

Issmältningen i Himalaya skapar dock även mänskligt styrda översvämningar. I Indien rinner vattenmassorna via flera jättelika dammar. När luckorna öppnas ligger Bangladesh illa till.
– Trots stora akuta hjälpbehov måste alla biståndsorganisationer fortsätta jobba långsiktigt. Nya naturkatastrofer är att vänta. Vi måste uppmuntra jordbruksutveckling som förebygger framtida katastrofer.

Den tropiska cyklonen Sidr
Sidr var den fjärde namngivna stormen i Sydasien under 2007 års tropiska cyklonsäsong.

Vindbyarna hade som mest en hastighet på 215 km/tim.

Sidr bildades i de centrala delarna av Bengaliska viken den 9 november och nådde Bangladeshs kust sex dagar senare.

Enligt officiella uppgifter omkom 3 500 personer i cyklonen. Rädda barnen uppskattar dock dödstalen till 5000–10000 personer.

Internationella biståndsorganisationer har utlovat hjälpinsatser för drygt 150 miljoner kronor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Cyclone Sidr - Pictures

Photography by Amy Johansson and Pierre Börjesson

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cyclone Sidr

I just returned to Dhaka after visting Bagerhat, a Southern district of Bangladesh. Bagerhat is one of the districts severly affected by the cyclone Sidr which devasted large parts of the country during the night between Thursday and Friday last week. Also in Dhaka the cyclone was felt with heavy rains and winds disrupting electricity and phone and internet networks for days.

In the South it is reported that thousands of people died when their houses were destroyed by the winds. In the region we visited these last couple of days trees had fallen everywhere and electricity will probably not be back in months. A local ferry was thrown from the middle of the river far up on the shore by a 15-20 feet high tidal wave. Devasted people showed their totally destroyed homes, crying that they had nothing left. No food, no clothes for their children and no safe drinking water. We passed shelters where the local governemnt distributed 10 kgs rice per family and thay also had a small amount of money from the central governmnet to hand out to people in need. But 500 taka amounts to alsmot nothing under the circumstances, rebuildning a home would cost around 20 000 taka. Frustration was visible, both among local officals and all the people in dire need of assistance.

World Food Program, UN agencies and other NGOs have started their relief efforts and we watched as rice and bisquits were loaded on boats to be taken to the worst hit areas were there is no functioning infrastructure. The military supplied water pumps. Hopefully the international community will continue to respond to the needs as expressed by the Bangladeshi government for assistance in this very difficult situation. Just a few months back is the devastating flooding, people just started recovering from that catastrophy. One man told us that now the affected areas has been thrown back 20 years in time. Bangladesh is not a country who can afford such a backlash.

Pictures from the area will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pakistan follows Bangladesh?

The latest developments in Pakistan show some similarities to the situation in Bangladesh. Will the two nations, not so long ago being one single country, choose a path of democracy or slide back further into military rule and dictatorship?

Below article from Bangladeshi newspaper:

Rice urges Mosharraf to take off uniform: US defence team puts off visit to Pakistan; UK, Holland review aid programme

Tuesday November 06 2007 02:26:12 AM BDT

Police fired tear gas and battered thousands of lawyers protesting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule, as Western allies threatened to review aid to the troubled Muslim nation. More than 1,500 people(New NationBD)
have been arrested in 48 hours, and authorities put a stranglehold on independent media.

Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup and is also head of Pakistan's army, suspended the constitution on Saturday ahead of a Supreme Court ruling on whether his re-election as president was legal. He ousted independent-minded judges, stripped media freedoms and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.

Though public anger was mounting in the nation of 160 million people, which has been under military rule for much of its 60-year history, demonstrations so far have been limited largely to activists, rights workers and lawyers. All have been quickly and sometimes brutally stamped out.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was reviewing its assistance to Pakistan, which has received billions in aid since Musharraf threw his support behind the U.S.-led war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

At a news conference in the West Bank on Monday, Rice urged Musharraf to follow through on past promises to "take off his uniform."

"I want to be very clear," she said, as a team of U.S. defense officials postponed plans to travel to Islamabad for talks Tuesday because of the crisis. "We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections."

Britain also said it was reviewing its aid package to Pakistan, and the Dutch government suspended its aid on Monday.

Musharraf reiterated to foreign ambassadors Monday that he was committed to complete the transition to democracy, though, under a state of emergency, elections scheduled for January could be pushed back by up to a year, according to the government.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government, under mounting pressure from Western allies after declaring emergency rule, has decided to hold a general election by mid-January, the government's top lawyer said on Monday.

Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum said Pakistan's National and provincial assemblies will be dissolved in 10 days' time.

Critics say Musharraf imposed emergency rule in a last-ditch attempt to cling to power.

His leadership is threatened by the Islamic militant movement that has spread from border regions to the capital, the reemergence of political rival and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, which has been virtually decimated in the last two days.

Since late Saturday, between 1,500 and 1,800 people have been detained nationwide, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. They include opposition leaders, lawyers and human rights activists who might mobilize protests.

At least 67 workers and supporters of Bhutto - who has held talks in recent months with Musharraf over an alliance to fight extremism - had been arrested, said Pakistan People's Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Lawyers - who were the driving force behind protests earlier this year when Musharraf tried unsuccessfully to fire independent-minded chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry - attempted to stage rallies in major cities on Monday, but were beaten and arrested.

Chaudhry was removed from his post on Saturday, just as the Supreme Court was preparing to rule on whether Musharraf's Oct. 6 re-election. Opponents say he should be disqualified because he contested the vote as army chief.

In the biggest gathering Monday, about 2,000 lawyers congregated at the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore. As lawyers tried to exit onto a main road, hundreds of police stormed inside, swinging batons and firing tear gas. Lawyers, shouting "Go Musharraf Go!" responded by throwing stones and beating police with tree branches.

