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ECBinter-active Bangladesh: Humanitarian Advocacy
The ECB Bangladesh consortium was the first to launch a joint advocacy strategy within the ECB Project.
The strategy identifies seven core advocacy issues that aim to influence the enactment of Bangladesh’s first Disaster Management Act.
Photo: a mime show at ECBinter-active Bangladesh, which was first performed to campaign on behalf of Cyclone Aila affected communities. © ECBProject, 2012
Please also see ECBinter-active Bangladesh: Disaster Risk Reduction.
Joint Advocacy Campaign on Cyclone Aila: Ensure Entitlement for Disaster Affected People
Download the humanitarian advocacy poster.
The session on Joint Advocacy Campaign on Cyclone Aila: Ensure Entitlement for Disaster Affected People was facilitated by Oxfam GB to share lessons from the campaign launched on behalf of ECB Bangladesh.
Aila hit southern Bangladesh on 25 May 2009 leaving 800,000 people affected and 400,000 homeless. The homeless moved to the damaged embankment and lived there in tents for two and half years. Hence, the ECB consortium led a campaign which eventually influenced the government declaration of emergency in the affected areas and mobilized funds from the donors.
The Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) interventions have resulted in decreasing the number of deaths significantly in disaster, from 5 million in 1970 to just 113 in 2009.
Download the presentation by Oxfam - key points below
- A consortium approach is often productive if the alliances are carefully formed. It requires the inclusion of multi-stakeholders to be successful in advocacy.
- Getting communities involved in the process is very important.
- Media plays a key role in humanitarian advocacy. Social media is the key to mobilizing opinions across the table.
- The most effective strategy of a successful advocacy campaign is community mobilization to put pressure on local government to deliver resources.
- To facilitate community mobilization, it is important to empower local people to create demand for changes and protect their rights.
- Smaller organizations can often do better humanitarian advocacy than bigger organizations who do not want to offend government.
- Lower-middle income groups, children and women deserve special advocacy support for policy attention to their needs.
ECB Tools and Approaches
The advocacy campaign used various tools and approaches including:
- Testimony of multiple journalists
- Media campaign (brought journalists to visit the Aila affected area), press release, press conference, talk show
- Mobilizing the Aila-affected community to share their experiences
- A mime show, cultural show, creating “Aila Moncho” (“Aila stage”), an open public gathering of the cyclone victims
- Letter campaign
- Demonstration, rally, procession
- Online campaign through social media (e.g. website, facebook, yahoo groups, twitter)
- Meeting with ministers, policy dialogue, policy brief.
Benefits and Impacts of Consortium Approach to Advocacy
The consortium approach to advocacy created the following major impacts on government, donors and the affected communities:
- The ECB collaborative campaign mobilized and empowered the affected community leaders. After the cyclone, the affected community members took some sporadic initiatives which, however, did not much improve the post-Aila situation.
- The campaign supported the affected communities to organize an “Aila Moncho” open public gathering of the cyclone victims, which described their endless sufferings and called for immediate policy actions to solve their problems.
- The campaign drew media attention which created tremendous impacts on building awareness and opinions at the national and international levels. The media kept publishing reports, features, stories and editorials, which put pressure on the government to take immediate action.
- The Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh and other ministers visited the areas and declared an emergency. The Bangladesh Army was deployed to speed up the recovery activities and coordinate the local development efforts.
- The consortium had a series of meetings and dialogues with the government and donors which resulted in fund allocation for rebuilding the homes and the livelihoods of the victims.
- After 18 months, the Aila campaign succeeded in influencing reconstruction of the coastal embankments, which secured the lives and livelihoods from environmental hazards caused by water logging.
- The draft Disaster Management Act (DMA) which remained open to revision and addition over the last 13 years has been endorsed by the cabinet division and is now awaiting approval by parliament.
Challenges and Difficulties Working with the ECB Tool or Approach as a Consortium
- The advocacy efforts made by the ECB consortium are yet to dismantle the nexus among the “blockers”, such as Water Development Board, construction contractors, shrimp cultivators and politicians.
- The roles of the IFIs were too difficult to define.
- The short and medium-term initiatives need to be linked to a long-term campaign.
I learned a lot about Humanitarian collaborations in Bangladesh, the agencies involved, the people, the issues involved. My best take away from the day is the community approach to collaborative advocacy especially during disasters and what the government of Bangladesh is planning to achieve in the next few years.
Vikrant Mahajan, Sphere India (pictured right © ECB project 2012)
What interested me in the advocacy session was learning the scope of policy influencing by involving people at different tiers, from the grassroots to the policymaking level, which actually changed my notion that advocacy was only an issue to address at the higher levesl.
I enjoyed learning how the process involved the community people at grassroots level, how the government responded at the local level, and how the NGOs intervened at the top level.
One good point of working in a consortium is that we work in a consultative way. It provides opportunities of building a consensus on the opinions we hold and share from different local and international organizations to make changes in the lives of the people we work for.
Wahida Bashar Ahme, Senior Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction, ActionAid Bangladesh
The priorities for ECB collaborative consideration were identified to support the ECB Project focal points advocacy planning:
- The people of lower-middle income groups, the children and the women deserve special advocacy support for policy attention to their needs.
- The larger organizations should lead the humanitarian works with advocacy support from the small organizations at the ground level. This means that big organizations should build consortia of small organizations with different capabilities, roles and responsibilities.
- A standard set of monitoring and evaluation tools needs to be developed for measuring the ECB-led advocacy campaigns.
- The journalists need to be mobilized further play more proactive roles in addressing emergency issues.
- Advocacy needs to cover the lower-middle income groups of people who do not usually have enough savings and cannot ask for help in any post disaster situation.
Photo Sandie Walton-Ellery, ACAPS highlights the importance of: "Link (coordinated) assessments to advocacy". Photo © ECB project 2012.
The ECB Project and participants (pictured © ECBProject, 2012) proposed the following next steps:
- Community-based advocacy approach will incorporate more voices of the victims and include more community participation in the emergency response. Community-based humanitarian advocacy will be integrated into unified response framework at the organizational level.
- Advocacy and needs assessment should be linked to lead evidence-based actions.
- Advocacy tools will be applied in case of emergency and long-term response.
- Advocacy collaborative efforts will be further developed and include other organizations to continue influencing policy reforms. Problem and power analysis will be done at the field-level. Advocacy actors will be targeted with proper study or analysis, and alliances will be formed carefully.
- Advocacy activity will be incorporated in the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program. Steps will be taken to conduct more organized humanitarian advocacy in the next disaster.
- Review opportunities for further development of tools and approaches in the next steps of programatic development.
- The “Power Analysis” step of the campaign process may be adopted by the participating organizations in their own contexts.
- The different consortia that work for disaster management and humanitarian work need to be consolidated further under a single consortium.
- The Disaster Management Act (DMA) once passed by the parliament should remain open to constant review.
It was also suggested that the ECB’s joint advocacy teams could further highlight the technical, financial and non-partisan political benefits of working in collaboration, and continue to improve understanding among ECB agencies and partners of the positive impacts.