Civil society engagement is very important to ensure accountability at both the national and local levels. Their intervention helps to build public ownership and strengthen the government departments as well.
Upazila Livestock Officer, Kumarkhali, Kushtia
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
To improve the working relationship between the government, civil society and the private sector in targeted thematic areas to make Bangladeshi society fairer and more inclusive.
Promoting Knowledge for Accountable Systems (PROKAS) provided grants to NGOs working with the Government of Bangladesh and the private sector on issue-based projects in targeted areas, such as Climate Finance Transparency Mechanism, fairer labour migration, food safety and climate-induced migration. For example, food contamination is a serious threat to public health in Bangladesh, where there is widespread non-compliance with food quality and hygiene. Our trusted reputation and relationships enabled us to mobilise partners and build alliances with a wide spectrum of organisations. in this case, we sought to improve the governance and regulation of the poultry sector as a first step towards safer food.
To achieve its objectives PROKAS partners provided technical assistance and capacity-building for government and non-government partners to improve transparency and accountability. A specific example was in food safety governance, where we helped form six community based civil society groups, called Consumer Committees (CCs), to strengthen market monitoring. PROKAS convened the Consumer Committees, Department of Livestock, local government and market committees to improve accountability at all levels. This resulted in locally-monitored live bird markets, feed dealer shops and poultry farms. These strengthened the enforcement of laws and policies in the poultry sector.
PROKAS’ approach of facilitating action emerged as a valuable practice of enabling collaboration between the government and other stakeholders. It allowed all parties to consider the interests, power dynamics and incentives of all stakeholders and use their capacity to change. Space for engagement has been created between civil society organisations and the government to improve market monitoring and accountability.
Specifically, on the problem of food safety, the civil society movement has helped the Department of Livestock strengthen their market monitoring in six Upazilas (sub districts) in four districts of Bangladesh. Feed dealers and farmers have formalised their practice through licensing and registration and are more aware of safe and quality feed. Poultry sellers are also practicing good hygiene and safe waste disposal. The success of civil society and government engagement is acting as an example for other community and local administration initiatives, and the model is now being replicated in other local government areas.
PROKAS was part of the FCDO's Bangladesh’s wider Transparency and Right to Information Programme (TRIP), aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in Bangladesh. It contributed to our aims of improving the socio-economic status of Bangladesh, strengthening civic space, and providing opportunities for young Bangladeshis. Through these initiatives, PROKAS promoted opportunities to put the UK in a unique position to support Bangladesh, a key strategic partner for the UK in South Asia, by improving government systems through UK technical expertise in design, management and capacity development. The UK government's development support contributes to better stability, economic development and reduced inequalities in Bangladesh.