KOICA’s 30 years partnership with Bangladesh

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Young-Ah Doh. Photo Collected

This year 2021 is a momentous year for Bangladesh, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Republic of Korea. KOICA is celebrating its 30th anniversary to further deepen the existing bilateral ties between Republic of Korea and Bangladesh for LDC Graduation, while the Republic of Korea is observing its historic membership with the United Nations. At the same time, Bangladesh is celebrating the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and golden jubilee of independence of Bangladesh- two milestones of the country.

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was established as a government-funded agency dedicated to grant aid programs on April 1, 1991. KOICA endeavors to combat poverty and support sustainable socio-economic growth of partner countries. By doing so, KOICA establishes and strengthens friendly ties with developing countries. KOICA started its journey in Bangladesh in 1993 with a mission to catalyze socio-economic development for the people of Bangladesh. KOICA Bangladesh Office implements development projects with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), UN Agencies and NGOs, and arranges capacity building invitational training programs for government officials and dispatches World Friends Korea (WFK) Volunteers for accelerating local development.

A glimpse at KOICA’s Global Development Programs

KOICA is executing in nearly 50 countries and accounts for 62% of the total national grant aid budget. This shows KOICA’s irreplaceable position in Korea’s development cooperation landscape. KOICA has gone from an agency with an annual budget which has been increased by 5,614 % over 30 years. It was just 17.4 billion KRW (US$15.3 million) in 1991 to Korea’s premier grant aid agency that executes a total of 972 billion KRW (US$859 million) in 2021. This substantial increase in budget reflects the Korean government’s firm commitment to contributing to the international community with its accession to the formal membership of the OECD DAC in 2010. KOICA’s budget is forecasted to register steady growth as Korea raises its ODA/GNI ratio to the level of the OECD DAC average. Korea has the highest annual growth rate of ODA among OECD member countries in recent years.

Main development Programs of KOICA Bangladesh

Since KOICA’s establishment in Bangladesh, the organization has contributed a total of US$164 million, of which Health sector accounted for maximum 30% of total budget, followed by Education (29%), Governance (17%) and Science, Technology and Innovation (11%). The organization is currently implementing over 20 development projects in the following priority sectors under its Country Plan (CP) with approx. 20 million USD grants per annum: ICT (innovation), Public Health, Education (TVET) and Transportation.

KOICA’s successful projects are aligned with its Country Plan (CP) focusing on three specific programs, which are as follows.

Enhance Efficiency of Public Service by establishing Digital Public System

In this program, KOICA is supporting ICT Division for developing e-Government Master Plan in achieving Digital Bangladesh along with launching the digital municipality service system for digital Bangladesh. The organization has also strengthened the digital investigation capabilities of the Criminal Investigation Department of Bangladesh Police to effectively combat emerging cybercrime & conventional crimes all over Bangladesh. Furthermore, KOICA is supporting Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and Bangladesh Fire Service & Civil Defence (FSCD) for developing IT-based management and reengineering their business process. It has established Narcotics Information Management System (NIMS) for DNC which covers narcotics court case management, narcotics licensing management, narcotics sample analysis management, operation management and drug addicted patients’ management, it will address many challenges that the narcotics department is currently facing, which ultimately prevent narcotic-proliferation in Bangladesh by enhancing the national capacity for drug control. For FSCD, KOICA is establishing a state-of-the-art digital Emergency Response Control Center (ERCC) which is capable of extracting real time location data and information of the disaster for immediate response and rescue. Moreover, the organaization has established a data center & web-portal system for BRTA- first digital vehicle inspection center- to manage all types of resources in an organized, effective and efficient way and provide one-stop fast and accurate services to the people of Bangladesh. In addition, the KOICA is supporting Roads & Highways Department (RHD) to improve safety in its national highway corridors by introducing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) that will also reduce traffic congestion on the highway.

Enhance Public health by providing Quality of Health and Medical Service

Under this program, KOICA undertook bilateral, multilateral and NGO collaborated projects. The agency is working with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) for establishing Eye Health Care Units and improving Maternal and Child Health. KOICA has established National Institute of Advanced Nursing Education - first MSc course in Nursing - for supporting the national initiative of the Government of Bangladesh to enhance the teaching capacity of nurse teachers in Bangladesh in order to increase health services for people by producing quality nurse. Furthermore, it established Korea-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital in Savar, which is providing health services to the pro-poor. In addition, KOICA supported UNICEF and Save the Children for delivering Maternal/ Newborn Health and Family Planning (MNH-FP) Services.  A total of over 3 million population received Maternal and Child Health supports.  KOICA has also assisted MoH&FW to combat COVID-19 pandemic by contributing with PCR/RNA test kits, RNA machines, walk-through booths, emergency medical supplies, food packages to vulnerable communities, etc.

Develop Skillful Human Resource for Sustainable Development

In this program, KOICA is working with Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) under Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment (MoEWOE) to support national initiative of the government of Bangladesh to strengthen the capacity of Technical Training Centers (TTC) by increasing the quality of vocational education across the country. The KOICA has already modernized Technical Training Centers in Dhaka, Chattogram and Rajshahi to produce highly skilled manpower to meet the increasing demand of both local and overseas job markets. The organization is also improving the capacity of TTC teachers by establishing the Teacher Training Centers to promote demand-driven competency-based skill training, which ultimately enhancing opportunity of employment for the graduates. The KOICA has also established 100 IT labs in secondary schools in Dhaka district to strengthen ICT capacity for computer teachers and provide the learning opportunities for students on basic computer literacy and ICT education. Finally, KOICA is collaborating with University of Dhaka to Promote Creative Youth Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.

Along with the programmatic support, over 2,300 government officials attended training and Master’s program in Korea to share important technical skills and knowledge as well as to build capacities for sustainable socio-economic development. Another over 600 WFK volunteers deployed in Bangladesh who contributed in Nursing, Social welfare, Agriculture, etc. for helping people in need in Bangladesh while exchanging cultural values.

Future Plan

KOICA is committed to assist the Government of Bangladesh to accomplish its 8th Five Year Plan (2021 -2025), achieve Sustainable Development Goals and graduate smoothly from Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2026. Furthermore, KOICA would be to focus on three main themes i.e., Green New Deal emphasizing on the transition to a low carbon economy- state agenda of the President of The Republic of Korea, Digitalization-emphasizing resolving the digital divide between regions having access to technology, and lastly, Integrated Official Assistance- emphasizing to solve fundamental problems together instead of standalone projects.

Young-Ah Doh, Country Director, KOICA Bangladesh Office

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