Development Heikki Holmås minister visited Bangladesh this week, aiming to add Norway’s voice (and money) to the growing international pressure for improved working conditions in the country’s textiles industry.
Holmås was visiting the impoverished South Asian nation just a few weeks after the Rana Plaza industrial complex housing five textile factories collapsed, killing 1127 people.
“We must never allow such a thing to happen again,” Holmås told reporters in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.
Holmås brought a contribution of USD 2,5 million to fund a project within the International Labour Organisation (ILO) called Fundamental Rights at Work and Labour Relations in Export Oriented Industries in Bangladesh.
The project targets all export-oriented sectors, including not only garments, but also the leather industry and shrimp processing. Signing the agreement with ILO’s loccal representative Srinivas Reddy, Holmås said the brand Made in Bangladesh should be a source of pride.
“I encourage entrepreneurs to invest in Bangladesh. The brand should be maintained,” he said.”It’s essential for Bangladesh as the world’s second largest textile exporter to improve, and to prevent that Made in Bangladesh becomes a brand of exploitation.”
According to Holmås, Norway’s import of Bangladeshi garments has increased over the recent decade and is expected to keep doing so. Current trade in textiles amounts to around NOK 1 billion annually.
“We trade more, tightening relations between our two peoples and bringing the textiles industry closer to us in Norway,” Holmås said.
“Therefore, the incident of Rana Plaza matters to the Norwegian people, he told local media gathered at a posh Dhaka hotel.
Climate issues were also on the agenda during the Norwegian minister’s meetings with local officials. A densely populated country, Bangladesh frequently suffers large human nad material losses due to extreme weather.