On Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh (Part 3)

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Md. Amzad Hossain

Perth, Western Australia

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


This discourse focuses on Goal 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture)[i] and Goal 3  (- Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages)[ii]. Contemporary researches and the experience of Bangladesh suggest that in Goal 2, ‘End hunger’ is achievable by way of achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. And we consider Goal 3 as synergistic outcomes of Goal 2.

The two goals together is, thus, undoubtedly a good positioning by the UN in the list of all the sustainable development goals. Both the goals are achievable in Bangladesh comfortably and sustainably on the country’s own accord. Some fundamental questions in this context could be discussed to unearth the prevalent reality in Bangladesh. This discourse seeks to generate the answers and issues related to those questions in order to facilitate and indicate the achievability of Goal-2 and Goal-3 from the geo-environmental and socio-cultural contexts of the country.

In our previous discourse[iii] we revealed that full alleviation of poverty in Bangladesh is neither possible nor desirable. Likewise, ‘poverty’ and ‘hunger’ that go hand in hand and exist in synergistic relationships, we stress that “End hunger” of Goal 2 is also never fully achievable.

Compelling or forced ‘hunger’ in Bangladesh due to economic or socio-political reasons is largely possible to eliminate through achieving the other aspects of Goal 2 i.e. food security, improved nutrition, and sustainable agriculture. On the other hand, ‘voluntary hunger’ or responsible dietary habits needs to be actively promoted, applied and demonstrated in order for achieving Goal 3. Voluntary ‘Hunger’ is a divinely created phenomenon that is fundamental for sustaining healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages. It has been there through the ages in the world and the major religions also promote different forms of voluntary hunger or responsible dietary habits.

A popular wisdom has it that “Fill 1/3 of your stomach with food, 1/3 with water and leave 1/3 empty for breath and spiritual exercise”.[iv] Baul guru Aziz Shah Fakir (106) of Choraikole, Kushtia follows this directive religiously to live longer, healthy and happy. In sum, Goal 2 speaks about ‘hunger’ in terms of materialistic aspects of ‘poverty’ (Tashi, 2011, Townsend 1977 and 1993)[v], while the correlation between Goal-3 and Goal-2 offers scope to promote the spiritual and moral interpretations that could be utilized to promote responsible citizen behavior in the socioeconomic and religio-cultural contexts of Bangladesh.

More we are reviewing the SDGs, more we are developing familiarity with the importance of logical order of the SDGs positioning.  It appears that the present order of SDGs 1-17 is likely to fail due to unwise appraisal or prioritization of hierarchy of the goals. In our judgment the order of hierarchy that are certain to achieve the desired outcomes are 16, 17, 4, 12, 15, 14, 11, 10, 9, 7, 6, 8,[vi] and 3 and 2.  Goals 1, 5 and 13[vii] are not the goals in reality, but the synergistic outcomes of all other goals.

However, the Primary Research Questions (PQR) and Remarks with respect to analyzing Goal 2 and Goal 3 can be articulated in simple discourse as follows:

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

Is ‘End hunger’ possible in Bangladesh?


Is ‘End hunger’ desirable?


What to do then?

Eliminate man-made hunger, and promote voluntary hunger for holistic sustainability.

What is ‘hunger’?

Hunger is a feeling to eat. A person may be in forced hunger caused by lack of food. This sort of hunger exists in Bangladesh to some extent. Achieving the other aspects of Goal 2 (food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture) would help end this hunger largely.  Promoting voluntary hunger   in religio-cultural contexts would result in socialization of responsible and noble food related habits, healthy lives and well-being at all ages.

Is there any unhealthy hunger?

Yes, addiction to overconsumption.

Why do unwanted and unsustainable hunger exist?

Imbalanced agricultural practices: “When agriculture practices focus on the production of commodities for trade, instead of food for nourishment, hunger and malnutrition is the outcome” (Appleton, 2014).

Mal-distribution of food and financial help to the vulnerable people.

Deliberate supply of insufficient food to domestic or private servants by the employer.

Lack of care for aged persons by their nearest and dearest

Calamities and famine  due to floods, droughts, river erosion

Imbalanced socio-economic growth or prosperity: “I think all of us here today would acknowledge that we’ve lost that sense of shared prosperity” (Barak Obama, 27 March 2008; Jackson, 2009).

Jackson further adds: “My prosperity and the prosperity of those around me are intertwined. Sometime inextricably. Prosperity speaks of the elimination of hunger and homelessness, an end to poverty and injustice, hopes for a secure and peaceful world”.

