1.1 Introduction to the Country Report
The study is commissioned by members of the Donor Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness, comprising three Development Partners (DPs): (Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). They have commissioned on behalf of a larger group of bilateral DPs including Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) which support the study through their participation in a Reference Group, which also includes Open Forum and BetterAid. The main purpose of the study is to share knowledge on the current state and future of support to civil society engagement in policy dialogue.
This report is the Bangladesh Country Report. It is one of four main stand-alone study products; three country reports (one each for Bangladesh, Mozambique and Uganda) and a Synthesis Report which provides a meta-analysis which draws on the lessons learned in each country report and combines this with other information sources to provide conclusions regarding current and future support to civil society engagement in policy dialogue.
Primary users of this report are those working for the commissioning DPs in Bangladesh who may be expected to use the findings and lessons learned in future programming to support civil society engagement in policy dialogue. Secondary users include the CSO community in the country, the Government and wider DPs and ICSOs and INGOs.
The Bangladesh Country Study was undertaken between September 2011 and March 2012 by a team of three researchers comprising Dee Jupp (International team leader and responsible for the Local Government case), Maheen Sultan (National expert responsible for the Primary Education case) and Thomas Costa (National expert responsible for the Minority Rights case and Food Security mini-case).
1.2 The context
While the involvement of civil society in policy dialogue has a long history particularly in relation to social movements, this role is being increasingly encouraged by DPs.
A strong civil society actively engaging with the state is now regarded as an end in itself and a public good, leading to better democratic practice and outcomes. This position is further endorsed in The Accra Agenda for Action in 2008 by heads of multi- and bilateral development institutions and Development Ministers with the intention “to accelerate and deepen the implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005)”.
It heralds an important milestone for recognition of the role of civil society and civil society organisations in aid effectiveness. In relation to the promotion of participatory policy dialogue, it pledges that “Donors will support efforts to increase the capacity of all development actors……parliaments, central and local governments, civil society organisations, research institutes, media and the private sector…..to take an active role in dialogue on development policy and on the role of aid in contributing to countries’ development objectives’ (Section 13.b). The Agenda also promises to deepen engagement with CSOs as “independent actors in their own right, whose efforts complement those of governments and the private sector”. (Section 20)
Policy dialogue is defined in the Accra Agenda for Action (Section 13) as “open and inclusive dialogue on development policies.” The Agenda further states that “Developing country governments will work more closely with parliaments and local authorities in preparing, implementing and monitoring national development policies and plans. They will also engage with civil society organisations (CSOs).” (13.a) and thereby making explicit that policy dialogue includes all these elements. The following diagram clarifies the cyclical nature of this process and postulates that civil society engagement can occur at each of the stages.
Figure 1 Policy Cycle: showing possible entry points for engagement
Invited or claimed spaces: Civil society engagement may be in invited or claimed spaces. Spaces are areas where interaction/engagement and where information exchange and negotiation can occur. They are spaces of contestation as well as collaboration. Invited space includes provided space (sometimes referred to as ’closed space’ if it is strictly controlled) such as official parliamentary consultations, as well more open invited space such as public consultations. Invited space is often described as controlled ’from above’. Claimed space, on the other hand, refers to space which civil society creates for itself (or ’from below’), for example through lobbying, campaigning, education, public interest litigation among others. All three spaces for civil society engagement can be found anywhere in the policy cycle but are all expected to result in influencing Government so that policies are inclusive and equitable and Governments become more accountable and transparent to their citizens (i.e. for the common good).
Civil Society and CSOs: Although a vibrant civil society is regarded as an essential feature in the democratic life of countries across the globe, its definition still remains contested and variously defined. It is usually regarded as the third sector distinct from Government and business. As such it comprises a range of individual and associational activity which may be formal or informal, transient or long-term, collaborative of confrontational. CSOs are defined as:
All non-market and non-state organisations outside of the family in which people organise themselves to pursue shared interests in the public domain. They include a wide range of organisations that include membership-based CSOs, cause-based CSOs and service oriented CSOs. Examples include community-based organisations and village organisations, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, farmers associations, faith-based organisations, labour unions, cooperatives, professional associations, chambers of commerce, independent research institutes and the not-for-profit media’ 
CSO effectiveness: The term emphasises the effectiveness of CSOs as development actors. In terms of policy dialogue it refers to the effectiveness in the processes adopted and outcomes achieved by CSOs in raising the voice of citizens to influence government action and to hold Government to account. The study also recognises that beyond the organised action of CSOs there is also informal action which must be factored in to consideration of the overall impact of civil society on policy dialogue.
