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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3597

Mr Morrison asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 11 March 2009:

(1)   What further action has the Government taken to support the implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.

(2)   What consideration has the Government given to further aid projects in addition to those already supported.

Mr Stephen Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   The United Nations Human Rights Council considered Bangladesh’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process during its session from 2-13 February 2009. The Council will review the human rights records of all 192 United Nations Member States once every four years. During the session Australia recommended that the Government of Bangladesh take steps to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and encouraged the Government of Bangladesh to take steps to protect the social, economic, and cultural rights of minorities, refugees and displaced people. The Australian High Commission in Dhaka maintains an ongoing relationship with the Chittagong Hill Tracts International Commission. It attended the Commission’s briefing sessions on 16 and 22 February 2009 to seek an update on the political and human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh takes every appropriate opportunity to encourage the Government of Bangladesh to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.

(2)   The Australian Government explores options to assist the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), subject to funding availability. Over the period 2006-2010, 100 scholarships to study in Australia will be provided in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the indigenous people of the CHT. The scholarship program aims to enhance the human resources of the CHT people. The people of the CHT are also assisted as part of Australia’s broader Bangladesh country assistance program. In May 2008, AusAID signed a four year agreement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide $20 million in assistance to an Integrated Maternal and Child Health Project, targeting mothers, new-borns and children under five. The project has been implemented in two sub-districts of Bandarban, a district of the CHT. It will be expanded to cover all seven sub-districts over the next three years.