Newsletter edition 4
Platforms for Dialogue starts training for Union Parishad members
Union Parishad is the smallest unit of local government in Bangladesh and the very first point of contact when citizens have any issue to raise regarding service and entitlements. The Government of Bangladesh has decided to empower the local government institutions by adding to their responsibilities in serving citizens.
Unlike the selected civil service officers, the elected Union Parishad members are not as skilled and knowledgeable about social accountability, which is crucial to ensure transparent and timely service delivery to communities.
Platforms for Dialogue, a three-year EU-funded project implemented by the British Council in partnership with the Cabinet Division, has addressed this knowledge gap and started to train elected UP members from all its 21 working districts.
The overall purpose of this activity is to build upon the knowledge and skills of UP chairmen, members and secretaries, so that they can ensure good governance in Union Parishads through encouraging citizens’ participation in decision making.
The training will specifically focus on an inclusive approach in decision making and a participatory planning process in connection with NIS, RTI, CC and GRS. The training will also emphasise the effective implementation of these policy tools as part of the UPs’ day to day operations.
The process started with training the core trainers (Master Trainers) – the Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs) and Deputy Directors of Local Government (DDLGs) – at the National Institute of Local Government (NILG) in March 2019. These core trainers will train Union Parishads’ elected members at the district level between May and September 2019. Union Parishad’s Chairman and Secretaries will receive the same training in Dhaka at NILG in July 2019.
To deliver this training, P4D has already designed and developed a training manual in consultation with the Cabinet Division that includes all necessary information to help local government institutions become more accountable to their communities.
IT’S TIME FOR SOCIAL ACTION
After months of preparation and planning, P4D’s Multi Actor Partners (MAPs) are now having a busy time implementing their Social Action Projects (SAPs). With the seed funding provided by P4D, an EU-financed three-year project in partnership with the Cabinet Division, these young people are working in groups to bring innovative ideas and positive changes to their communities.
The MAP groups were given training on democratic values, leadership, communication social action project, and social accountability tools,such as RTI, GRS, NIS and CC. After the training, these groups and P4D’s CSO partners went back to their communities to identify and investigate into relevant local issues. They sought opportunities to apply what they had learnt in their training on resolving those issues through initiating community actions and using the accountability policy tools.
Throughout February and March, the MAPs identified many local issues and social barriers through consulting with the communities. They accordingly designed their social action projects (SAPs) to address those issues and overcome the barriers in a structured and constructive manner.
During the implementation stage of the SAPs, P4D’s Multi-Actor Partners forged alliance with local government, administrations, various service-providing authorities, and other relevant people with shared interests.
Highlights from social action projects include the following:
As part of the SAP, citizens and CSOs in Kholahati Union in Guybandha organised meetings with the local chairman. The objective of the meeting was to fight corruption, which happened in the implementation of safety net programmes, through drawing up the Citizens’ Charters. The local CSO has been playing an active role in securing the right to social security, especially for women and elderly people.
Meanwhile, in Badaghat Sylhet, Multi-Actor Partners are meeting locals and raising awareness of tax collection. Few residents in that area know about their responsibilities as taxpayers. With SAP’s intervention, local government representatives are coming forward to explain to citizens why paying tax as part of their civic duties.
In Motherbuniya Union, Potuakhali, an SAP is reaching out to schools, especially girls in them, to explain to them the drawbacks of entering an early marriage. The MAP believes that schools are the best and safest space for girls to talk about choosing education over marriage at a young age.
More is happening in schools in Magura and Shundali unions, where SAPs initiated meetings with school management committee and are now examining ways to reduce the number of school dropouts.
Now is an exciting time for the project. P4D is reaching out to even more people through its CSO partners and MAPs. Also, with real world issues placed into practical contexts, P4D’s aim to equip citizens with a knowledge and understanding of social accountability is finally coming to fruition. P4D’s social media pages are already overflowing with updates.
Social Action Project – Ward Shava’s Story
The Multi Actor Partners (MAPs) in the Platforms for Dialogue (P4D) project have addressed this issue with due diligence. In many of their Social Action Projects, the MAPs are organising ward meetings at Union Parishads. The Ward Shavas, or ward meetings, are an inviting space for both local government representatives (Union Parishad Chair and respective members) and citizens to participate in devising annual wok implementation plans. Development priorities of the ward are discussed in the meetings. The meetings engage citizens on the one hand and hold the local government authorities accountable on the other. Some MAP groups also organised open budget Sava in the presence of UP representatives in communities where UP representatives discussed budget plans for different development activities.
The MAPs played an active role in bringing changes thorough influencing UP Chairman/members and mobilising citizens. They held initial meetings in Union Parishads and had discussions to come up with a more inclusive approach to planning UP activities. Likewise, through local campaigns, MAPs raised citizens’ awareness of the democratic ownership of decisions made about them.
The opportunity was welcomed with enthusiasm. ‘We enjoy our ward meeting with other people; it is a great opportunity for us to tell them about our needs,’ said Ashraf, 36, who attended his first ward meeting at Purbadhala Netrokona.
‘We saw our Chairman and Members speaking in front of many people for the first time. It is a great initiative!’, said Amena Begum, 40, from Islampur, Jamalpur.
The Social Action Projects are also supporting the implementation of the National Integrity Strategy and Right to Information. As MAP Nurullah Mohsin from Meghborson Samaj Kallyan Snagstha said, ‘It is important that all planning processes of the Union Parishad are transparent as per NIS. It should include the voice of the citizen.’
Shirin Begum, an MAP from Bertala Somajkallyan Samiti, Panishwar Union, said, ‘I am very proud to give my community the opportunity to access information about the UP’s activity.’
P4D is a three-year EU-funded project in partnership with the Cabinet Division. It is implemented by the British Council, Bangladesh.