Newsletter | Volume 15 | August-October 2022
Updated: May 9
Senior Officials Participate in GGSA Workshop
To promote a more enabling environment for the effective engagement and participation of citizens and civil society in decision-making and oversight, it is important that civil servants recognise the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) and proactively work with them on the national and local levels. To achieve this, public officials need to exercise inclusive leadership and governance and effectively use social accountability tools (SATs) like the Citizen’s Charter (CC), Right to Information (RTI), Grievance Redress System (GRS), and National Integrity Strategy (NIS). Platforms for Dialogue’s (P4D) Result Area 2 is designed to sensitise public servants and elected officials on inclusive governance and SATs, build their leadership and inclusive governance capacities, and help them effectively utilise SATs in their respective agencies.
As part of P4D’s efforts to mainstream SATs and promote good governance, we have hosted five in-person and two virtual IGSA (Inclusive Governance and Social Accountability) events throughout our project districts. Moving the project to the national level in our final year of project implementation, we held a GGSA (Good Governance and Social Accountability) Workshop in Dhaka for senior government officials on 6 September 2022. The event was attended by over 50 Senior Secretaries and Secretaries from various government ministries, 30 Cabinet Division Secretaries (Additional Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Joint Secretaries, and Senior Assistant Secretaries), as well as representatives from the European Union Delegation, P4D project, and two major infrastructure projects: Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel Project.
The event focused on key concepts related to good governance and social accountability policies with examples drawn from the two construction projects. Special Guest, Ms Sanjida Sobhan, ndc Additional Secretary Reforms, Cabinet Division welcomed the distinguished guests and the participants on behalf of the Cabinet Division and P4D. In her welcome speech, she underscored the project's goal to advance good governance and contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh. The P4D Project is based on a “supply and demand” approach where from the supply side, the project works with government training institutions to improve the capacity of service providers on SATs. From the demand side, P4D works with civil society in 21 districts to raise public awareness of using SATs to demand better services.
Special Guest and EUD representative, Mr Maurizio Cian, Head of Cooperation, European Union also spoke at the event, saying that the EU is proud to be a partner of this unique project designed closely with the Cabinet Division and civil society representatives to facilitate effective participation of citizens and civil society in the decision-making process and to improve Bangladesh's accountability mechanisms. While explaining the EU’s support for the effective participation of citizens and civil society in the decision-making process, Mr Cian said, “we believe in democracy as the best way to ensure the development of a country... There is no effective democracy without a diverse, pluralistic, and sometimes critical civil society to assure that the policymaking and the politicians remain committed to the well-being of the citizens.”
Honourable Guest and workshop Chairperson, Mr Md. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary (Coordination & Reforms), Cabinet Division, thanked the distinguished guests and the participants for attending the event. Mr Arefin said that social accountability tools are very useful to strengthen inclusive governance and increase people’s participation. Ms Ayesha Akhter, Joint Secretary, Cabinet Division and Project Director of P4D then gave a presentation on Social Accountability Tools in Bangladesh as well as P4D initiatives and interventions to strengthen good governance. Arsen Stepanyan, P4D Team Leader, provided an overview of P4D project activities and objectives.
Following the opening ceremony and speeches, two presentations were held on each of the mega project case studies and how they ensure good governance during the implementation phase of their work. This was followed by a Q&A session and a closing speech by the Chief Guest, Mr Khandker Anwarul Islam, respected Cabinet Secretary, who called attention to how the two projects had exemplified how incorporating good governance into mega projects is important for the country's development.
Sixth SMC Launched
Leading up to Right to Information Day 2022, P4D launched its 6th social awareness-raising campaign to promote the key social accountability tools to the public online. Similar to previous campaigns, this one will once again introduce the four key SATs and relay
information on the what, how, and why of each tool, as well as focus on citizens’ civic duty to engage with social accountability policies. Our campaign structure will cover each tool consistently throughout the campaign period, as we move through the four key sections. The campaign, already in its third month, will finish shortly after Anti-Corruption Day in December. To date, the campaign has already reached more than 10.8M unique accounts and yielded over 358K engagements.
Online Advertising: Google Marketing on SATs
Since 2019, P4D has been implementing online awareness-raising campaigns on social media to reach as many beneficiaries online as possible in our project districts. To further enhance our reach, we launched a Google marketing campaign to promote Social Accountability Tools through strategic ad placements while also highlighting key thematic issues covered in the National Dialogues. The campaign, which began on 4 September and will conclude on 18 November 2022, has already exceeded its original target goal of 30 million viewable impressions (the number of times the audience sees the ads). The campaign targets internet users in P4D's 21 project districts with relevant affinity filters to engage audiences of different age groups and interests such as policy making, government services, social activism, good governance, and civil society interests.
