Skip to content

Danish Ambassador discusses green growth, COVID-19, and bilateral relations with Bangladesh

H.E. Winnie Estrup Petersen in interview with The Security World magazine

A. How do you see the current relation between Denmark and Bangladesh.

Danish and Bangladeshi relations are excellent. Beginning our bilateral relationship in the 1970s, our partnership has only grown over the years. We cooperate in a wide range of sectors, especially climate change, agriculture, and governance. There is also strategic cooperation in place between our labour ministries, geared at improving occupational health and safety conditions for Bangladeshi workers through the exchange of expertise with Danish counterparts. Indeed, there are many Danish companies and NGOs present and working in Bangladesh. Denmark also works closely with Bangladesh in several international forums, for example the Human Rights Council in Geneva. I am a proud Ambassador of Denmark in Bangladesh. We have a strong and good working history and see even more possibilities to strengthen the bilateral relations and partnership with Bangladesh in the years to come.

With the continued cooperation on the issues of mutual interest, I believe, the relationship will transform and deepen further as Denmark is gradually shifting its bilateral focus from ‘aid-to-trade’. This will result in an increased focus on green growth and sustainability in Bangladesh. Since the 1980s, Denmark has proven that it is possible to have economic growth while reducing energy and resource consumption. I believe, Denmark can play a supporting role in helping Bangladesh pursue its growth story while simultaneously embrace sustainability as well as support the production and exchange of green solutions.

B. How do you evaluate or explain Bangladesh-Denmark economic relations amid the Covid-19 pandemic and pre covid 19 periods.

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The Danish economy is recovering from the initial setback faced in the first half of 2020 and trying to cope with the second wave. Getting the spread of the virus under control is key to being able to resume economic activity the way it used to be before the COVID-19 outbreak. Orders from the Danish export markets declined this year. And as we know, Danish retail brands struggled with the domestic market so significantly that the repercussions were felt in the Bangladeshi RMG sectors. These factors have dampened the economic performance in our relations for this year. On the positive side, there have been signs of revival with a rise in orders from brands before Christmas. It is our hope that these setbacks will be reverted in time now that vaccines have been announced. The optimism from this will have a positive influence on the markets. Currently around 40 Danish companies are engaged in one way or another in business with Bangladesh. However, , in our economic relations, the trade balance is very much in favour of Bangladesh due to your RMG exports.

C. What investment opportunities are ahead here in Bangladesh from Denmark?

While recent times have been difficult times for us all, countries need to increase their focus on taking care of the planet and on embracing sustainable practices. We need to find new ways of managing plastic, textiles, food, and all the other things we use and discard. When faced with an increase in economic growth, population pressure, industrial pollution, and environment degradation we need to turn to green energy and resource efficiency. Going forward, I see Denmark getting involved more with green solutions for the readymade garments industry in Bangladesh, renewable and hybrid energy development, water treatment and distribution, and perhaps even the construction sector for greener buildings.

Manufacturers can produce textiles using Danish technology that results in reduced water usage and pollution. As customers become more conscious and international brands grow their response to those demands, the garments sector in Bangladesh will need to continue to adapt itself as well. Bangladesh and Denmark are also beginning to work together on projects for renewable energy such as wind energy using turbines. Indeed, wind energy development and hybrid solutions that utilize battery storage could ensure competitive and green energy to fuel continued industrial and export growth for Bangladesh. Water is also a critical resource for any country, and we need to better prepare to meet challenges in water supply, water quality and wastewater treatment, using integrated water management and an intelligent approach to the entire water cycle. Danish partners have already started working with Bangladeshi counterparts such as Dhaka WASA on select water treatment projects and we will continue to explore opportunities in this area.

Another area is food and agriculture. Solutions that help reduce food wastage using the latest storage capacity and cold chain development can enable job and growth by improving agro-export opportunities for Bangladesh. Bangladesh and Denmark also have logistics partnerships that help connect Bangladesh to the world. Denmark and Danish companies are actively exploring investment opportunities to further develop shipping lines to and from Bangladesh as well as investments in seaports and inland port facilities. We see these as a promising area of continued cooperation and investment.

