The take came at a conference on “Democratic Governance and Local Development: Experience from Grassroots Citizens Organizations”
The engagement of people at the grassroots in public service is imperative for a successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh, experts said.
They were speaking at a summit, “Democratic Governance and Local Development: Experience from Grassroots Citizens Organizations”, at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC), Dhaka on Thursday.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in partnership with Oxfam and in association with Citizen’s Platform for SDGs and supported by the European Union organized the daylong event.
Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives Minister Md Tajul Islam, said the government was committed to achieving the SDGs within the 2030 deadline.
“It will be possible to make it happen as the country is being run through an action plan guided by the prime minister,” he said, while speaking as the chief guest.
“Following the plan, we have already graduated from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status and are keen to achieve all the targets to become a developed nation by 2041,” he said.
But in order to do so, people at the grassroots, mainly women, needed to be empowered, he opined.
“Ensuring accountability at the field level administration and local government institutions is most important of the process, with the grassroots community being its key stakeholder,” he further said.
European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink said there were many ways to ensure good governance and development for Bangladesh.
“Engaging the marginal groups in delivering public services and promoting accountability and transparency at the local level administration are two of the crucial ways,” she said.
Insisting on creating social accountability to ensure no one was left behind in the development process, the EU envoy said: “The most important part is to engage and empower women at the grassroots level to reduce poverty.”
CPD Chairman Rehman Sobhan, special speaker of the event, said vaccination should now be the first priority for the country despite it not being part of the SDGs as another wave of Covid-19 was looming.
“Citizens should be mobilized for achieving the SDG targets. They have to be made aware of the real benefits of the service delivery process,” he said.
“The role of the local level elected public representatives is very important to achieve the targets as they deal with the local administration and local community. So, they should be also educated over the SDGs targets,” he suggested.
“Their (union and upazila parishad chairman) responsibility is vital as they’re not only engaged directly with the service delivery process, but responsible for overseeing infrastructure projects, local safety and security in coordination with local administration,” he added.
CPD Distinguished Fellow Mustafizur Rahman said a framework of social audit provided a powerful tool to ensure accountability in delivering public service at local level.
Based on the audit, he said, the success and failure of the services could be assessed.
“But we should gradually move from social audit to social contract at the local level involving service providers, elected public representatives and citizens, for smoother implementation of the SDGs,” he added.
The event was held as part of a project called ‘Enhancing the participation of community-based organizations (CBOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in democratic governance in Bangladesh’.
The project is being implemented to help raise the effectiveness of public service delivery, in light of the implementation of the SDGs, in 13 “left-behind” districts of Bangladesh, covering Haor, Char (dried-up riverbeds) and coastal regions.
Debapriya Bhattacharya, team leader of the project, moderated the conference where Mustafizur Rahman presented the keynote paper.
Among others, Dipankar Datta, country director of Oxfam in Bangladesh, Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, and Lilian Mercado, regional director for Asia, Oxfam International, addressed the conference.