Police bundled about 250 lawyers into waiting vans, an Associated Press reporter saw. At least two were bleeding from the head.

In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds of police and paramilitary troops lined roads and rolled out barbed-wire barricades on Monday to seal off the Supreme Court.

Only government employees heading for nearby ministries were allowed through. Two black-suited lawyers whose car was stopped by police argued in vain that they should be granted entry. They were eventually escorted away by two police cars.

A few dozen activists from hard-line Islamic parties gathered nearby, chanting slogans including "Hang, Musharraf, hang!"

As well as calling for protests, lawyers' groups have vowed to boycott all court proceedings held in front of new judges sworn by Musharraf.

Rana Bhagwandas, a Supreme Court judge who refused to take oath under Musharraf's proclamation of emergency orders, said he has been locked inside in his official residence in Islamabad and that other judges were being pressured to support the government.

"They are still working on some judges, they are under pressure," Bhagwandas told Geo TV in a phone interview.

Authorities have imprisoned or put under house arrest key Musharraf critics, among them Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; cricket star-turned politician, Imran Khan; Asma Jehangir, chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; and Hamid Gul, former chief of the main intelligence agency.

Pakistan's largest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami reported that more than 500 of its workers and supporters had been detained since Sunday, including its leader, according to senior members of the party and police.

Attorney General Malik Mohammed Qayyum said Sunday a new panel of Supreme Court judges would rule "as early as possible" on Musharraf's eligibility for a new five-year presidential term.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Meet the office

Meet the people at the offic! From left to right: Me, Lipy, Annierose, Hassan and Katrin.

I am now off for vacation, going back to Gopeshwar where I worked and stayed last year. Will be great to exchange the hectic Dhaka traffic for some Himalayan, clean air.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First day of Ramadam

The sun is setting on this first day of Ramadam in Bangladesh. Everyone is rushing home to break the fast together with their families. For the upcoming month devoted Muslims in Bangladesh and throughout the world will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Offices have shorter opening hours from now on. Special kinds of food are sold along the roads and there is a festive spirit in the air.

Monday, September 3, 2007

More drama in Bangladesh (but reporting from South India)

Khaleda Zia, the other of the two former female prime ministers, is now also arrested. Below article from the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. The arrest raises lots of questions. Rumours have it that Khaleda is closer to the current military- backed government and that this is just a showcase arrest. If the rumours are right both Hasina and Khaleda will be put on trial, but Khaleda will be proven innocent and then she can return to power while Hasina is off the scene.

I am currently writing from India, more updates from here will come soom.

Bangladeshs ex-ledare greps
Bangladeshs förra premiärminister Khaleda Zia greps på måndagen av landets säkerhetsstyrkor. Det skedde dagen efter det att hon åtalats för korruption.

Khaleda Zia greps i sin bostad och fördes till en domstol i Dhaka, enligt vittnen.

Den militärstödda provisoriska regeringen i Bangladesh har gripit omkring 150 före detta toppolitiker och ämbetsmän i ett försök att rensa upp i korruptionen på hög nivå innan allmänna val utlyses. Många åtal har väckts och flera personer har redan dömts till långa fängelsestraff.

Nu dras snaran åt kring två av landets före detta premiärministrar, Khaleda Zia och Hasina Wajed. Enligt polisen hävdar antikorruptionsmyndigheten att Khaleda Zia tagit mutor från ett företag som fick kontrakt på att driva två containerhamnar. Fler åtal uppges vänta henne.

Hennes arga rival Hasina Wajed sitter redan i husarrest i ett provisoriskt fängelse i parlamentets lokaler. Hon är tidigare åtalad för bland annat utpressning. I söndags väcktes ytterligare ett åtal mot henne. Enligt det åtal ska hon ha tagit mutor från ett privat energibolag.

Från TT-Reuters

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bangladesh still game!

The new Swedish government (last fall) today presented their list of countries and their strategy for development aid from Sweden. The number of countries has been cut from 70 to 33, but Bangladesh is still a priority country.

Uppdaterad 27 aug 2007 00:50

"Vi slopar biståndet till Kina och Vietnam"

Biståndsminister Gunilla Carlsson presenterar den nya biståndspolitiken: Vi reducerar antalet biståndsländer från dagens 70 till 33. Det är inte effektivt att sprida ut biståndspengarna på ett 70-tal länder. För de fattiga länderna är det heller inte bra att det finns för många givare närvarande. Därför koncentrerar vi nu insatserna till att omfatta drygt 30 länder. Bland de länder som inte längre finns med i vår biståndssatsning återfinns Kina och Vietnamn. Utfasningen sker dock under en viss övergångsperiod. Bland de länder vi satsar på finns fattigdomsbekämpning, fredsprocesser och återuppbyggnad i Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan och Irak. Men även samarbete för att underlätta EU-integration och stärka fattigdomsbekämpningen i Albanien, Kosovo och Serbien, skriver biståndsminister Gunilla Carlsson.

Som minister med ansvar för internationellt utvecklingssamarbete är min främsta uppgift att säkerställa att Sveriges insatser ger resultat. En aktiv svensk utvecklingspolitik, genomförd på rätt sätt, kan väsentligt bidra till en rättvis och hållbar global utveckling och spela en roll i kampen mot fattigdomen.

Arbetet med hur och var biståndet kan göra mest nytta borde ha påbörjats långt tidigare. Sverige har under åren inlett utvecklingssamarbete med allt fler länder trots att det har saknats en genomtänkt idé för hur, var och varför vi ska engagera oss.

