A new platform, the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Alliance, has been formed – bringing the country's non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and CSOs under the same umbrella.
Bangladeshi academic and an advisor to former caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury is in charge of coordinating the alliance, while Brac will be acting as the secretariat for the platform.
The formation of the alliance, comprising 400 NGOs, was announced at a webinar Tuesday.
At the programme, Rasheda K Chowdhury said they reached the position through an extensive process, and the path was not smooth for them.
She said, "Those who are in this alliance have been with us in various ways for a long time, but today we have to introduce them anew on this new platform."
On the purpose of the alliance, she said the platform exists to further evaluate the impact of the members' skills and development work through discussions. The alliance will also take joint decisions on various topics, exchange views on issues of interest and work towards policy changes.
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac, said the nature of numerous issues has been changing fast since the country is witnessing rapid change. Therefore, there is a question about whether everyone is working in a synchronised pattern towards development.
"The synchronisation demands us to work together. I have talked about the initiative in different places and they are quite optimistic. The initiative is to bring the demands and movements of different social and civil society organisations on the same platform," he added.
As the special guest at the webinar, NGO Affairs Bureau Director General Md Rashedul Islam said, "NGOs are not an anti-government force, rather, they are a supporting energy. The government has always supported such organisations since they work to meet our expectations."
Then, Khushi Kabir said, "In countries like Bangladesh where there is a crisis of democracy, we all know more or less what kind of situations the civil society organisations have to go through."
"Many of us who are part of the platform may have different opinions, but let us work together for the sake of the initiative. Do not put a blot on it in any way," she noted.
While speaking on the occasion, the prime minister's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi said the country has been able to come so far as NGOs have contributed from their respective positions.
"The main function of civil society is to identify problems and play a role in solving them. And one more thing – if you want to do advocacy, you need evidence first. There are many policy papers out there, but often even they [civil society organisations] do not take a look back," said the adviser to the prime minister.
Economist Wahiduddin Mahmud said bringing the NGOs and CSOs under the same umbrella is necessary and the initiative is commendable.
"The government and NGOs complement each other. But sometimes misunderstandings happen. The government has nothing to fear, and it must give NGOs the freedom to work considering their potential," he stated.
Centre for Policy Dialogue Executive Director Fahmida Khatun, Jatiya Mohila Parishad General Secretary Maleka Banu, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon Joint Secretary Sharif Jamil, JAAGO Foundation Founder Korvi Rakshand, Action Aid Country Director Farah Kabir, Manusher Jonno Foundation Executive Director Shaheen Anam, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Sanjeeb Drong and Aroma Dutta, among others, were present at the programme.