Civil society means, NGOs or other organizations who raise critical voice on human rights (including refugee rights). Basic characteristic of civil society is always to be critical not like to be flatters. As Coxsbazar hosting more than one million Rohingya refugees then here is a primary need to create a civil society base which is stand for human rights and a pluralistic society.
A platform in Rohingya response has been created by donors also these was a demand from NGOs too, may be last three years ago during 2021, not with a very explicit objectives in this regard but it was said to make balance the presence of UN agencies INGOs with national and local NGOs and to streamline their representations. Platform hosting agency recently commissioned an external evaluation on the eve of its transferring hosting agency role to another one INGO. Most of the time such evaluation produced as self-certificate, as the implementor commissioned the consultant, real fault lines might be hardly being identified.
But is this platform is succeeded to make any balance of in the Rohingya response, very little. Almost 80 % of the fund being channelized by UN agencies, almost all the decisions are being taken by expatriate UN officials in Inter Sectoral Coordination Group (ISCG). By default (especially to meet the shrinking level of aid), there are enhance level of Bangladeshi officials working in ISCG and UN offices, but mostly with little of power for decision making.
How many of platform NGO members are engaged in response or working Coxsbazar now a days, how many of members are really existing who have only mere government / social welfare registration. How many of members who have track record of civil society activism or they formed the NGO only for getting funds. The representation and leadership structure are already suffering oligarchy, i.e., limited to a group of people, being elected again and again.
There are well capable secretariat staff, like our well capable bureaucracy in our democratic system, but there are deficits in political leadership like in our democracy. These deficits are mostly among elected leaders of platforms in respect of capability in quality guidance, deficit in knowledge and articulation in negotiation with well capable donors, UN, INGOs and government policy makers. These must be re-examined and challenged, if the structure would be made effective, value for the money invested and result oriented as within the frame of objectives as I have stated above.
Most of the UN agencies and INGOs selected their partnership in Rohingya response hardly with a transparent and competitive process or hardly with an objective to promote a civil society in Coxsbazar which is home grown, responsive, sustainable and accountable. INGOs, local and national NGO officials representing in committee like in ROCT (Refugee Operation Cooperation Team), SEG (Strategic Executive Group), but their role highly questionable whether it is critical, whether they are yielding any results, most of the critics observed these became mere a public relation to promote their own organizational profile.
There are huge concern from donors, UN and INGO officials on fiduciary management and good governance of NGOs in Coxsbazar, there are very little of NGOP leadership role in this regard, which is a fundamental need.
There is hardly any contribution toward the human right based society development in Coxsbazar. There are crude facts that platform deprived and performed debatable role to keep apart organically grown localization leaders, research, and consensus-based narratives. Rather they promoted a single NGO (a nationally origin INGO) monopolization in the total response architecture, which might to lead to a servile and dependency culture.
Campaign and advocacy is important in promoting human right and accountability in addressing root cause in international level, the platform has a lukewarm approach in this regard.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, 2nd February 2024