A network of 50 local and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Cox’s Bazar on Thursday demanded engagement of the local government bodies in managing the Rohingya crisis that affects people in the country’s southeast corner.
The demand came as, public representatives allege, international NGOs carrying out programmes in Cox’s Bazar are not properly engaging them, unlike the way local organisations take their views.
Leaders of the Cox's Bazar CSO NGO Forum (CCNF), at a virtual seminar to mark World Humanitarian Day, insisted that the involvement of the representatives of the local government bodies is essential for formulating the programmes for the Rohingya people.
When the Rohingya people took shelter in Cox's Bazar, it is the locals, especially union council chairmen and members, who stood by them, said COAST Foundation’s Md. Mujibul Haque Munir, in his keynote.
“Being closest to the people, they understand the needs of the people best. Therefore, their participation can help ensure effective management of the Rohingya crisis,” he added.
Hnila Union Parishad member Morzina Akhter said, “We can play a more active role if our views are taken into consideration in taking any steps.”
“We don't have a clear idea of the amount allocated for the locals and what kind of project is coming. While local NGOs involve us in their programmes, international organisations are not engaging us in that way,” Palangkhali Union Parishad panel chairman Nurul Absar demanded that a Joint Needs Assessment should be conducted with the participation of local public representatives before taking any action.
Rashed Mahmud Ali, chairman of Hnila Union Parishad, expressed his views that the Rohingya management can be appropriate and effective “only if everyone works together”.
Dr Tofail Ahmed, a local government expert, explained that certain changes in policy on local government can help overcome structural weaknesses of the Union Parishad and they then can play the most effective role in disaster management.
Referring to the experience of support from local representatives to affected people since the 1991 cyclone, Executive Director of YPSA Md. Arifur Rahman mentioned said their advice is useful in undertaking any programme for the locals.
Co-Chair of the forum and Executive Director of COAST Foundation Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said humanitarian and development assistance should be utilised by engaging local people and public representatives and in order to ensure accountability at the local level.
“There should be a mechanism for the Union Council to participate in the decision-making process, especially in various meetings of the ISCG (Inter-Sector Coordination Group) and the RRRC (office of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Council),” he suggested.
Shiuli Sharma of Jago Nari Sangstha recalled that after the Rohingyas came to Cox's Bazar in 2017, local women served Rohingya pregnant and lactating mothers, and they also accepted many sacrifices as volunteers.
“These women did not get any recognition for their sacrifice, volunteerism. They need to be recognised,” she added.
Abu Morshed Chowdhury, another Co-Chair and Executive Director of PHALS, expressed concern that Cox's Bazar has already been a vulnerable area due to climate change effects.
He pointed out that the success of many development projects undertaken for Cox's Bazar, including huge shelter projects, demands largely depends on effective management of the Rohingya crisis. “So, there is no alternative to the engagement of the local people's representatives in crisis management.”