Sedan slutet av 1980-talet har antalet länder som får stöd ökat explosionsartat från ett 20-tal så kallade programländer till ett 70-tal i år. Menar vi allvar med att bidra till förändring, så är det inte effektivt att sprida pengar tunt i så många länder. För de fattiga länderna är det inte effektivt att alltför många givare är aktiva i varje land. Deras ofta begränsade administration belastas av att hantera kontakter med många givare.

Den svenska regeringen är inte ensam om denna insikt. Riksdagen pekade för flera år sedan på att Sverige måste begränsa antalet samarbetsländer. Även internationellt finns en växande medvetenhet om att biståndet måste bli effektivare för att de höga målsättningarna i FN:s millenniedeklaration ska nås - en halvering av fattigdomen till år 2015.

Alliansregeringen tar dessa åtaganden på allvar. Vi genomför nu förändringar av biståndet på ett antal områden för att säkerställa att vårt utvecklingssamarbete verkligen ger resultat.

Under året har vi gått igenom de samarbetsländer där vårt bistånd styrs av en samarbetsstrategi eller riktlinjer i syfte att fokusera det bilaterala utvecklingssamarbetet till ett mindre antal länder. Våra resurser kan därmed fokuseras på en effektivare fattigdomsbekämpning och satsningar inom prioriterade områden såsom demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter, jämställdhet och miljö och klimat. Och det blir möjligt att engagera sig djupare där Sverige fortsätter samarbetet. Det multilaterala biståndet, det humanitära biståndet, det statligt finansierade stödet via svenska enskilda organisationer samt visst forskningssamarbete omfattas inte av landfokuseringen.

Det är en grannlaga uppgift att välja ut samarbetsländer. Behoven är oändliga, men det är inte genom att göra allt överallt som vi bäst bidrar till utveckling. Valet av samarbetsländer har baserats på en sammanvägd bedömning för att identifiera var Sverige har bäst förutsättningar att bidra till utveckling.

De frågor vi ställt är bland annat: Hur omfattande är fattigdomen och var är behoven störst? Går utvecklingen i rätt riktning när det gäller mänskliga rättigheter och demokrati? Om inte, har vi möjlighet att påverka den? Hur kan Sverige bidra? Finns andra givare som har bättre förutsättningar att göra nytta?

Mest bistånd kommer att gå till de fattigaste länderna, men det finns också fattiga länder som vi drar oss ur, där andra kan bidra bättre. Vi kommer att stödja länder som inlett en demokratisering och värnar de mänskliga rättigheterna, men vi kommer också att stödja länder där förutsättningarna är extra svåra men där vårt stöd kan göra skillnad.

Landfokuseringen innebär att det bilaterala utvecklingssamarbetet fokuseras till drygt 30 regelrätta samarbetsländer. De har indelats i tre kategorier för att tydliggöra skälen för Sveriges engagemang.

·Länder med vilka Sverige ska bedriva långsiktigt utvecklingssamarbete. Det är 12 länder i Afrika, Asien och Latinamerika som vi har samarbetat länge med och där Sverige har ett tydligt mervärde: Burkina Faso, Etiopien, Kenya, Mali, Moçambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Bangladesh, Kambodja och Bolivia. I dessa länder ska vi fördjupa samarbetet, spela en roll i deras kamp mot fattigdomen och stödja uppbyggnaden av demokratiska institutioner.

·Länder/områden i konflikt- och postkonfliktsituation med vilka Sverige ska bedriva utvecklingssamarbete. Det handlar om 12 länder i Afrika, Asien, Mellanöstern och Latinamerika: Burundi, DR Kongo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Östtimor, Irak, Västbanken-Gaza, Colombia och Guatemala. Här krävs särskilda och flexibla insatser för att bidra till fattigdomsbekämpning, fredsprocesser och återuppbyggnad.

·Länder/områden i Östeuropa med vilka Sverige ska bedriva reformsamarbete. Vi fördjupar samarbetet med 9 länder i syfte att underlätta EU-integrationen och därmed stärka fattigdomsbekämpningen och reformansträngningarna i vårt närområde. Det är Albanien, Bosnien-Hercegovina, Georgien, Kosovo, Makedonien, Moldavien, Serbien, Turkiet och Ukraina.

I dessa tre landkategorier stärker vi vårt fokus på demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter. Regeringen förstärker därtill arbetet för demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter i ett mindre antal länder där biståndet bedrivs under andra former än regelrätt stat-till-stat-samarbete. Här är enskilda organisationer och demokratiska krafter i det civila samhället viktiga mottagare av vårt stöd.

I vissa länder där det svenska utvecklingssamarbetet fasas ut kommer det svenska engagemanget att ta sig nya uttryck. Biståndet fasas exempelvis ut till Kina och Vietnam, men där kommer begränsade medel från biståndsbudgeten under en övergångsperiod att användas för att bidra till aktörssamverkan inom prioriterade områden såsom miljö, demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter.

I andra utfasningsländer fortsätter vi att vara engagerade genom vårt stora stöd via EU, samt FN och andra multilaterala institutioner. På olika sätt ska Sverige bibehålla och utveckla relationer med länder där utvecklingssamarbetet fasas ut. Utfasningen ska genomföras ansvarsfullt och i samverkan med andra givare.

Med detta arbete har regeringen gjort klart var och varför Sverige ska engagera sig. Landfokuseringen är ingen besparingsåtgärd utan syftar till att främja en effektivisering av det svenska utvecklingssamarbetet i de länder där Sverige väljer att fokusera sina insatser. Kvarvarande låginkomstländer där det svenska utvecklingssamarbetet bedöms kunna göra mest nytta prioriteras.

