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Australian aid for Bangladesh

I am pleased to announce the Australian Government will fund a new initiative aimed at improving human rights and strengthening governance in Bangladesh.

Increased funding for practical human rights initiatives has been one of my priorities as Foreign Minister. I was able to discuss this issue at length with the new United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, in Switzerland last week. Australia believes effective and transparent governance, which includes the protection of human rights, is crucial to national development.

This new $200,000 initiative will provide training and technical assistance for Bangladeshi officials, including training in human rights law and in legislative drafting.

I am also pleased to announce funding of $500,000 to continue to assist some 21,000 Rohingyan refugees currently living in camps along the Bangladesh/Burma border. The World Food Programme will receive $300,000 to assist it to provide food to the refugees and the United National High Commissioner for Refugees will receive $200,000 for programs which provide refugees with clean water, sanitation, food and shelter.

The Australian Government will also contribute funds for two health initiatives in Bangladesh. The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease in Dhaka will receive $325,000 and the Dhaka Dental College will receive $88,200 to assist with their important work.

Australia will contribute a total of $33.3 million in aid to Bangladesh this financial year to assist the country to pursue its development objectives.

Under Australia's Development Scholarship program, 80 Bangladeshi students are currently studying in Australia.

Australia also continues to provide Bangladesh with about 86,000 tonnes of wheat in food aid but hopes that this form of assistance will decline as food production and distribution improves in the country over time.

During meetings with Bangladeshi Ministers, I indicated Australia would be pleased to consider assisting the Government of Bangladesh in furthering the peace process in the Chittagong Tracts through redevelopment of the region.

DHAKA

Media contact:

Innes Willox, Minister's Office, 02 6277 7500; 0411 414 695

Geoff Adlide, AusAID, 02 6206 4967; 0417 683 126