The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in the People's Republic of Bangladesh to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Bangladesh's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. human rights and democracy goals in the country include continued and constructive participation by all parties in the political process, improved governance, and greater protection of human rights, including labor rights and freedom of the press and of religion. The United States promotes democracy and human rights by supporting democratic institutions and practices, encouraging transparency and accountability, endorsing respect for the rule of law, supporting a constructive civil-military relationship, and seeking justice against the perpetrators of human rights abuses and political and extremist violence.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. officials emphasize the importance of constructive participation in the political process through discussions with government officials, members of civil society, and the press. The United States raises concerns about human rights abuses with the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and urges the government to conduct transparent investigations and take appropriate actions against human rights violators. In 2009 the United States continued human rights training for the Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh's primary counterterrorism unit. A U.S. Government sponsored investigative journalism center works with local journalists to strengthen their investigative reporting skills. In addition, the journalists are trained in reporting on transparency and accountability issues. U.S. officials meet with victims of human rights abuses and intercede with the government on specific cases. U.S. officials implement programs to enhance the rule of law by improving the capability of law enforcement officers to investigate properly and prosecute complex financial and organized crimes and develop prosecutorial and judicial skills.
The United States supports numerous projects to promote democracy in the country and lay the foundation for constructive political engagement with the government. The U.S. Government continues to enhance the capability of political parties and civil society leaders to participate fully in various aspects of the political process. For example, the U.S. Government is expanding initiatives in political party development, electoral assistance, and legislative strengthening that will help consolidate the country's democratic gains in political governance. In addition, U.S. assistance programs promote tolerance and diversity through civil society. One such program acquaints local religious and community leaders with fundamental development issues to engage them in the promotion of democratic values and practices. More than 6,000 leaders who have participated in the program over the last year now disseminate messages of tolerance to their local communities.
The U.S. government supports efforts to enable local governments to become more democratic, effective, and responsive institutions. For example, the U.S. Government helps local governments develop strategic plans that address the needs of constituents through participatory planning measures on issues such as local infrastructure, public service, disaster-relief, and mitigation planning. In order to combat endemic corruption, the U.S. government funds a program to increase transparency and accountability in government institutions such as the Parliament and Comptroller General. In addition, the USG supports anticorruption monitoring, advocacy, and the investigative capabilities of various civil society organizations and the media.
The GOB continued to allow workers the right to associate freely, although in practice employers often curtailed this right. The United States continues to speak to workers, employers, and government officials about the importance of educating workers inside and outside export processing zones (EPZs) and employers about the need for compliance with internationally recognized labor rights and domestic labor laws. The United States provides technical assistance to enhance the capacity of EPZ and non-EPZ workers to form unions or associations and works with employers and workers to improve adherence to labor standards and bargain together constructively. This year the U.S. Government began a technical assistance program to the shrimp industry aiming to institutionalize an industry culture of resolving disputes and workplace issues through the legal system and encourage adherence to labor laws and international standards.
The United States works with the government to develop and implement a strategy to combat trafficking in persons. U.S. officials meet with the government to monitor the progress of the police unit addressing sex trafficking and works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve the ability of Bangladeshi consular officials to aid trafficking victims stranded abroad. The United States conducts training programs on trafficking investigations for prosecutors and police officers. U.S.-supported training helps officials to better manage trafficking cases through improved victim and witness interviewing techniques and better evidence collection. In addition, the United States supports services providing shelter, health care, psychological counseling, and legal aid to victims of sex and labor trafficking.
The U.S. Government provides support to international partners for activities that assist several hundred thousand Rohingya refugees from Burma and encourages the government to cooperate in improving living conditions in both official and unofficial refugee camps. In addition, the U.S. Government participates in a multilateral steering group working to persuade the government to address constructively the issue of un-registered Rohingya living in Bangladesh. The U.S. Government plans to launch a new human rights program in 2010 with the aim of reducing the high prevalence of domestic violence in Bangladesh and other related human rights violations such as sexual harassment, child marriage, and other root causes of domestic abuse.