Accountable Governance & Democratic Decentralization Program
Bangladesh inherited the colonial pattern of local government as a consequence of British rule for nearly 200 years. With the partition of Bengal and India in August 1947, the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed state of Pakistan following the Radcliffe Award. During the British and Pakistani periods, different changes were made to the local government structure. Even after independence, several structural changes in the local government bodies were affected under different regimes. Since decentralization is still a dream to be realized, one may raise the question of the real intentions of the different regimes behind such initiatives. The history of Local Government-LG in Bangladesh is full of rhetoric and devoid of commitment. Local governments are not as empowered as they should be due to the highly centralized character of governance in the country. If one looks at the rural local government structure as the counterpart to central state, one could see that in Bangladesh, the center still retains the power to exercise its control over the rural institutions of local governance. Covered by the explicit ‘democratic’ gloss of most local government reforms, in practice, the politicization of the management of local government affairs has been a systematic phenomenon. LG leaders in Bangladesh are not fully empowered to carry out their work. Management systems are typically weak and broad-based while community participation in LG decision-making is usually limited. LG is one of the most important but sensitive items in policy- and budget-making arenas. Most of Bangladesh’s local governments are highly dependent on a historically centralized national government system. Interestingly, less than one percent of Bangladesh’s GDP funds 85 percent of LG development expenditures. Undeniably, LG bodies are heavily dependent on direct grants from the central government and shared tax revenue with the land department. Frequent changes in decentralization policy are politically motivated. Popular changes are usually made by the government with an objective in mind to create political loyalty, and to build a strong political base at the local level by putting party men in various positions. Furthermore, before formulating decentralization initiatives, public opinion is rarely ever solicited. WAVE’s Accountable Governance and Democratic Decentralization Program is working towards mobilizing mass people’s opinion and concerned stakeholders in favor of a national decentralization policy and influence the state to endorse the policy. We are currently implementing three projects under the Program stated below:
The campaign aims to mobilize opinion of mass people and concerned stakeholders in support of a national decentralization policy and influence the state to endorse the policy. WAVE organized ‘Democratic Decentralization National Convention’ in 2010 demanding the execution of democratic decentralization in light of our constitution and proposed a draft Democratic Decentralization Policy. As continual effort, WAVE carries out multifaceted activities through its network to review and finalize the proposed Decentralization Policy. Under the campaign, organization coordinates network and alliance, involve LG representatives, policy makers, political leaders, civil society members, media personnel, youth and other stakeholders and conduct continuous lobbying with concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee and policy makers.
With the thematic program component: ‘Strengthening Public Institutions’ the project is being implemented. The project goal is poor, marginalized and vulnerable people enjoy better quality of life in a well-governed institutional environment. Major problems addressed through this project are: Quality and availability and responsiveness of the SDIs on social safety net, health, education and agriculture service; Initiative to support in raising the poor people’s voice to demand better public services and to assess the performance of public services or delivery system; and Advancing poor people’s agencies and platforms and to making the Local Government Institutions (LGIs) and the Service Delivery Institutions (SDIs) more accountable and responsive. The project also aims at building poor people’s platform at Union, Upazila and District level Loak Morcha (People’s Alliance) as citizen support group (CSG) and linking them with national platform i.e. Governance Advocacy Forum (GAF) in terms of ensuring a strong and representative vertical network for advancing the rights of the poor people especially women as micro-macro linkage. With the support of Manusher Jonno Foundation and UKAID this project is implemented in Sreepur and Mohammadpur Upazila under Magura District.
The initiatives was undertaken with the goal to aware community with emphasis of marginalized populations on prevention and preparedness of COVID-19 and other emergencies and to improve the responsiveness of the existing health service. For fulfilling this goal, two specific objectives SO1: Enhanced awareness of COVID-19-related safe health and hygiene practices and available support services and programs among marginalized populations of Dhaka and Chuadanga districts, informed by access to timely and reliable information; and SO2: Development of policies and support mechanisms by national and sub-national authorities of the project areas to strengthen the long-term resilience of marginalized populations to pandemic and other emergencies, informed by the voice and engagement of these communities themselves was instigated. Under this intervention four major activities are as follows: 1. Public awareness raising on pandemic preventive measures and available health services via digital platform in the district level; 2. Monitoring and reporting of health service delivery mechanisms in the selected project areas; 3. Advocacy meetings with District government administrations, District health administrations, Member of Parliament and local government elected leaders; and 4. Issue-based dialogue among district level policy makers other stakeholders was initiated. With the support of Asia Foundation and EU this project is implemented in 26 unions under Chuadanga Sadar, Dhamurhuda and Alamdanga Upazila under Chuadanga district of Khulna Division and DNCC WARD No. 30, Mehadibug Slum Area, Mohammadpur, Dhaka. Through this intervention around 100,000 community people including Adivashi community directly and around 600,000 indirectly benefited with at least 60% women. The duration of the project is from December 2, 2020 to October 15, 2021.