Nästa steg är planeringen av hur vi ska satsa i de länder där vi stannar kvar. De erfarenheter och nätverk som det svenska engagemanget runt om i världen har skapat ska tas till vara. Vi är därför angelägna om att i nära samarbete med enskilda organisationer och andra intressenter föra en dialog om hur vi ska gå vidare - både i länder där vi fördjupar och där vi fasar ut vårt bistånd.

Nu ställer vi biståndets innehåll och dess överordnade mål - att skapa förutsättningar för fattiga människor att förbättra sina levnadsvillkor - i centrum. Hela omläggningen av biståndet kommer att vara tydlig inom tre-fyra år. Detta är bara början på en förändring - från ett passivt bistånd till en aktiv utvecklingspolitik som vi kan vara stolta över. Till en politik som gör nytta där den behövs allra mest.
Gunilla Carlsson

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The situation has worsened the last couple of days and yesterday evening an indefinite curfew was imposed. The phone network was cut but resumed working this morning, curfew still in place.

We are staying inside and will wait and see until the situation improves. So far today it seems to be ok.

Internet and phones not working well, so dont worry of you cant get through to me. Will stay in touch and post updates.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Riots in Dhaka

Dozens injured in Bangladesh university clash
21 Aug 2007 08:46:21 GMT
Source: Reuters
Alert Me | Print | Email this article | RSS [-] Text [+]

(Releads, adds more violence)

DHAKA, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Angry students burned at least 50 vehicles including an army van during fresh violence with security forces at Bangladesh's Dhaka University on Tuesday, witnesses said.

At least 50 more students were hurt as police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the stone-throwing and stick-wielding students at Bangladesh's biggest university, they said.

More than 100 students were injured in similar clashes overnight, after students protested against the presence of army troops at Dhaka University stadium during a football match, university officials and witnesses said.

Protests and street assemblies have been banned since the country's military-backed interim government took power on January 12 after months of political violence. Troops have been camping in the gymnasium since then.

Monday's unrest, the first major defiance of the emergency restrictions, spread across campus after troops assaulted some students. Hundreds of police rushed in, firing tear gas and rubber bullets, the witnesses said.

The students, who want an immediate dismantling of the army camp on the campus, hit back with sticks and stones.

Classes and exams were postponed at Dhaka university in the wake of the violence, while students called for an indefinite strike on the 40,000-strong campus.


Violence flared anew on Tuesday as hundreds of students returned to campus carrying sticks and challenging police. Police responded by firing tear gas shells, witnesses said.

They forced police to retreat from the campus and burned effigies of army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed and the interim head of the law and information ministries, Mainul Husein.

A statement from army headquarters said a soldier who was alleged to have started a brawl with some students on Monday, had been withdrawn to face a departmental inquiry.

Earlier, Major-General Sina Ibn Jamali told reporters authorities would take action against troublemakers, and if necessary, would remove them from campus.

As reports of the Dhaka University violence spread beyond the capital, students at Jahangirnagar University, 40 km (25 miles) north of the city, barricaded a highway for several hours on Tuesday. They also damaged at least a dozen vehicles on the highway, witnesses said.

The student unrest also spread to Sher-e-Bangla University at Mirpur in the capital Dhaka.

The chief of army general staff, Major-General Sina Ibn Jamali, visited the Dhaka Medical College Hospital to see the injured and said the offenders would be punished.

(Additional reporting by Nizam Ahmed)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Holiday planning in Bangladesh

"Dear colleagues,
The holiday of Lailatul Barat has been changed, instead of 29th it will be 30th
of Aug-07 decided by the National Moon sighting Committee after reviewing
information received form the district administration."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Dracula visit

To continue on the animal theme... The other night all of the sudden me and the cat Biral had company in the apartment. I fled the livingroom into the bedroom and closed the door since the bat just kept flying crazily around in circles. But nice to finally feel happy about that expensive rabies shot! The next morning when I had to venture out from the bedroom the poor bat was dead on the floor. Animal drama over for now. But I am afraid the theme might reappear. Right now a real danger for people living in the flooded areas of Bangladesh is all the dangerous snakes forced to swim around in the water.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Brishti (Bangla. rain)

As reported in international media the monsun of this year in the South Asian Northern region has been the worst in two decades. 18 million people are reported to have been forced to leave their homes. The lack of good sanitary conditions, drinking water and food are now even worse than usual.

In Dhaka it has been raining for the past month or so. The pictures above were taken when driving to the office last week. But today the sun is shining and the streets are slowly drying up. Lets hope the rains will stop for a couple of days also in the rest of the region.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Microwave incident

The other day Linda was heating her lunch in the microwave owen at the office. After two minutes on full effect she opened the door to get her tempting food, hungry after half a days hard work with this years big funding application due in a couple of weeks.

To Lindas surprise a little fellow, ms or mr (not fully clear)coachroach walked out from the microwave. (Only to be struck hard to death by a shoe, but that was just a mistake. Right, Linda?) Surviving two minutes hard core microwaving, not bad at all. The Swallows office continues to be impressed by the astonishing survival skills of Bangladeshi little creatures.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My man this morning

Days in Bangladesh never really turn out as you would expect. Planning is more difficult than in Sweden, due to all kinds of circumstances beyond control. This morning the monsun humidity made my kitchen door impossible to open. The dear cat was locked in the kitchen screaming to get out to watch the morning news in my company, and I was almost screaming to get inside the kitchen for my morning coffee. With no help early in the morning to open my door I decided to take a CNG (see above) to the office and start working early, having my coffe at the office. A CNG usually costs about 50 taka (5sek) and takes before rush hour maybe 20 minutes to the office. This morning I was on my way early and traffic was still not too bad. But instead of going directly to the office the driver decided that he (1) needed to have his morning tea halfway (being culturally sensitive I just politely waited for him. Bengalis probably need their morning tea the same way I need my morning coffee, I was thinking.) Then after three more minutes on the way to the office the driver (2) needed to fill upp gas in the CNG. This took us on a detour and the whole event lasted maybe 20 minutes. And the metre was ticking away. Finally we continued. All of the sudden the driver stops again. This time to (3) buy some bananas. Ok, the man needs his breakfast. After about one hour on the road we reached the office and the rate of the trip showed 80 taka. Hm, paying extra for the delay? Well, my bangla is not good enough to argue and I just desperately needed that coffee as soon as possible.

