Bangladesh is working to solidify rule of law, secure fundamental human rights, provide equal opportunity, and ensure economic and social justice to all. To this end, the government is taking appropriate measures to promote good governance and establishing a national strategy for integrity of state actors and society is essential for realising the vision. The National Integrity Strategy (NIS) sets out the Government of Bangladesh’s plan to address system weaknesses in domestic institutions as a driver of corruption and calls for integrity in all aspects of institutional and domestic life.
The NIS reflects the government’s stated belief that, “the fight against corruption cannot be won by prosecution alone; an inclusive approach based on values, morals, ethics, and integrity is necessary” (NIS Website, Government of Bangladesh). It is a national-level initiative to infuse transparency, accountability, and integrity into everyday public and private life.
Under the NIS, the government aims to have Parliament emerge as a place for fair and rational debate for law-making, ensure that local government is people-oriented, accountable, transparent, and independent and continue to foster an environment where civil society remains articulate, non-partisan, and vocal about national integrity so that citizens can effectively demand transparency and accountability from public institutions.
Through Platforms for Dialogue's partnerships with CSOs at the grassroots level, the National Integrity System has been promoted through community forums, educational programmes, and dialogues between citizens and public service providers. At the local and national levels of government, P4D and our partner institutions have conducted trainings for officials on the NIS and studied its impacts.
Public participation is an integral part of the National Integrity Strategy. In order to root out corruption, citizens must be engaged in public processes and demand integrity and accountability in everyday life. For example, civil society organisation (CSO), Somaj Pragoti Sangtha has been working to educate local communities and use public participation to ensure integrity among local leaders in their Union. “Young adults from the village decided to form an action group in 1998 when we saw that the government's funds for our Union were being pocketed by corrupt representatives. This road here is a result of our efforts,” said CSO Leader Abu Nasir, explaining that the Union Council took them seriously after the organisation threatened to take legal action when the funds for the roads were misappropriated.
Another good example in the Chalantika Gono Pathagar, a CSO in Natore district, focused on the government’s legal steps for the welfare of elderly people under their SAP on ensuring Social Safety Net programming. The leader of the CSO, Shibly Sadik, said the SAP volunteers scouted three Unions of Natore and conducted meetings with around 700 people to spread awareness about the Parents Maintenance Act 2013, which makes capable and healthy children of elderly citizens legally bound to take care of their parents.
Some of the aged citizens then contacted us about their misery after the meetings. In marginal communities, old people are often abandoned by their children. We advised them to get legal support and assisted them to access government’s funds.
Five other CSOs working on Social Safety in Gaibandha and Panchagarh took a different path. Ashikur Rahman Nirob, a MAP working for the CSO ‘Social Projection Committee’ in Gaibandha District, scrutinised cases of corruption in Social Safety Net Programmes in three adjacent Unions and determined that lack of information remains one of the biggest reasons for rampant corruption in the sector.
The villagers go to the union offices for the services and middlemen take this chance to demand exorbitant amounts of money saying they would get the job done. It is due a lack of proper Citizen’s Charters. So, we decided to focus on spreading the right information.
Corruption in the public sector disproportionately affects the poor. With improved social accountability tools, like the Citizen’s Charter, the Right to Information, the Grievance Redress System, and the National Integrity Strategy, citizens can ensure they receive the social support they need. CSOs associated with P4D are working diligently to help educate citizens on their rights and enable those in need to receive the social services they have a right to.
To complement their initiatives and create awareness, P4D has also developed social media campaigns to promote the use of social accountability tools, including the National Integrity Strategy, through graphics, impact stories, and videos. This content is helping millions learn about the value of integrity and accountability in both public and private life and how integrity can benefit their communities.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.