The campaign content, which is segmented into four parts related to the four key SATs and comes in various static graphics and videos, has successfully engaged our audience. When individuals click on the content (all in Bangla), they are redirected to new P4D landing pages specially designed for each section of the campaign with graphic, video, and literary content on the SATs. Based on our website metrics, we can see that sessions are lasting longer than before the Google marketing campaign. Our bounce rate (the rate at which people immediately or very quickly leave the site) is incredibly low- averaging under 10%. This indicates that visitors are genuinely curious about the policy tools, and they’re using the resources on our website to learn more about how they can benefit from understanding and using them.
While our endline survey will likely not capture most of the impact of this activity, we collected anecdotal information from those surveyed that they had indeed seen our content online. We hope this last push to reach individuals in our 21 project districts will further cement the notion that citizens too have an active role in the democratic process, and their participation is crucial to ensuring good governance at all levels of government.
CSO Storybook Publication
Since 2019, P4D has been supporting 63 partner CSOs to implement Social Action Projects (SAPs) in their communities to address important local issues. Over this time, we have not just helped them build their advocacy efforts, we have ensured that they can continue to implement real changes that positively impact their communities once the P4D project comes to a close. In an effort to document their hard work and achievements, we have collected stories from each of our partner CSOs on their SAPs and their work collaborating with local government to improve systemic problems. In a new publication, each of our partner CSOs has a featured article in both English and Bangla with photographs documenting their experience and impact. We hope this publication will serve as a reminder that with dedication and collaboration, grassroots organisations like our partner CSOs can achieve great success in helping communities in need. Physical copies are available through our partners or a digital copy is available for download on our website at p4dbd.org.
RTI Day Celebration
Free flow of information is an integral part of a functioning democracy. People’s right to information sets the foundation of a good governance ecosystem where the people in charge can be held accountable by the people. This exchange ensures transparency and establishes trust between the people and policymakers. Right to Information Day, also known as the International Day for Universal Access to Information, celebrates this RTI and its significance in democratic practices every year on 28 September 2022.
This year, Bangladesh adapted the international theme of “An Opportunity to Discuss e-Governance and Artificial Intelligence with a View to Assuring the Right to Access Information” to "Ensure People's Right to Information in the Age of Information Technology". Like every year, P4D and its partner organisations and forums celebrated this day with much enthusiasm and a call to action: use RTI, even online.
The District Policy Forums (DPFs) organised discussion meetings, rallies, audio-visual presentations, and drama shows on RTI, as well as debate competitions to celebrate the day. 700 people participated in the day observance across 12 districts, including 247 female participants and high-level officials from the district administrations. The participants acknowledged the significance of access to information in promoting good governance practices and how digitalisation of the governance system is ensuring transparency and accessibility in government service provision.
Endline Survey Data Collection
In September 2022, P4D undertook a comprehensive household survey to assess the program's performance against the project's logframe indicators. These include changes in attitudes, awareness, and behaviour among engaged project beneficiaries. To properly assess changes in these key indicators, P4D conducted a baseline survey in 2018 and a telephone-based midline survey in 2020. Now, with the evaluation from data in the endline survey, P4D is identifying changes resulting from project interventions following the same approach as the baseline survey.
The endline data collection adopts a mixed methodology. The quantitative technique assessed the results of the interventions on adult citizens by using the tab-based computer-assisted personnel interview (CAPI) tools among 1,260 households (HH) in 21 project districts. A total of 20 field investigators completed the HH survey in 15 days. In contrast, four research associates conducted the qualitative technique (focus groups), which elicited in-depth information on the impact of the interventions directly from the beneficiaries. The survey company and P4D jointly ensured Covid-19 safety measures, ethical considerations, and quality control mechanisms through online data monitoring and physical distancing.
The initial analysis of the endline study shows a positive impact on project communities, and many of the focus group participants believe that the initiatives undertaken by P4D have brought greater good to the community. Participants shared that even after the project ends, they will continue to develop their community with the tools imparted by P4D. The final report will provide a broader picture of the study.
Success Stories from the Field
MAP Members in Feni are Working to Clean Up the Streets and Improve Access to Community Clinics
MAPs in Feni implement SAP to ensure Quality Service at Community Clinic
Our MAP members from Purba Chandrapur in Feni have been working to ensure quality service and easier accessibility at local community clinics. As part of their initiative, they have developed a monthly fund which has raised approximately 20,000 BDT and advocated for a grant totalling 340,000 BDT from the government's Department of Health. In addition, they have renovated a community clinic with the allotted funds to make the service of the community clinic more accessible for its patients, especially those needing mobility considerations.
MAP in Jailashkor Implements SAP to Improve Local Waste Management
Our MAP from Jailashkor in Feni has implemented a SAP to improve the local waste management system. They have distributed awareness-raising flyers to help local people understand efficient and sustainable waste management techniques. In addition, they organised a bi-weekly cleaning programme that engaged community members to collectively clean public areas near their own homes. The UNO of Dagonvuinyah has promised to provide the SAP volunteers with the necessary support to realise their vision of a clean and beautiful Jailashkor.