Some Bangla logic learned this morning. Think you are on your way early to the office, end up coming almost later than usually and paying some extra money!

All along though the spirit of my rickshaw wallah was on top of the world and seldom I smile this much a normal morning in Sweden. People everywhere going about their business and the bustle of a South Asian city in the morning is on the top list of things I love in this world.

Enough of morning reflections, back to work. I am late now, I guess...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ant invasion

July is obviously the month of joy for the surprisingly big ant community in Bangladesh. Every day at the office the small, lovely inhabitants of our office are present just about everywhere. All over the desk, the computer and the sink. After a few minutes at your desk they have decided that the person sitting there also is a suitable host and they honour you with their presence walking up and down your arms and legs.

According to one of our colleagues ants are good for many reasons, among them to predict the weather. When Bangladeshi ants decide to hide under your bed there will be lots of rain. We are in the middle of the monsun here and I am a bit careful with looking under my bed since I then should expect to find a huge amount of little fellows.

Maybe anyone can investigate if this ant behaviour is exclusive for Banlga-ants? There is so much to learn in this world.

Take care!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Former PM Hasina detained!

Yesterday morning former PM Sheik Hasina was arrested on charges of corruption and murder. Dhaka university is on strike and there is growing tension in Dhaka and the country. Soon the opposition leader Khaledia might also be behind bars. No one seems to know who is pulling the strings.

More updates to come.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Busy times in Dhaka

The last couple of weeks have been busy here in Dhaka and blogging frequency has suffered as a result. The last three weeks or so has included a trip Southeast to a region called Chittagong Hill Tracts. More information about the region will come soon.

This week my flatmate Siobhan and my collegue Anna will be leaving Dhaka. They have been really important for me settling down here in Dhaka and it feels really sad that it is now already time for them to leave. But thats part of living a life moving around, meeting amazing people and then say goodbye. Hopefully to see them again sometime later in life.

On Thursday I am moving in to my new apartment, really looking forward to having my own place. Will bring Biral, Siobhans lovely cat that I am now adopting. Unfortunately tha landlord said something about raising rent so please keep your fingers crossed that it wont be too much. Dont feel like starting looking for a new aparment already.

Updates will come more frequently when my internet connection is set up in the apartment. Until then, take care!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Best of Bangladesh

More than two months have passed since moving to Dhaka, the time has passed incredibly fast. Work is fun, both really interesting and challenging. It is fantastic to just be able to be back and live in South Asia again. To celebrate these first two months and to summarize the Bangladesh experience so far, a list is presented below with the best 5 of Bangladesh:

1. To sit on a motorbike with the wind in the hair, travelling through the amazing landscape dominated by beautiful rice fields
2. To finally being able to have a short and basic (but still!) conversation with the rickshaw-wallah
3. To wake up to the sound of approaching monsoon rain and listen to the thunder and see the lightening
4. To meet all the fantastic people who everyday struggle to make ends meet but still greet you with the most amazing hospitality inviting you to take part in their meetings and daily life
5. To be able to eat the best mangoes in the world for breakfast

Of course there are things here also making life less fun, but since this would be a celebration I will just mention one:

1. To be informed that my lovely flat mate found a huge cockroach in her package of muesli that was kept in the fridge...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bangladesh updates

The following text in Swedish is a draft for an article for the Swedish magazine Sydasien. Sorry, all you English speakers! The latest news from Bangladesh this week is that police fired at garment factory workers demanding their overtime pay. The owner of the garment factory refused to pay the salaries and the frustrated workers gathered to demonstrate. The police was called in to calm down the situation, resulting in police shooting dead one young female garment worker and injuring 12 others who were rushed to hospital. The prevailing emergency rule makes it illegal for people to gather for anything that could be labelled as "political activities", and this is the response and defense used by police officials. A panel of three persons have now been set up to investigate the incident further.

Article draft for Sydasien:

Fyra månader av relativt lugn har passerat i Bangladesh sedan parlamentsvalet ställdes in i slutet januari och interimsregeringen med stöd av militären tog över styret av landet. Undantagstillstånd infördes och gäller fortfarande, med restriktioner som innebär exempelvis förbud mot politiska möten både inom- och utomhus, tydlig närvaro av polis och militär samt ett på obestämd tid uppskjutet val. När undantagstillståndet utlystes stoppades alla de politiska demonstrationer, strejker och hartals som dominerade gatubilden i Dhaka under de osäkra månaderna före det utsatta datumet för val i slutet av januari.

Under den senaste veckan verkar det dock som om den lugna situationen förändrats. Ett uppmärksammat fall med en ung man som enligt anklagelser torterats till döds av RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), en svartklädd specialstyrka inom polisen med särskilda befogenheter, ledde till att upprörda människor tog till gatorna för att protestera i den nordvästra delstaten Rajshahi. Ytterliggare en incident som pekar mot att situationen i landet förändrats ägde rum i början av veckan då textilarbetare bestämde sig för att trotsa demonstrationsförbudet då de förvägrades utbetalning av sina övertidslöner. Polisstyrkor sattes in för att få stopp på demonstranterna. Polisen öppnade eld och en ung kvinnlig textilarbetare sköts till döds. Ytterliggare tolv personer fick föras till sjukhus. Då liknande situationer riskerar att skada förtroendet för den sittande interimsregeringen tillsattes redan dagen efter dödsskjutningen en utredningspanel med tre personer som ska undersöka hur situationen kunde urarta och få så ödesdigra konsekvenser.

