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Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

Image of women voters in Bangladesh.
Women voters line up to cast their ballot in the 2008 national elections.
USAID

Bangladesh is one of the most populous nations in the world, vulnerable to natural disasters, social upheaval, and political turmoil. Pervasive corruption, an inaccessible justice system, and the concentration of authority and resources at the national level hinder Bangladesh’s development. Promoting good governance and accountability is critical to advancing economic growth, health, education, and the ability to provide high-quality public services.

USAID Democracy and Governance programs are working to increase citizen confidence in governance institutions by building the country’s capacity for democratic political processes, promoting good governance and transparency, protecting human rights, advancing access to justice systems, and supporting a culture of tolerance.

Democratic Political Processes

The political landscape in Bangladesh is complex and dominated by two major political parties, Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The absence of a healthy opposition, as seen in the 2014 national election, weakens the checks-and-balances needed for a representative parliamentary democracy.  USAID educates and empowers political party activists and citizens to mitigate political violence, improve understanding of citizens’ needs, and turn their political agenda into needed policies and improved services.

Promoting Good Governance and Transparency

USAID builds the capacity of civil society organizations to work in partnership and build trust with the Government of Bangladesh to advance good governance.  USAID enables civil society to build coalitions with private sector, media and grassroots activists and effectively advocate for improved democratic governance that is responsive to the needs of citizens and makes community services available.

Protecting Human Rights

Human trafficking, child marriage and violent extremism are some of the growing concerns in Bangladesh.  USAID addresses human rights violations by reducing the high prevalence of violence against women and child marriage.  USAID also prevents human trafficking by training government officials to better care for survivors and more effectively prosecute the perpetrators.  Additionally, USAID supports the formation of democratic labor unions through which workers can advocate for their rights, training workers on labor laws and assisting them in organizing and registering new unions.  In addition, to increase access to the country’s formal justice system, USAID educates underserved citizens about existing legal aid services and provides training to the justice sector to more efficiently serve the public.  

Supporting Culture of Tolerance

To promote a culture of tolerance in a society where extremist ideologies have potential to take root, USAID builds resilience and empowers local leaders, teachers, parents, and students to play active roles in their communities to prevent and counter violent extremism.  USAID has worked to identify localized drivers of intolerance throughout Bangladesh and is addressing each through a variety of programs. 

Results

In 2017, USAID programs in Bangladesh:

  • Supported Bangladesh’s Ministry of Home Affairs in extending the National Plan of Action (NPA) for Combating Human Trafficking 2015-17.
  • Trained District Legal Aid Officers and staff to run awareness campaigns, improve service quality and manage legal aid funds all resulting in a 116% increase in case intakes.
  • Completed seven training of trainers programs, whose graduates conducted 111 follow-on trainings with 2470 party leaders and activists on voter outreach and campaign management in support of free and fair elections.
  • Created over 5,000 Digital Centers where citizens can access nearly 100 public and private services, reaching approximately 5 million citizens.  On an average, time to receive services has decreased by 85%, cost by 63% while the number of visits increased by 40%.

Shahara Khatun, 28, makes blazers in a factory in Gazipur, a district of Dhaka. With her income she supports her parents, husband and two sons. She had to leave the comfort of family in their home village 4 hours away, to find a job that could provide for them after her husband became ill and could no longer work to support the family. When she first started at the factory 7 years ago, conditions were rough. She did not get paid on time, she didn’t have paid leave, and they couldn’t talk to management to address problems. After joining a trade union supported by USAID, Shahara learned about workers’ rights and labor laws. Her union elected her as the general secretary and together they negotiated better working conditions at the factory. Now, they can discuss issues with management, they get paid on-time, they have daycare at the factory to keep their children, and they have scheduled leave. With her income, she supports her eldest son’s education and has bought a plot of land next to her parents’ house where she’ll build a new house for her family.

Learn more in our Medium post: Remembering the Workers of Rana Plaza

Last updated: July 26, 2018

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