Creating a Better Future: Brahmanbaria DPF Assembles Students to take a Stand against Child Marriage
“Child marriage is a social disease. We abhor getting married off early and will build a wholesome social movement against child marriage, Amen.”
- Oath taken by school students in Brahmanbaria led by the DPF (District Policy Forum)
In Brahmanbaria, schoolchildren have
begun taking an oath to stand against child marriage. As our future leaders, their understanding of this social injustice and their willingness to take action even from a young age will help ensure a better future for all.
Students of two reputed schools in Brahmanbaria created a buzz in the district when the Brahmanbaria DPF organised this swearing-in event against child marriage. News circulated across local and national media triggering discussions among local stakeholders.
Child marriage is a serious issue, especially in rural parts of Bangladesh where both awareness-raising and engagement activities are often difficult to achieve at scale. Brahmanbaria DPF, however, was able to reach youth at Sabera Sobahan Government Girls High School and Anandamayee Girls High School with an innovative approach to their awareness-raising activities.
The headmaster of Sabera Sobahan Government Girls High School presided over the assembly where DPF President, Mohammad Araj, and Vice President, Tapasi Roy, spoke about the negative impact of child marriage and how raising awareness of the pitfalls of child marriage from a young age will help youth, especially girls, build a better future. Other speakers at the assembly included Khodeja Begum, P4D District Facilitator, Mohammad Khairujjaman, the Assistant Headmaster, Mohammad Abdur Rahim and Shafikur Rahman, senior teachers at the school, and DPF members including SM Shaheen, Taher Uddin, and Mohammad Ashikur Rahman Vuiyan.
In his closing remarks, the DPF President said they would continue awareness-raising activities every month at local schools moving forward.
Citizen’s Charter Piloting in Three Districts
As P4D works to sure up sustainability plans and ensure a smooth transition of the project to our institutional partners and the government, we are planning to pilot standard Citizen’s Charters in 3 districts: Kishoreganj, Natore, and Bandarban. The purpose of this activity is to standardise a Citizen’s Charter format which will be followed by all government departments moving forward around the country. We have received the necessary approvals, and the concerned district authorities in the pilot districts have been informed about this upcoming activity. Training for the focal persons of all the departments in the selected districts will begin in December 2022 followed by the preparation of the Citizen’s Charters in the agreed standard format by the concerned departments.
Training Institute Updates:
The BCSAA previously completed all activity deliverables between January 2020 to February 2022 and arranged a closing reflection event with some selected participants to collect their feedback. The Covid-19 context prolonged the completion of their activities, however, the BCSAA pivoted to a blended online-offline modality to continue delivery during the Covid pandemic- a transformation that took some time to complete. During this quarter, the BCSAA provided training to 404 civil servants (291 male and female 113) both from national and local administration. 235 civil servants from the ministry/national level took part in the training programme and 169 participants were from the local administration. During the reflection workshop, almost all participants opined it was relevant to their day-to-day job and asked BCSAA to continue follow-up trainings if possible. Few participants suggested that extensive training in different facilitation and management techniques would help them better perform in their job.
Between August and October, the BPATC continues to research and measure the effectiveness of the government office’s implementation of Social Accountability tools. This research is a follow-up of previously completed research with P4D’s assistance. The earlier research assessed NIS, RTI, APA, GRS, CC and their application in public sector offices to combat corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in public administration.
NIMC to Commence Strategic Communications Activities
The National Institute of Mass Communication (NIMC) and P4D have agreed to further expand their collaboration which will focus on the national level. P4D Team Leader Mr Arsen Stepanyan, Communications Lead Ms Sarah Lewis, Programme Manager Mr Siamul Rabbany, and Strategic Communications Manager Mahbubur Rahman visited the NIMC on 16 October to meet the Director General of NIMC Ms Shahin Islam, ndc and her team to discuss the prospects of the upcoming activities.
The main focus in this phase will be drafting a Strategic Communications plan involving the Cabinet Division and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to promote the key social accountability tools (SATs). The Strategic Communications Plan will be the main outcome of the capacity-building support from P4D and the Government Communications Services International (GCSI) from the United Kingdom.
Additionally, national-level journalists, broadcasters, online content creators, and creative content developers (scriptwriters) will be trained by the NIMC on the key SATs focusing on three issues that correlate with P4D’s National Thematic Forum activities. The NIMC will also run a campaign on electronic media with 4 television and 4 radio public service announcements (PSAs) using the best scripts selected from the training programmes for production.
