21 November 2011, Dhaka. Lessons Learned Sharing Session on “Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government” project of Community Empowerment Programme, BRAC, with assistance from United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), was held on 21st November, 2011, at BRAC Centre Inn.
The session was chaired by Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC. Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, former Adviser of the Caretaker Government was present as the Chief Guest at the session. We were also honored to have Dr. Asif Nazrul, Professor, Department of Law, Dhaka University as Special Guest, and Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Vice President and Country Director, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh and Dr. Dilara Chowdhury, Professor, North South University as guest speakers. The welcome address inauguration of the session was given by Anna Minj, Director, Community Empowerment Programme, BRAC. Presentation on lessons learned from the “Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government” project was given by Kazi Nazrul Fattah, Programme Manager, Community Empowerment Programme, BRAC. Representatives from various government, non-government organizations, embassies, members of the civil society, Union Parishad Chairman and representatives, and project beneficiaries and participants were also present.
The main aim of the Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government project was to create conditions for more active civic engagement among rural poor citizens and strengthen capacities of local government towards more accountable and effective governance. The main activities of the project included creating Citizens Committees as ward level community watch groups of the local governments and evaluation of the Union Parishad through these rural people. Through this project grassroots people became sensitized about their rights and civic responsibilities. In addition, local government representatives became sensitized about their responsibilities.
The Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government Project was implemented in 10 Upazilas in Bogra and Jessore. Direct project beneficiaries and participants under this project included 1,357 Union Parishad representatives, 300 Polli Shomaj (19,500 members), and 300 Citizens Committees (4,917 members).
In the lessons learned sharing session, all the speakers and participants agreed that if the Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government Project is scaled up and implemented, local communities will be able to get better access to service and resource delivery. They also agreed that grassroots people will become aware about their citizens rights and responsibilities, and get access to dependable information about resources and services of the local government through such initiatives. The project has made local government more sensitized towards better service delivery, becoming more transparent and accountable towards pro-poor good governance, benefitting the poor, and marginalized, especially women. Pathways for good governance will be created through the active participation the local community as well as local government representatives and administration.
Dr Akbar Ali Khan, former advisor to the Caretaker Government commented, “I am a strong supporter of local governance and administration. Decentralized local governance needs to be empowered for grassroots community empowerment and development. Local Governance Commission needs to be created to monitor and audit activities of the local government.” In addition, Dr. Akbar Ali commented that, “The Active Citizens and Accountable Local Government project made good achievements, whose best learnings should be scaled up for greater impact.”
Dr. Asif Nazrul, Professor, Dhaka University, in his speech, commented, “Grassroots participation is a key essential component for ensuring transparency and accountability of the local government. The Right to Information Act provides good opportunity for increasing people’s access to information and ensuring good governance.”