New platform of NGOs and citizen organisations launched in Bangladesh

Dr Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, said, “NGOs have immense contribution in the development of Bangladesh. The citizen groups have been actively engaged in their role since the birth of Bangladesh. Formation of a greater platform bringing the development organisations and civil society groups together is a positive initiative indeed.

An important task of this platform will be to have in-depth research to find solutions for hunger, poverty and lack of education. It will then help build successful advocacy.” He made these remarks while speaking as the chief guest at a virtual event organised to announce the formation of a greater platform of civil society organisations of Bangladesh.

He further viewed that the newly founded platform can play a very important role for Bangladesh to achieve its SDG 2030 targets. Bangladesh must be able to deal with these challenges more efficiently, while it advances towards graduating to a middle income country. We should now reach the disadvantaged and deprived communities with services on priority basis, Dr Rizvi said.

The event was organised on the morning today on Tuesday (22 December) with NGO Affairs Bureau director-general Md Rashadul Islam and eminent economist Professor Wahid Uddin Mahmud present as special guests.

At the virtual programme, the organisers focused on the mission, objectives and next steps of the newly founded platform. They also announced that BRAC will be its secretariat for first two years.

Having called for everyone to engage in a concerted manner in tackling COVID-19 pandemic, NGO Affairs Bureau director-general Md Rashadul Islam said collaborative efforts will take our country to the targeted position of development. The NGO Affairs Bureau will give all possible assistance in this regard, he also pledged.

“Creating a collaborative relation with the government as well as forming common platform for all the non-governmental organisations are exceedingly important tasks for ensuring inclusive development and establishing a progressive society. The service giving development organisations are a big strength for Bangladesh,” said eminent economist Professor Wahid Uddin Mahmud, who further stressed that the government has to act pro-actively for enabling the development organisations to operate with freedom while maintaining accountability and commitment.

Leaders of over 500 NGOs and civil society organisations were present at the virtual event chaired by Rasheda K Chowdhury, chairperson, Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), and former adviser to the Caretaker Government, and moderated by BRAC’s senior director KAM Morshed.

The organisers at the event said that the NGOs have become a centre of learning for the development practitioners across the world for their important role in the development of the socio-economic sectors of Bangladesh. However, despite the impressive achievements of the sector particularly in the health, education and women empowerment, effective coordination and representation remained a big challenge for the NGO sector especially in the last two decades. This problem was most seriously felt when the government, having formulated the ‘Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Law’ published it on the website of the NGO Affairs Bureau in January of 2012, and called for opinions.

In the absence of a national platform the development and civil society organisations found it difficult to discuss on the draft law and come out with concrete suggestions. This context as well as to enable the NGOs play their role more effectively in tackling the COVID situation, such a platform has become more necessary than ever.

Former BRAC chairperson late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed took special initiative in this regard and during his final days he started consultations with many NGO leaders. Inspired by his wish and effort, BRAC began the discussion anew in February of the current year (2020) and organised a series of meetings also.

The objectives of the proposed CSO platform are Acting in collaboration with the government in finding effective solutions for the issues such as graduating to middle income country, fourth industrial revolution, climate change impact, COVID-induced challenges facing the health sector. Creating opportunity for CSOs to exchange their acquired knowledge and experience is also an objective. Celebrating together 50 years of independence of Bangladesh is also part of the objective of the new platform.

Aroma Dutta, member of parliament, Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director, CPD, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, Khusi Kabir, coordinator, Nijera Kori, Dr Maleka Banu, general secretary, Bangladesh Mohila Parishad, Shahin Anam, executive director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Sharif Jamil, general secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, Karavi Rakhsan, founder, Jago Foundation, Farah Kabir, Bangladesh country director, Action Aid, Sanjib Drong, general secretary, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, Shafiqul Islam, representative, INGO Forum, and Mansur Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director, Bangladesh Jatiya Protibondhi Kalyan Foundation, spoke at the event, among others.

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