Business, Development and De-radicalization: Can the Private Sector Improve Human Security in Bangladesh?

Dr. Robert Hanlon
Dr. Mary Hanlon

Bangladesh is the second-largest manufacturer of fashion and apparel products globally. The historical legacy of international, domestic, and corporate-led policies and efforts designed to facilitate growth within the country's ready-made garment (RMG) sector have heavily impacted the growth and structure of the industry as it stands today. Despite witnessing significant socio-economic development since its independence, Bangladesh has been marred by corruption, systemic violence and wide-scale government threats. Thus, the backdrop to the RMG sector—the economic engine of Bangladesh—is a history of state-sanctioned violence coupled with Islamic extremism. While a broad range of scholarship has focused on political violence and human rights violations in the country, with respect to worker safety, few studies have considered the role of transnational business actors as agents of peacebuilding holding important spheres of influence and responsibility. Drawing on political stakeholder theory, we question the private sector’s commitment to ‘do no harm’ while arguing corporate indifference towards the country’s protracted political crisis and rising extremism is fueling human insecurity. Moreover, the paper outlines critical gaps in the RMG sector’s social responsibility infrastructure that we see as missed opportunity for business actors genuinely committed to development and de-radicalization in Bangladesh.