DPs support: DP support to civil society engagement in policy dialogue refers to the channel of support (direct, through intermediaries, through budget and sector support) and type of support (core funding, contractual, project support (both targeted and untargeted) as well as non-financial support such as influencing space for policy dialogue).
1.3 Purpose of the evaluation
Although DPs have been actively promoting civil society engagement in policy dialogue for some time, there is little knowledge on the results of this support and the collective effectiveness of civil society efforts. There is also little known about how political will, critical to positive change, is generated and sustained. This study has been commissioned in order to understand both the role of CSOs in policy dialogue and the role of the enabling environment including the role of DP support models aimed at enhancing CSO work in this area.
The overall purpose of the study is ’lesson learning’ so that DPs can gain a better understanding of how best to support CSOs in the area of policy dialogue in different types of enabling environments.
The study “seeks to increase the conceptual understanding of civil society and Government interaction in different contexts and circumstances” (ToR 2.2.) as well as evaluate the strengths and weakness of different DPs’ strategies in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Specifically the study has the following objectives:
- Establish an understanding of how CSOs engage in policy development and implementation at different levels (issues, strategies and type of interaction/engagement) including how aspects of the enabling environment (such as power structures, political, social and legal institutions) influence the approaches CSOs chose.
- Assess how CSOs have contributed to policy dialogue- the relevance, effectiveness and outcomes of their work, and the identification of what works and what does not.
- Identify the enabling and disabling factors which affect CSO ability and willingness to play an effective role in policy dialogue, including the enabling environment, capacity constraints and other key issues determined during the evaluation. This also includes an understanding of why some CSOs, who given their constituency and profile could be expected to be engaged in policy dialogue and chose not to.
- Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different DP strategies both in terms of their efficiency (i.e. transaction costs involved as well as in terms of their effectiveness (i.e. ability to support effective CSO policy dialogue.
- Identify lessons learned and provide recommendations for future support to CSOs in the area of policy dialogue.
The research was expected to take the form of a study (generating new knowledge around objectives i.-iii.) and to adopt a more conventional evaluative process to examine objective (iv.) (strengths and weaknesses of donor strategy). This was expected to use the DAC criteria of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability as an evaluation guide and was not intended to be confined to the six DPs involved in this study.
Roadmap for this report
Following the introduction (Chapter 1) and methodology (Chapter 2) the report provides a brief overview of the policy processes case studies (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 then examines the context for CS engagement in policy dialogue focusing on the legal and political factors and economic and social factors which determine the enabling environment for policy dialogue engagement. The types of spaces for CS engagement are discussed at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 5 describes the policy dialogue in the country context as a prelude to the strategies adopted for engaging in the policy dialogue cycle (Chapter 6) and discusses how relevant, effective and efficient these are using the DAC criteria for Development Evaluation. Chapter 7 reviews DP strategies for supporting CS engagement in policy dialogue in terms of relevance. Chapter 8 provides some conclusions and Chapter 9 lessons learned.
 Gaventa, J, 2005 Reflections of the Uses of the Power Cube approach for analysing the spaces, places and dynamics of civil society participation and engagement’. CFP Evaluation Series no 4.
 Cornwall, A and V. S.P Coelho Spaces for change? The Politics of Participation in New Democratic Arenas, 2007.
 The Siem Reap CSO Consensus on International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, June 2011.
 What is Civil Society? civilsoc.org.
 Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness, Finding s Recommendations and Good Practice, 2009, ’BetterAid’ series on aid effectiveness, OECD.
 See OECD 2010, Civil society effectiveness.
 CIVICUS notes that action and engagement can take place ’within a neighbourhood or faith based community, online using social media or as a part of spontaneous protest, but is not directly associated with, or behalf of, a formal organisation’ Broadening civic space through voluntary action: Lessons from 2011, CIVICUS.
 Evaluation of Support to Civil Society Engagement in Policy Dialogue ToR 2.1.
 DAC Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance, OECD.
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