Development activists yesterday at a seminar said the country's local non-government organisations are facing difficulties in securing sufficient fund due to a lack of access to resources, hindering their society-oriented activities.
The NGOs also lack opportunity to form partnership with donor agencies, they said.
They said representatives of these local NGOs are a vital part of the country's civil society. They need to be provided with more space for strengthening civil society voice in a bid to strengthening democratic practice.
Non-government organisation COAST Bangladesh arranged the seminar on “Strengthening Civil Society and Promoting Localisation Agenda: World Humanitarian Summit/Grand Bargain Policy Outcome and its Implementation in Bangladesh” at a hotel in the capital, marking World Humanitarian Day, which was observed globally yesterday.
Over 30 representatives of different local and international NGOs attended the seminar.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, adviser to a former caretaker government, said “civil society” has become a kind of buzzword nowadays. “At this point of time, civil society voice is shrinking, democratic practice is shrinking,” she said.
To strengthen civil society voice at local level, global agenda like sustainable development goals have to be contextualised locally, she said.
In addition, the capacity of grassroots-level NGO representatives has to be enhanced as they are an important part of the “civil society”, she said.
Moderating the seminar, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Bangladesh, said as many as 575 local NGOs are operational in the country at present. These NGOs are providing various social services to the community based on micro-finance, he said.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said without the government's cooperation, local-level NGOs would not be able to run their activities properly.
Therefore, the relationship between NGOs and the government is very crucial, she added.
Talking about the challenges faced by local NGOs, Shova Rani Das of Sheva Artho Samajik Unnayan Sangsta of Tangail said local NGOs constantly face fund crisis to implement projects in their areas.
Foyezullah Chowdhury of Barendra Prochesta, Rajshahi, said there is a misconception among donors that many local NGOs are not committed towards their work -- an impression that creates negative impact on the whole NGO community.
“To overcome this misconception, NGOs have to strengthen their capacity to become more accountable and transparent,” he said.
Transparency among the NGOs is a must at local level so that the government does not form any negative perception about NGOs, said Sheikh Azad, an official of Udayan Bangladesh.
Momtaz Khatun, executive director of Ashroy Foundation, said it is difficult for a woman to work in a male-dominated organisation. Alongside strengthening local NGOs, priority has to be given on women empowerment, she said.
AM Nasir Uddin of ActionAid Bangladesh said without bringing women leadership in humanitarian sector, it will not be possible to strengthen civil society at local level.
Brac Director Gowhar Nayeem Wahra said a close relationship “based on dignity” has to be maintained between local NGOs and international donor agencies for serving the people better.
Edouard Weigbour, country representative of Unicef Bangladesh, said different types of links between the NGOs and the government have to be built for providing better services.
Khandakar Rakibur Rahman, director general of NGO Affairs Bureau, Prime Minister's Office, said the government is enthusiastic about promoting small-scale local NGOs by providing them with support including ensuring fund.
He said both local NGOs and NGO Affairs Bureau have to build up their capacity and maintain a close link between them for providing better services to the countrymen.