Who

We are partnering with civil society and local, regional, and national government agencies.

What

We are encouraging the development of a more inclusive, resilient, and evidence-driven Bangladeshi civil society.

Where

We are working in all eight divisions of Bangladesh.

How

We are supporting inclusive and evidence-based advocacy initiatives to promote good governance.

Challenge

Considered a rising star in South Asia, Bangladesh has demonstrated considerable economic progress over the last two decades. At the same time, social upheaval, political conflict, and a narrowing space for civil society pose major challenges, stalling the development of inclusive, transparent, and democratic institutions. Limited understanding of governmental regulation and oversight of civil society activities are broadly believed to have limited the civil society sector’s ability to pursue advocacy and rights-based campaigns.

The goal of the USAID-funded Promoting Advocacy and Rights (PAR) project is to strengthen the enabling environment for sustained civil society institutions advancing democratic governance and citizen participation in Bangladesh. PAR will do this by providing tailored technical support to civil society organizations, establishing cross-sectoral partnerships to improve government responsiveness to citizen needs, and monitoring changes in the legal operating environment for civil society.

To achieve PAR’s goals and strategic vision, Counterpart is working with international and local implementing partners that have deep expertise and experience working with civil society throughout Bangladesh. The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) will support improved understanding of civil society legal obligations and rights. Additionally, PAR supports local consortia in addressing community-identified priority issues such as drug abuse and gender-based violence.

Program Focus

Engagement: Driving inclusion to ensure that all voices are heard and all stakeholders are engaged. Full engagement involves partnerships on multiple levels, from the commune level to the national level.
Capacity-building: Build problem-solving capabilities that become embedded in the fabric of the community.
Transparency and Accountability: Working with local government entities to ensure the government effectively
addresses citizen needs.

Promise

The project will contribute to a more inclusive, resilient, and evidence-driven Bangladeshi civil society. By the end of the project, participating civil society organizations (CSOs) will have the skills, technology, resources, and connections that will enable them to work in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) to advance inclusive, transparent, and responsive governance.

Impact

PAR, launched in April of 2018, conducted Civic Engagement Forums in each of the eight divisions in Bangladesh. CSO  representatives and citizen-activists from 18 districts identified important issues that affect the lives of those in their  communities, prioritized them in terms of potential for advocacy, and assessed their own capacities for advocacy and networking. The five priority areas widely identified include: environmental pollution, unplanned urbanization, drug abuse, gender-based violence (including early child marriage), and economic opportunities for marginalized peoples.

• 583 citizens engaged in civil society-led processes that discuss and prioritize key democratic governance
issues;
• 151 CSOs demonstrating an increased knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities; and
• 3 mechanisms created for civil society and government to respond to citizen needs, including 11 Community Action Groups to combat drug abuse and 12 sub-district level platforms to facilitate a response to gender-based violence and early marriage issues.

In November of 2019, PAR and the WAVE Foundation launched The Advocacy Toolbox, a digital platform that hosts advocacy tools and stories. This Toolbox serves as a resource for Bangladeshi civil society organizations, activists, and citizens to share information and build relationships with each other. The site also is available to the public, which can access all documents, tools, and publications in English and in Bangla.

In coordination with PAR, international partner ICNL wrote and published the Legal Manual for Civil Society Organizations in Bangladesh. The legal manual provides an understanding about the current legal environment under which Bangladesh CSOs operate. This manual will later be available in the form of a mobile application for ease of access and readability. The manual will serve as a practical guide for years to come, a tool for civil society to learn and get updates on how to best operate within the closing civic space in Bangladesh.

PAR funding has continued to support local civil society organizations and individual activists to promote positive change in their communities. As a result of attending PAR-led advocacy trainings, activists have lobbied their local City Corporation to address climate change issues in their city, advocated in their communities to stop early marriage, and worked to ensure that the national government continues to provide aid to marginalized communities.

Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

Partners

Funder: United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK aid from the UK government (UK aid)
Implementing Partners: WAVE Foundation, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

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