Inget datum för det kommande parlamentsvalet har ännu fastställts. Den politiska opposition med de ledande partierna Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) och Awami League (AL) pressar på för att valen ska hållas så tidigt som möjligt. Interimsregeringen å andra sidan diskuterar fortfarande praktikaliteter som utfärdande av identitetskort för alla röstberättigade. Ett arbete som av den sittande valkommissionen beräknas ta upp till 18 månader, vilket innebär att valet möjliggörs först i slutet av 2008.

Efter undantagstillståndet infördes med förbud mot politiska aktiviteter bestämde sig ledaren för Awami League att lämna landet för att besöka sin son i USA. Sheikh Hasina deklarerade att det för tillfället inte fanns något för henne att göra i Bangladesh och att det var dags att samla krafter för de nya utmaningarna hon och hennes parti stod inför. När Hasina efter ett par månaders frånvaro bestämde sig för att resa tillbaka till Bangladesh kom hon inte längre än till Heathrow i England, där hon efter att inreseförbud utfärdats av interimsregeringen blev förhindrad att stiga på sin flight från London till Dhaka. Samtidigt som Hasina var fast i London spekulerades det i bangladeshiska medier om huruvida också Khaleda Zia, ledaren för BNP, var på väg att landsförvisas till Saudiarabien tillsammans med sina närmsta familjemedlemmar. Det ryktades att hon besökte sina två söner som sedan ett par månader sitter fängslade som resultat av interimsregeringens anti-korruptionskampanj, och att hennes brorsbarn fick ta avsked från klasskamraterna i skolan. Men plötsligt ändrades direktiven och den sjunde maj fick Hasina grönt ljus för att återvända till Bangladesh. AL-supporters trotsade mötesförbudet och slöt upp för att möta sin ledare vid flygplatsen. Längs hela vägen från flygplatsen till hennes bostad stod människor och välkomnade henne. Khaleda och hennes familj stannade kvar i Dhaka och trots upprepade rykten om att hon inom kort på grund av sjukdom kommer att lämna landet för att resa till Singapore för vård av diabetes är hon för närvarande fortfarande kvar i Bangladesh.

Trots att de båda oppositionsledarna nu är i landet så innebär det rådande förbudet mot politiska aktiviteter att de politiska partierna är mycket försiktiga med att uttala sig, vilket resulterar i att det är svårt att få information om vad som försiggår inom partierna. Fredspristagaren Mohammad Yunus som i februari deklarerade att han skulle starta ett eget parti beslutade redan två månader senare att dra tillbaka sitt beslut. Efter en kort pressnotis i de större bangladeshiska dagstidningarna där beslutet tillkännagavs har Yunus inte offentligt kommenterat saken ytterliggare.

Interimsregeringens pågående anti-korruptionskampanj resulterade i veckan i en första fällande dom. En av de specialinrättade domstolarna för korruptionsärenden dömde Haris Chowdhury, en av Khaleda Zias politiska sekreterare, till tre års fängelse då han vägrat lämna in förmögenhetsuppgifter. De speciella domstolarna har särskilda befogenheter att snabbutreda och döma i korruptionsmål och efter denna första fällande dom väntas många av de hundratals korruptionsanklagade nu ställas inför rätta. Att domstolarna kommer igång och visar medborgarna resultat i form av fällande domar mot välkända, korrupta individer kan ge interimsregeringen det fortsatta stöd och förtroende som den så väl behöver för att kunna fortsätta genomföra reformer i landet.

Interimsregeringen har hittills åtnjutit ett starkt stöd, både från stora delar av den bangladeshiska allmänheten och det internationella samfundet då den lyckades stabilisera landet efter det kaos som rådde fram till undantagstillståndet infördes. Ju längre tid som nu passerar innan ett datum för val fastställs, desto större risk att förtroendet för interimsregeringen minskar. Den senaste veckans händelser med dödskjutningen av den kvinnliga textilarbetaren och de allvarliga anklagelserna om tortyr gentemot RAB riskerar dock att försvåra interimsregeringens fortsatta arbete.

Utmaningarna i Bangladesh är många, interimsregeringen tvingas balansera mellan att upprätthålla lag och ordning samtidigt som fokus måste vara på att så småningom avveckla sig själv. Utvecklingen den närmsta tiden kommer att visa hur väl interimsregeringen lyckas med denna balansgång som är avgörande för hur framtiden kommer att se ut för den fortfarande unga demokratin Bangladesh.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Amnesty International statement on current situation in Bangladesh

Support Amnesty International

Amnesty concerned at death, torture in custody
Written by Staff Correspondent, The Daily Star 13 May 2007
Amnesty International has expressed grave concern over the alleged "tortures and deaths in custody" since the declaration of the state of emergency in January 11 in Bangladesh, it said in a statement. The human rights watchdog called for prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all reports of torture and death in custody and urged the caretaker government to ensure that any official responsible for such heinous acts be punished after a fair trial.
In the statement issued on May 10, it said it believes that the opportunity should now be seized to send a clear and unequivocal message that a climate of impunity, which has previously shielded politicians, law enforcement agencies and other officials responsible for human rights violations from effective prosecution, will no longer be tolerated.
The human rights organisation drew attention to the reported death in custody of Garo community leader Cholesh Richil on March 18, 2007 following torture by law enforcement agencies and demanded "those identified as responsible for the death in custody of Cholesh Richil are brought to justice in a fair trial without delay."
They also demanded that the government allow witnesses to submit evidence without fear and make public the terms of reference of the judicial commission formed to investigate the death of Cholesh and also the report of the commission be made public.
Amnesty International also condemned the reported arrest and torture of Shahidul Islam, founder director of Uttaran, an NGO. They demanded that an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations be instituted, its terms of reference include protection of witnesses and the government make public the outcome of the investigation.
They also recommended that the government establishes clear and enforceable safeguards against abuse of administrative detention procedures during the state of emergency, which Amnesty International says results in torture.