Supporting GRS Operationalisation and Third-Party Monitoring
The continued operational support and 3rd party monitoring of GRS are crucial to ensuring the integrity and efficiency of the Grievance Redress System. After many months of procurement efforts, P4D has successfully begun collaboration efforts with two organisations to support in these areas:
Quay Asia – ISTL joint venture – was chosen to provide the Cabinet Division with operational maintenance support for GRS, and they have been working with P4D and the CD since August.
3rd party monitoring has also begun with the support of the Participatory Management Initiative for Development (PMID) which is developing a 3rd party monitoring tool for the Cabinet Division to monitor the implementation progress of CC, GRS, RTI, and NIS. PMID submitted an inception report following several consultations with Ms Ayesha Akhter, Joint Secretary, Cabinet Division & PD-P4D Project and Md. Mokhlesur Rahman, Deputy Secretary, Cabinet & DPD-P4D Project. Following, these consultations the scope has increased slightly, which is reflected in the inception report. At present, PMID has submitted a draft questionnaire, which is currently under review.
Preparatory Workshop for National Policy Dialogues
P4D arranged a planning workshop for the National Dialogue events on 10 September 2022 at BCDM, Savar. The objectives of the workshop were to discuss draft position papers on child marriage, quality education, and community clinics and get feedback and suggestions from the participants. Attendees also discussed possible event dates, venues, and guest lists for each of the national policy dialogue events. Md. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Coordination & Reforms, Cabinet Division was present as the Chief Guest and Ms Ayesha Akther, Joint Secretary, Cabinet Division & PD-P4D Project presided over the event. Md. Mokhlesur Rahman, Deputy Secretary, Cabinet & DPD-P4D Project was the Special Guest and Mr Arsen Stepanyan, Team Leader, P4D delivered the welcome speech at the event.
During the working session, each NTF Core Group (on child marriage, quality education, and community clinics) individually discussed their respective draft position paper with Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) researchers. In total, 142 NTF Core Group members joined the event, with 48 female participants.
Position Papers on Thematic Forum Topics Finalised
In preparation for the National Thematic Forums, we have worked with Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies (BIDS) to conduct research and collect first-hand information from our project districts on our three thematic issues: child marriage, community clinics, and quality education. Each of these papers outlines the underlying issues related to each of the key thematic issues, the causes for these problems, and possible solutions to address each problem. While these issues are complex and nuanced in each community, collecting the ideas and experiences of community members first-hand can greatly help policymakers at the national level see these issues from a new perspective. With both the research provided in these papers and the civil society members’ first-hand experiences shared at the National Dialogue events, we are confident that policymakers can mitigate the common issues that arise when dealing with these important matters.
National Dialogue on Child Marriage
After years of capacity-building efforts, P4D has created a space for dialogue between civil society and government counterparts at the grassroots, district, and national levels so citizens and civil society can raise their voices and take part in government decision-making and implementation processes. Following the successful completion of dialogue events at the grassroots and district levels, P4D formed National Thematic Forums (NTFs) and arranged the first National Dialogue on one of the key thematic issues: child marriage. The event, which took place on 20 October 2022 at Hotel Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden, brought together senior government officials, civil society members from 12 P4D project districts, and key stakeholders from the EUD and British Council. Md. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Coordination & Reforms, Cabinet Division was the Chief Guest and Ms Sanjida Sobhan, ndc, Additional Secretary, Reforms Wing, Cabinet Division presided over the event. Ms Amaia Zabala, Governance Team Leader, EU Delegation to Bangladesh delivered her speech as the Special Guest, and the dialogue was moderated by Ms Ayesha Akther, Joint Secretary, Cabinet Division & PD-P4D Project and Md. Mokhlesur Rahman, Deputy Secretary, Cabinet & DPD-P4D Project. Ms Nargis Khanam, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs presented the initiatives of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to end child marriage and Dr A.E. Md Muhiuddin Osmani, Additional Secretary of the same ministry shared his reflections on the dialogue event.
On behalf of the NTF, BIDS researchers presented a position paper on child marriage in Bangladesh and the associated issues. The position paper highlighted the causes and consequences of child marriage in Bangladesh and proposed some possible and practical solutions to overcome those problems. Suggestions included activating child marriage prevention committees, strategising for improved collaboration and coordination among stakeholders, revising laws and regulations and ensuring proper enforcement, improving law and order at the community level, providing skill-based educational opportunities for girls and ensuring that schools are girl-friendly, creating employment opportunities for young women and enhancing life skills program for girls, strengthening collaboration between government and non-government organisations to provide social security to reduce child marriage, and involving CSOs as local watchdogs.
In addition to members of the Cabinet Division, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, and NTF Core Group Members on child marriage, government high officials from the Legislative & Parliamentary Affairs Division, representatives from national NGOs, and representatives from the European Union, British Council, and P4D were also present at the event. The number of in-person participants totalled 129, 43 of whom were female, and 216 NTF General Group members from 21 P4D project districts joined online, including 78 female participants.
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.