Yet, another reason is “We are failing in task. Our technologies, our economy and our social aspirations are all mal-aligned with any meaningful expression of prosperity. The vision of social progress that drives us – based on the continual expansion of material wants – is fundamentally untenable. And this failing is not a simple falling short from utopian ideals. It is much more basic. In pursuit of the good life today, we are systematically eroding the basis for well-being tomorrow.  We stand in real danger of losing any prospect of a shared and lasting prosperity” (Jackson, 2009).

How is unwanted ‘hunger’ affecting the world?

On a daily basis 24,000 people die of hunger or diseases associated with it; that is a death every 3.6 seconds (Vermon, 2007).

Who practice sustainable healthy hunger?

Wise and spiritual people practice moderate hunger for both good health and longevity, also for spiritual ascension to higher level of being e.g. Bauls, Sufis, Fakirs, Sanyasis and so on. Also, many people have to practice hunger as part of their medical conditions. The later mostly happens to people who over-consumed earlier in their lives.

Why many house servants suffer from unwanted hunger?

In almost all cases their employers do not give them sufficient food to eat days after days, months after months. Cases in this regard are frequently reported in the media and the court cases are filed.

How can the problem be solved?

Values education, community intervention, social punishment and good governance.

What is values education?

Popie Hossain[viii] reveals that the value of values education lies in its potential to enrich and empower Education for Sustainability (EfS) with values that nurture  changes in attitudes towards  pro-sustainability  practices and lifestyle.  Several decades ago, Rogers (1969) highlighted that at the root of social and environmental problems lies a crucial concern with the lack of values. More recently, Calder and Clugston (2003) also stress that the state of the global environment and human wellbeing has for many decades been in a spiral of decline. As a result of the ongoing social, economic and environmental sustainability concerns all over the globe, the World Commission on Environment and Development published a landmark document in 1987, the Brundtland Commission Report, which argued for a balance between socio-economic progress and environmental care (Stefanovic, 2002).

What is the definition of values?

Halstead and Taylor (1996) defines values as “Principles, fundamental convictions, ideals, standards of life stances which act as general guides to behaviour or as points of reference in decision making or the evaluation of beliefs or action which are closely connected to personal integrity and personal identity.”

What essential values are required for achieving the SDGs?

People need to acquire and manifest modesty, charity, righteousness and truthfulness. Islam sees responsibility as the value of values that drives people to observe other values in their life (Hossain and Marinova, 2006).

What is the best of all values in the context of achieving the SDGs?

Clearly, living simply (modesty) is the value of all values; it is the route to sustainability; and it is the spiritual tool that can sustain the society, the economy and the environment in the long-term.

What is wrong with values education in Bangladesh?

No values education since the 1970s.

What is responsible for this?

Due to a lack of good governance and the lack of the reflection of the philosophy of “Achieving the National Aspirations (the 4 pillars of 72 Constitution) through Education system”. The national curriculums of Bangladesh post 1975 era severely lack the values education that will develop new generations with compassion for people, nature and morality. The students in Bangladesh are not aware of their responsibilities and roles for the nation. They are taught about their individual success and materialistic achievements where, the society and nation’s expectation from them is often missing.

What is wrong with good governance in terms of food security?

Massive corruption since the 1970s have corrupted the food distribution governance.

Why community intervention for community sustainability management not taking place as in the past?

Traditional social system is almost vanished by the influence of anti-values driven globalization that promotes unsustainable Western values such as individualism, consumerism, secularism and alcoholism.

What is sustainable agriculture?

Agriculture that does not negatively affect the soil i.e. agriculture without chemical inputs, multi-cropping instead of mono-cropping, agriculture with sustainable irrigation.

What is sustainable irrigation?

Use of surface water instead of extracting under-ground water by responsible use and conservation of natural water resources and approaches such as sustainable river basin management by the topographic partner (societies or nations).

How can surface waters in Bangladesh be generated?

By re-excavating the degraded innumerable natural small rivers, beels and haors.

When all the above Research Questions and Remarks are addressed, there is a strong possibility that the cases of “harmful hunger” will reduce to a great extent (provided that other factors such as free flow of information to-and-from citizens to government are ensured) and the beneficial ‘hunger’ will remain as the factor of healthy and happy lives and well-being for all ages.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

What are healthy lives?

The lives with good physical health by way of modest consumption maintaining modest hunger, simple living and adequate physical activity and positive thinking and spiritual exercise.

What is well-being?

Good health, spiritual contentment and happiness.

What is spiritual contentment?

The Bible has a great deal to say about contentment—being satisfied with what we have, who we are, and where we’re going. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).

What are the unsustainable materialistic contentment?

In today’s world, the desire to earn more and more money and consume more and more unnecessary food and non-food commodities is a dominant force at the expense of spiritual growth and contentment. Through the clever use of advertisements and media the multinational corruptions strongly influence and in many cases mercilessly exploit people around the world (Esposito and Watson, 2000).

When a person is spiritually content?