Ultimately, technology and innovation have given Denmark expertise in making cities more liveable. Thus, we are identifying areas of trade and investment where Danish expertise, technologies, and innovations can benefit Bangladesh. Bangladesh is known to be a good market with impressive growth and Danish companies can respond to the needs of the Bangladeshi economy for more foreign investment in strategic areas to continue its economic growth. Green growth in combination with public-private-partnerships can be one of those high-potential areas.

D. How do you look at Bangladesh's Rohinga issue? will it be a threat to regional and international security?

As long as this crisis is not solved, we have an obligation to stay engaged in this crisis and invest all possible efforts in bringing a peaceful solution to the plight of the Rohingya and the affected host communities. This must involve agreements and support that can provide the necessary framework for a safe, dignified, and voluntary return of refugees to their homes. Denmark has been providing humanitarian support to this crisis since the very beginning and remains fully committed to support Bangladesh in this heavy burden. We fully acknowledge that the presence of more than one million Rohingya refugees constitute an unsustainable burden on host communities that are already facing harsh economic and climatic conditions. And now also challenged by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Denmark has consistently called for accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar. The situation in the camps continues to be severe. The humanitarian organizations put a tremendous effort in the camps and are doing their best to ensure peace and safety and to meet the communities’ needs. With the pandemic affecting countries and aid around the world, there is an increased need to offer refugees access to livelihoods and social services in support of dignified lives, increasing self-reliance and reducing dependency on humanitarian assistance. At the same time, we also need to alleviate the burden on local host communities. That is why Denmark plans to increase the funding to host community activities.

When it comes to the question of moving Rohingyas to Bashan Char, Denmark stands by the United Nations in the need for a technical assessment of the liveability of the island before the refugees are relocated. We very much welcome that the Government of Bangladesh stresses that any relocation will be done in a voluntary and dignified manner.

E. Would you please provide us in detail what you have extended your assistance for the Rohingya refugees.

Denmark is appreciative of the continued humanitarian response by the Government of Bangladesh and the burden this crisis has placed on the host country. Keeping this in mind, the total Danish contribution to this crisis since August 2017 is approximately 52 million US dollars. On top of this, Denmark will for 2020 and 2021 contribute 14.7 million US dollars to humanitarian and development efforts in Bangladesh and Rakhine State, subject to approval by relevant authorities. Denmark also contributed more than 15 million US dollars to UNHCR’s global COVID-19 response, which includes efforts targeting refugees, internally displaced and affected local communities in the region.

F. Do you have any comments on Bangladesh's initiative to move the Rohingyas to BASAHAN CHAR?

[See the response under D.]

G . Do you have any message on the celebration of Bangladesh's 50th anniversary?

Despite being such a young country, Bangladesh has set a tremendous example for fast development in this region. Before Covid-19, we saw Bangladesh responding to global challenges and pursuing its goals with determination and fervor, improving social indicators and increasingly digital infrastructures. I congratulate Bangladesh for its impressive story of development and resilience and expect to see these qualities being used also for Covid-19 recovery as the world economy improves. Denmark looks forward to seeing Bangladesh graduating to a developing country in the near future and is proud to partner in this endeavour.

H . How do you feel Dhaka? and tell our readers about your hobby and your biography.

Having worked and lived in Latin America and Africa for many years, Dhaka is my first posting in Asia. The past two years have been given me so opportunities to immerse myself in this city and the Bengali culture. I found that I very much enjoy the vibrancy of this city and the hospitality of its people. Dhaka has a multitude of exciting businesses, interesting foods and celebrations year-round. I have had the chance to enjoy a few Pohela Boishakhs, Pujas, several Eid and Christmas holidays during my time here and find there is always good food, colors, and music to turn to during these celebrations. I have come to see much of its rich culture for the arts: from music and poems to paintings and performance. At a personal level, I have been fascinated with the textiles and traditional fabrics in Bangladesh. There is such history to them, and they are an art form in their own right. I love to explore the different types of textiles from jamdani to muslin and silks, the embroideries as well as handlooms. I have many saris to take back with to Denmark – perhaps too many!