For full statement and report:

More Amnesty reports on Bangladesh:

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Updates - Debate on caste in India

Discrimination on the basis of caste has long been forbidden according to the the Indian constitution, but the caste system still plays a significant role in various ways in Indian society. Last year a political decision to increase affirmative action to include also "other backward castes" in the educational system stirred riots and protests throughout the country.

A new area of caste debate is taking place, this time regarding the Indian police force. Last week a committee decided that in order to be promoted, police officers must pass a new assesment test where attitude towards collegues with backward caste will be tested. Today, how long it takes before you can be promoted in the police force is based partly on your caste background. An officer from a lower or backward caste can get promoted a couple of years eralier than his/her higher caste collegues. According to critics of the assesment test and these kind of caste based affirmative actions (sve. positiv särbehandling), once again caste is being used as a political tool for getting votes in the ongoing elections from the large part of the population who belongs to these lower/backward castes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Political updates

Elections in UP started its sixth and last phase yesterday, the election procedures in large states like Uttar Pradesh takes about one month. Results will come soon. Sadly, politics in many parts of India (as in many other countries of the world) is influenced by corruption, and according to NDTV out of the 984 candidates 162 has a criminal record. Another incident, a rape of an 8-year old girl in a polling both, has caste a shadow over the otherwise relative calm elections.

Former PM Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh on Monday evening and was met by thousands of cheering supporters. Still no news on if she might be arrested according to the charges against her.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The return of a leader?

Time for some updates on political events in Bangladesh. Tonight the former prime minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to return after earlier being banned from entering the country after a couple of weeks visit in the US. Hasina left Bangladesh after the care taker government issued state of emergeny and banned all political activities, to spend time with her son and his new born baby in the US. Her political rival, the other former prime minister Khaleda Zia, stayed on in Bangladesh, but for a while it seemed like the care taker government was trying to force her out of the country and rumours had it that she was on her way together with family members to leave for Saudi Arabia.

During Hasinas stay in the US a court in Bangladesh issued a warrant for her arrest on charges of extortion and murder. Khaleda Zia has her eldest son imprisoned on charges of serious fraud and corruption. It remains to be seen if the two leading political figures of Bangladesh will stay in the country and if they might be arrested or not in the near future. Hasina is expected to arrive at the airport this evening, and security measures are on high alert in this politically volatile country.

An interesting twist in the drama of Bangladeshi politics and the current situation is that the son of Hasina, Sajeeb Wazed (who she visited in the US), is a frequent blogger. On his blog he defends his mother against the charges levelled against her and talks about his own aspirations of getting into politics. Check out one of the more interesting political blogs of our modern time: for more updates.

Over to India where parliamentary elections are going on. As always I am struggling to get a grip of the Indian political scene, but updates will come soon on whats going on in the Northern region in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where Congress and BJP are fighting a hard battle. These states are enormous with between 100-200 million voters and also among the poorest and less developed states of the country. The results in elections here have a crucial impact on the political setup on the national level in India.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Daily life - Driving in Dhaka

The guard where I live (with his prayer mat properly rolled out), me and the Swallows jeep which I try to drive as safely as possible on the streets of Dhaka. For driving rules in Bangladesh take a look at

How it works

The Swallows India-Bangladesh was formed in 1959 and started development work in India in the 1960s. After the Bangladeshi War of Independence the Swallows started supporting victims of the war through various relief activities. It soon became obvious that Bangladesh was in dire need of more long-term development programmes. Today Bangladesh is one of the countries with most NGOs and a large development sector. During the 1980s it was possible to start working directly together with Bangladeshi NGOs and this tradition has been followed up until today when the lingo of development work is words such as "partnership", "local ownership" and "development cooperation". Ideals that sometime are difficult to live up to in real life, but steps in the right direction. Today the Swallows in Bangladesh fund about 7 local partners, working in different parts of the country. The projects can de divided broadly into agricultural projects and social mobilization projects. The aim of most of the projects is to improve the situation for disadvantaged groups, with a special focus on rural women.
The main function of the Swallows today is to act as a partner and facilitator for discussions, strategies, visions and necessary activities to reach long-term goals of a sustainable and just development. This work is carried out e.g through the Swedish Swallows Friends Network where courses and seminars are arranged on behalf of our partners on issues where they identify a need for more knowledge. Last week a three-day seminar was held on gender mainstreaming.


After severe criticism I will adhere to a few new rules on this blog. I will try to accomodate all of the requests I have received regarding my blogging so far...

1. More updates - Yes, will happen. From now on one update per week
2. Information about daily stuff - Ok, will do
3. Information about work - Will come (tomorrow actually)
4. More pictures of Gabrielle - Well, maybe
5. Less pictures in general
6. More pictures in general
7. Information about Bangladesh politics - Will come

To my defense I have to say that it has been a busy first month here, but then again there should be lots of things to cover in the blog. I hereby promise to improve :)

It is Saturday evening and a couple of friends just left. The TV is on, showing Indian Idol. Sundays are working days for me so I am off to bed in a little while. But my new blogger life will start tomorrow, pictures and stories from Bangladesh to come.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blasts in Bangladesh

This morning at 7.30 three minor blast went off at railway stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. The blasts left only one person injured and no persons were killed. There are all sorts of rumours about the motives behind the attacks, see the CNN link for more information:

Unfortunatley these kind of incidents are not that uncommon in this part of the world and life moves on as usual.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rural Bangladesh

Busy times in Dhaka, on my way out on another field trip. I dont have internet access where I stay until the end of June when I will move to another apartment, thus I am not that frequent in sending e-mails and updating my blog. Above are a few pics from the more rural setting of Bangladesh. Take care!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Noboborsher Shuveccha! (Happy New Bengali Year!)