When he lives in happiness, being confident about his role in the society and the needs of his life that will make him content.

What is happiness?

In its most general terms, Happiness can be defined as a positive mental state and opposite of suffering (Tashi, 2011).

Who is a happy person?

Wisdom has it that ‘A genuinely happy person is one who has made others happy.’

How can Bangladesh acquire for its people through the SDGs?

By way of achieving ‘Self-reliance’ that SDGs Demonstration Projects depict.

As happy lives and happy persons are interconnected, so is ‘self-sufficiency’ and happiness’ are interconnected, even integrally in Bangladesh culture (Zevnik, 2014).

What are the signs of happiness in a society?

Harmonious co-existence of people of varying religious faiths, and socioeconomic strata.

How  SDGs are related to happiness?

People who devote more time to spiritual exercise and consume less are happier and live longer and healthier lives, whereas those seek material possessions and conspicuous consumption generally experience less happiness and report less satisfaction with their lives. They also live shorter than the people practice healthy hunger.

Social science research generally shows that, with the exception of the poor, a person’s income or socioeconomic status does not affect his contentment significantly, and even economic growth does not have a significant effect on happiness.

In other words, as the tragic irony is that in consumption societies economic growth does not bring human happiness; so the achieving SDGs would create  the happiest people who are often found in developing nations e.g. Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico (Harris, 2013).

How Bangladesh government can restore pro-sustainability hunger for happiness, healthy lives, well-being and sustainable food management?

Educate for happiness, well-being and global citizenship. This would involve education from pre-school through university train global citizens who seek global lives of happiness and well-being for all within environmental limits. It would also involve public education campaigns to develop understanding among citizens of the consequences of climate change for their wellbeing and the advantage of living more sustainable lives. People need a very good understanding of the role of human beings in ecology and the importance of environmental health for human wellbeing.

Environmental education should be combined with moral education that helps people to understand the true source of happiness, which tend to be found in environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Such programs would be a contrast to most school curricula and public education programs, which now tend to encourage the attraction of wealth and material consumption, prioritize the present over the future (Harris, 2013).

How to ensure healthy lives and well-being?

To culture spirituality as part of sustainable development culture.

What is spirituality?

Spirituality “is both succinct and inclusive, refers to the deepest human longings: for wholeness, connection and transformation, for providing a sense of purpose and agency, for the sense of the sacredness of life and sacred presence that often anchors these (King, 2008).

Spirituality is the deepest meaning by which people seek to live with values and visions in order to achieve the full potential of the human body and spirit (Sheldrake, 2007).

Can people have a place for one-stop solution for the Goals 2 and 3?

Yes, through the SDGs demonstration projects where achievement of the SDGs in context will be displayed and disseminated by the well-trained government officials in association with the Mahalla SDGs committee.

People beyond the project will learn how to encounter unwanted and healthy hungers, nutrition management, sustainable agriculture, healthy lives, happiness and well-being of the Mahalla people.

Concluding Remarks:

With respect to implementation aspects of the SDGs, we suggest Bangladesh government to respect the wisdom: ‘Slow and steady win the race’.

In Lalon Fakir’s words:

Jeo na andaji pathe, o mon rasana.

Kupanke kupanche pole, praan bachbe na.

Pather parichoy kare,

Jao na maner sandeh mere.

Laav lokshan buddhir dare

Jabe jana - Lalon Fakir.

(Do not proceed through conjectural path

It has fatal pitfalls.

Identifying a sustainable pathway, proceed diligently.

Intention results in right or wrong).

Civil servants are a strong tool for the government to reach the peripheries of the country due to their interactive functions with the citizens. In order to respect the above wisdom the nominated civil servants are firstly required to be adequately trained up to envision the triggering point of implementing the SDGs i.e. envisioning the blue-print of the topography specific demonstration projects. It matters little if Bangladesh is listed at 118th position out of 149 countries in the SDG index ratings done by the outsiders with materialistic mindset (SDG index and Dashboards 2016).[ix] The Governance Innovation Unit (GIU) in the Prime Minister’s office, Dhaka is working in conjunction with the SDGs Research Team in the direction of country-wide outcome based implementation of the SDGs within a decade. Planning is also in progress to create Bangladesh as the international hub of culturing SDGs with research and development agenda. Making Bangladesh a regional hub (that will demonstrate cases and strategies to achieve specific SDG targets, which will be replicable in other countries of the Asia-Pacific) in achieving SDGs will simultaneously serve to achieve SDG targets related to different forms of sustainable tourism (such as , eco-tourism, pilgrim-tourism) and creating decent employment opportunities for the local and indigenous communities.

