Transforming Crisis into Opportunity: A Sustainable Future for Rohingya Refugees

In the sprawling refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, it is the presence of around 1.2 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

On an calm and cool evening in Cox’s Bazar ( Bangladesh), as the sun dips below the horizon, casting long shadows over the bustling refugee camp, a young Rohingya girl named Jasmine (who came from Myanmar after experiencing inhuman atrocities) gazes out towards the sea. Her days are occupied with the cacophony of camp life, but in these silent moments, she finds solace in her art—sketching the faces and scenes that surround her. Each line she draws is an absolute testament to the resilience and spirit of her people; each portrait, a defiance against the anonymity of displacement. Jasmine’s mother, once a primary school teacher in the village they fled, now sits beside her, spinning stories as weaver captures them on paper. “Our memories are our actual and real wealth,” her mother says, her voice a soothing balm, “and no one can take them from us.” These words, simple yet highly powerful and motivational, fuel Jasmine’s resolve to bear witness—to make sure that the world sees more than just numbers and statistics when they look at her own community. As the twilight deepens, Jasmine adds the finishing touches to a drawing of a senior man she met that morning; his eyes, like ocean of history, seem to grasp stories of a thousand lifetimes. This portrait, like so many others in her growing collection, is more than “just” an art; it’s a bridge—joining the past with the present, the lost with the living. Her actual ambition is outright clear: to convert her art into a voice for the voiceless, to bring the stories of her people to the galleries and screens of the world beyond the camp where she lives with others. Her dream is to experience and enjoy her art catalyze change, to stir the hearts and minds of those who can make a huge difference. Jasmine’s story is a poignant reminder of the untouched talent that lies within the walls of refugee camps—a potential that the Bangladesh Compact seeks to unleash with zero-sum anxiety and tensions. By advocating for policies that nurture the talents and ambitions of refugees like Jasmine, the Compact objectives to transform a narrative of survival into one of thriving. It signifies a bold step forward, offering a scheme for hope and action; a future where Jasmine, and many like her, can switch from surviving to thriving—on their own terms.

In the sprawling refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, it is the presence of around 1.2 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar that has exerted a profound strain on local economy and security and complicated the diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Urgent is the need for innovative and sustainable policy that may solve the issues and provide socio-economic support and stability; this is what has spurred the proposal of the “Bangladesh Compact.” Bangladesh Compact—a comprehensive policy initiative— may seek to engage international stakeholders—including the United Nations, European Union, ASEAN, and the United States—integrating economic, social, and infrastructural development tailored to benefit both the refugee and local people. By transitioning from an aid-driven approach to a developmental model, the Compact may develop trade agreements and market access for Bangladeshi products, while also providing incentives for foreign direct investment in areas heavily impacted by the refugee problem. Central to the strategy are economic zones that underscore on industries pivotal to Bangladesh’s export strategy: textiles, agriculture, and manufacturing. In these zones, substantial employment opportunities accessible to both locals and refugees might be created while some countries have already applied these strategies and policies. Additionally, the Compact will highlight technical training and education, which are of utmost importance. Significant too is the investment in infrastructure; this will improve living conditions within refugee camps and host communities, promoting better health outcomes and environmental sustainability. Advocated by the Compact are policies that facilitate the legal recognition of refugees, thereby enabling them to work, access public services, and integrate more fully into society; these are essential for reducing social tensions and enhancing the social fabric of host communities..

Inspired by global precedents—such as Uganda’s progressive refugee policies that grant extensive rights and freedoms, and the Jordan Compact’s  and Turkey’s successful integration of Syrian refugees into the workforce via special economic zones—the Bangladesh Compact could significantly impact Bangladesh’s economy and social cohesion. In addition, Bangladesh may initiate a strategic framework similar to the Jordan Compact, hereby designated as the Bangladesh Compact. This proposed initiative will endeavor to augment the livelihoods of Rohingya refugees by bestowing legal work badges, establishing dedicated economic zones like EPZ where enterprises can engage them, and offering incentives such as tax concessions and diminished regulatory constraints to increasingly attract national and multinational corporate investments. Besides, it may expand access to education and occupational training, meticulously tailored for migrants, to facilitate their integration into the workforce. The compact can also solicit more international financial support and trade incentives—such as preferential market access for products originating from these economic zones. To cultivate and improve social harmony, the initiative may include community integration programs, exactly designed to promote cultural exchange and foster mutual understanding between the Rohingya and local societies. This holistic approach not only will address immediate humanitarian exigencies but also will stimulate economic development, benefiting both the refugees and the host country, thereby transforming a dreadful crisis into a robust developmental opportunity.

To conclude, represented by the Bangladesh Compact is a strategic scheme for leveraging the Rohingya refugee calamity as an outstanding opportunity for growth and development. By fostering collaboration among international actors and aligning their support with both the immediate needs of the Rohingya and the long-term development goals of Bangladesh, this initiative can serve as a catalyst and sustainable solution that will certainly benefit all parties involved. Meanwhile, Bangladesh should and must have to collaborate strategically and prudently with international actors while carefully observing international political dynamics and maintaining its foreign policy. 

Abdullah Al-Mamun
Abdullah Al-Mamun
Md. Abdullah-Al-Mamun is an experienced researcher and analyst with specializations in security analysis, public policy, diplomacy, and international politics and economy. He is a skilled writer, known for his insightful editorials, commentaries, and academic discussions. He might be reached abdullahalmamunhbri[at]