Today the new year celebrations took place here in Bangladesh. The Bengali New Year celebrations starts in early morning when people gather on the streets to cheer the new year. Together with my collegue Linda we went downtown to the Dhaka University area, where we walked around together with the enormous crowds of people in happy new years spirit. We had the great honour to be interviewed on national televison about our "feelings about celebrating the Bengali New Year in Bangladesh". Not an easy question. I used my best hindi-English and said something about our great feeling of happiness to be part of this extraordinary event. Linda impressed with her banglaspeaking abilities. We managed to wish the people and the nation of Bangladesh a Gott Nytt Ar (Happy New Year). Already a Bangla TV celebrity then, not bad after only two weeks...

This week I went on my first fieldtrip and tomorrow it is off again. Both visits to the North of the country. Pictures and updates from rural Bangladesh will follow in the end of next week.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Cricket victory

Bangladesh yesterday managed to beat South Africa in the ongoing cricket tournament, causing celebrations on the streets yesterday evening.

Less optimistic news the last couple of days regarding the outlook for elections to take place in the near future. The Election Commission has suggested that the preparation of new voter lists will take about 18 months to finish. Also elections for all local government are postponed.

Will go on my first fieldtrip from Monday until Wednesday.

Below are some pictures from the weekend tour of one of Dhakas rivers.

River life

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A few pictures from my neighborhood here in Dhaka. The apartment where I live is situated in an affluent part of the city (similar to Vasant Vihar in Delhi) with nice apartment buildings and an abundance of large cars and jeeps. But this being one of the worlds poorest countries, entire families are living in between the houses on the pavements also in this area. I have still not been around Dhaka much and just have a few pictures from around the neighborhood. Our really nice office is located downtown, the only problem here being frequent power cuts. Next week I will go on my first field trip, really looking forward to get to see both projects and the countryside.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Thursday morning 6.15 am the BA 145 flight from London landed at Zia Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Tired after a bumpy flight (which really made me remember exactly why I hate flying) I stumbled out onto Bangladeshi soil. Immigration went smoothly and my luggage arrived as well. I was picked up by my colleague Anna in a green Mitsubishi jeep that I soon will have to learn how to maneuver on the crazy streets of Dhaka. Please keep your fingers crossed both for me and the rest of the population of Dhaka when I start driving…Thursday was dominated by sleeping. Fridays and Saturdays are the weekend here and I have spent the last couple of days just relaxing and starting to find my way around the neighborhood locating food markets and places to buy daily necessities.

Bangladesh is currently ruled by an interim government who took power after elections failed to take place as scheduled in January. The country is still under emergency rules. This is noticeable in particular by the police and military presence on the streets. Cars and people are regularly being stopped and checked by the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), men and women all dressed in black who looks like some sort of Ninja force. But the political situation otherwise seems to be calm and it is easy to move around in the area where I live.

Today (Sunday) is Eid, a Muslim holiday, and we have the day off. Will start working on Monday, really looking forward to that. Hope to update this blog with some pictures the upcoming week.

Take care!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Last days in Sweden

Where most summers have been spent

Vaxsjön Sunday evening

Favourite running trek

Tuesday lunch in front of the university

My flight leaves tomorrow morning at 10.55 am. This time it has been very hard to say goodbye to friends and family. Hope to hear from you all soon. Come visit any time!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Independence Day

Independence day is celebrated today in Bangladesh. After Indian independence from British colonial rule the Indian subcontinent was split into two nations. During partition of India 1947 into East and West Pakistan millions of Hindus and Muslims fled across the borders, resulting in violent and bloody clashes between the two groups. Until 1971 Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was under Pakistani rule with the government and main institutions placed in West Pakistan. When the West Pakistani government proclaimed that the national language would be Urdu, a language hardly spoken in East Bangladesh, riots and struggle between students and the Pakistani army took place on the streets of Dhaka. After a cyclone killed about 500.000 people in 1970, resistance towards the distant government grew stronger. In the beginning of March 1971 at a rally in Dhaka a political leader talked about Bangladesh as an independent state. Soon thereafter the Mukti Bahini, Bangladesh Freedom Fighters, took charge of a radio station in the Chittagong region. Troops were sent from West Pakistan and a slaughter of supporters of the freedom movement followed. In June, the freedom fight had turned into a full scale guerilla war. Many civilians joined the violent fighting. Napalm was used by the Pakistani government against villages and systematic rape was widespread. During the fighting, in Bangladesh called "the Liberation War", about 10 million fled to across the border to India. In the beginning of December, India had had enough of refugees and fighting around its borders and decided to put an end to the turmoil. The Indian army stepped in and shortly thereafter West Pakistan surrendered. Bangladesh soon thereafter was declared an independent state.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Map of Bangladesh

Ten days left before leaving for Bangladesh. Just recently I (again) was asked if Bangladesh really is not an African country..

Sunday, March 4, 2007

View of Nanda Devi Range in Himalaya, Garwhal District in Northern India (Oct. 2006)

This blog is an attempt to keep friends, family and people with a general interest in Northern South Asia updated on developments in the region. I look forward to your comments and suggestions for links and information to be added to the blog.