However, sustainable achievement of these two goals in context will largely depend on the good beginning of training, education and applied research programs. As “A good beginning is half the battle”, so the programs should NOT be conducted by the non-practitioner trainers who do not practice moral and spiritual aspects of humanness in their own lives. It is important for the sake of the success of such trainings that the trainers themselves are the ardent believers of SDG values and principles and be confident that these goals are achievable. In the context of Goals 2 and 3, wisdom has it that healthy and happy are those who strive for consuming less and thrive to remain hunger resilient.[x]


Appleton, Jack 2014 Values in Sustainable Development. Routledge, London.

Calder, W. & Clugston, R. (2003) International efforts to promote higher education for sustainable development. Planning for higher education 31(3): 30-44.

Esposito, J.L, Watson, M. (2000) Religion and Global Order, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, UK.

Harris, Paul G. 2013. What’s Wrong with Climate Politics and How to Fix It

Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

Hossain, A., Marinova, D. (2006) Self-Reliance: A Sustainability Solution for Indigenous Communities, Global Poverty: Sustainable Solutions, Perth, Western Australia, (date of access 27 February 2007)

Hossain, A., Hossain, P., Marinova, D. (2006) The role of Islamic values in education for sustainability, in D. Hurst (ed.) Consequentiality Volume 2: Mythology, Theology, Ontology, Expanding Human Consciousness, Inc., Tallahassee, FL, USA, pp. 55-74

Halstead, J.M. & Taylor, M.J. (1996) Values and values education in schools. In Halstead, J.M, & Taylor, M.J. (Eds). Values in education and education in values (pp. 3-14). London: Falmer Press.

Jackson, T. 2009. Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, Eartscan, London.

King, Ursula. 2008. The Search For Spirituality - Our Global Quest for a Spiritual Life. Blue Bridge Publishing, New York.

Rogers, C. (1969) Freedom to Learn, Charles E. Merill Publishing Company, London.

Sheldrake, P. (2007), A brief history of spirituality, Blackwell, Malden, MA.

Stefanovic, Ingrid Leman. 2000 Safeguarding Our Common Future – Rethinkng Sustainable Development. State University of Newyork Press, Albany.

Townsend, P., 1977, The Concept of Poverty. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Townsend, P 1993, International analysis of poverty, Harvester Wheatsheaf, London.

Vernon, James 2007  Hunger – a modern history. Cambridge: The Belknaf Press of Harvard University Press.

Zevnik, Luka 2014 Critical Perspectives in Happiness Research – The Birth of Modern Happiness. Springer, New York.

End Notes

[i] Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

2.1 by 203 0 end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

2.2 by 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons

2.3 by 2030 double the agricultural productivity and the incomes of small-scale food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

2.4 by 2030 ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters, and that progressively improve land and soil quality

2.5 by 2020 maintain genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at national, regional and international levels, and ensure access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge as internationally agreed

2.a increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development, and plant and livestock gene banks to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular in least developed countries

2.b. correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets including by the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round

2.c. adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives, and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility

[ii] Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

3.1 by 2030 reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births

3.2 by 2030 end preventable deaths of newborns and under-five children

3.3 by 2030 end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases

3.4 by 2030 reduce by one-third pre-mature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and wellbeing

3.5 strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol

3.6 by 2020 halve global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

3.7 by 2030 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes

3.8 achieve universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

3.9 by 2030 substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination

3.a strengthen implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries as appropriate

3.b support research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the TRIPS agreement regarding flexibilities to protect public health and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all

3.c increase substantially health financing and the recruitment, development and training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in LDCs and SIDS

3.d strengthen the capacity of all countries, particularly developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

[iii] On Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh (Part 2) Monday, June 26, 2017.



The Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said: “No man fills a

vessel worse than his stomach. A few mouthfuls that would suffice

to keep his back upright are enough for a man. But if he must eat

more, than he should fill one third (of his stomach) with food, one

third with drink and leave one third for easy breathing”

[v] Poverty is a debilitating entity that generates a sense of helplessness, passivity, and despair (Tashi, 2011). The lack of "a minimum nutritionally adequate diet plus essential non-food requirements… not affordable" is the most obvious manifestation of poverty (Townsend 1993).

W. Martin Rein (in Townsend, 1977) defines poverty considering the provision of maintaining health and other social standards in a given society. Rein implies that people who are not healthy because of the inadequate calorific intake and inability to maintain social standards in respect of housing and clothing are in poverty. This is an apt definition of poverty in village Bangladesh to some extent.

[vi] Goal 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

[vii] Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*

[viii] Hossain, Popie. 2011. PhD Thesis. Education for Sustainability : The Potential Contribution of Creator-centric Islamic Values Education. Murdoch University, Western Australia.


[x] ‘Hunger is the beast sauce’ The Wisdom of Life, by Arthur Schopenhauer


To be continued...


Md. Amzad Hossain

Perth, Western Australia

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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