Bangladesh: CAO Reaches Out to Civil Society in South Asia

07 Nov 2019 South Asia
civil society participants
CAO staff (center) and civil society participants during the outreach workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 2019 (Photo: Oriana Bolvaran).

CAO co-hosted an outreach workshop with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Bangladesh on September 26 and 27, 2019 as part of its outreach efforts in the South Asia region. The meeting was organized together with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, Green Climate Fund’s Independent Redress Mechanism, UNDP’s Social and Environmental Compliance Unit, ADB’s Compliance Review Panel, and with local, regional, and international CSOs: Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN); NGO Forum on ADBAccountability Counsel; and International Accountability Project. Over 30 participants including community leaders from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives attended the workshop, which was held over one and a half days in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event enabled CAO and its fellow accountability mechanisms to broaden contact with CSOs in the region and allowed civil society participants to become better acquainted with the mechanisms and how they work.

The workshop included presentations and plenary discussions about the mechanisms’ mandates and operations and civil society experiences engaging the mechanisms to address environmental and social concerns related to development projects. There were also small group sessions on how to find information regarding projects funded by development finance institutions and how to file a complaint with the mechanisms. Key issues brought up by participants included how to improve community access to the mechanisms, how to address concerns of threats and reprisals, and achieving redress through the complaint handling process. They also raised the eligibility of complaints related to closed projects and cooperation between mechanisms in cases where multiple complaints are filed to different institutions. Lastly, participants raised the challenges associated with the use of project-level grievance mechanisms.

Reflecting on the significance of the Bangladesh workshop, one of the key organizers of the event, Tom Weerechat of International Accountability Project stated "the opportunity for community groups, civil society organizations, and accountability mechanisms to directly and honestly exchange information and views is essential for building trust and strengthening the delivery of justice and remedy at the community level”. The head of the CAO Osvaldo Gratacós noted “local communities who are impacted or believe they have been impacted should be aware of the existence of accountability mechanisms such as the CAO. Outreach events allow these communities to know about independent accountability mechanisms as an accountability option for them. In turn, local communities can make an informed decision in their right to seek redress when needed”.

Civil society participants from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and representatives from five Independent Accountability Mechanisms at the outreach workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 2019 (Photo: Oriana Bolvaran).