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The role of Union Parishads in addressing climate change

  • Published at 01:17 am April 13th, 2017
The role of Union Parishads in addressing climate change
Bangladesh is a pioneer in developing its own national climate finance institution. The government established the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund in the year 2009-10 to finance and implement the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. Now the time has come to evaluate the policies, planning, and budgetary systems to see the extent to which national climate funds have been put to effective use, particularly at the local level. While various BCCTF funded projects have already been implemented in climate vulnerable areas over the last seven years, none of them involved a significant role for Uinion Parishads (UPs). The ministry of local government and rural development is the coordinating ministry of the projects funded by BCCTF and is therefore responsible for awarding various projects to local government bodies. So far, the Ministry has awarded several projects to municipalities and upazilas but UPs have not yet been given that opportunity. Union Parishads (UP) are the lowest tier of local government and thus have the most direct link with communities. However, due to their lack of capacity as well as policy makers’ attitude towards local elected bodies at the lowest level,  UPs have not been able to submit any project proposal for funding by the BCCTF. Perhaps to counter that, the government enacted the Union Parishad Development Planning Rules 2013, which can be called a good initiative. These rules created a provision for developing a five year as well as an annual plan including all projects and programmes by different government agencies and also NGOs within the UP area. The rules further directed UPs to reflect and act on the GoB’s Five Year Plan and other long term plans. UPs are also instructed to produce financial budget estimation for development planning, including government and NGO projects. All this requires clear communication of information between different government agencies and NGOs with UPs, but unfortunately, this is not happening. Climate vulnerable people live in remote areas where UP representatives are the first responders after any natural disaster. Local elected bodies (LEBs) are the closest government representatives to the community people. Despite reputational problems, fact is, LEBs work hard to provide relief at the community level and they have a stake in it because they depend on direct votes from local people. Adaptation to climate change is very much a local endeavor and cannot be addressed without proper local level planning, and yet, many government and NGO climate-related projects are being implemented all over Bangladesh without minimum consultation with LEBs. As a result, those interventions are not effective or sustainable in the longer run. On the other hand, it is well known that the non-functionality of Union Disaster Management Committees is a serious concern for disaster risk reduction at the local level. In most cases, it is the NGOs that are contributing to the formulation of risk reduction action plans. The role of UPs is very much undermined in this process. It would do us well to remember that the Bangladesh government passed the Right to Information Act in 2009 so our people may be well-informed. People living in climate vulnerable areas in particular would hugely benefit from better information sharing that leads to better planning and budget allocation at the UP level. Moreover, achieving Sustainable Development Goals would be a far cry if we do not empower local communities through access to information, and the UPs are the only medium for channeling that information at this point. Considering the issues described above, attempts should be made to strengthen LEBs’ capacity to gather and disseminate information. Training could also be provided so they can design and submit their own proposals, but it is imperative that the government and other funding agencies work to create an enabling environment. In any case, proper enforcement of the Union Parishad Development Planning Rules 2013 alone would go a long way to improve the current situation as it will ensure transparency of development projects and local people’s access to information. This is possible if all government agencies and NGOs cooperate with the UPs.   The writer is the coordinator (research), climate change unit of Christian commission for development in Bangladesh