NDI observed parliamentary elections in Bangladesh in 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2008, as well as by-elections and local polls. Ahead of the 2014 parliamentary elections, NDI provided Bangladeshi citizen observers with intensive training on the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations (DoGP) to prepare them to effectively monitor and report on the elections. Domestic observers in Bangladesh play an important role in bolstering the integrity of the electoral process. These local organizations have a long history of monitoring elections, but established groups have not gained full acceptance by the political parties and the Election Commission of Bangladesh (ECB), both of which have often challenged such organizations’ neutrality. The DoGP sets forth the rationale for citizens to monitor and promote the integrity of elections, and defines activities and obligations concerning impartiality, independence, accuracy, transparency, non-discrimination, respect for the rule of law and cooperation with other observers. Adherence to the DoGP can enhance the credibility of citizen observers as independent and impartial monitors of the electoral process.
Immediately following the 2014 parliamentary elections, NDI trained citizen election monitors to observe all phases of the local upazila parishad elections. Throughout the program, NDI integrated the interests of youth, women and religious and ethnic minorities in election observation activities, encouraging their participation as leaders, coordinators and volunteers. When combined, these populations form a majority of voters in Bangladesh, but they are also particularly vulnerable to intimidation and violence during elections. In the post-election period, the Institute is working with civil society organizations to conduct evidence-based analysis of observer data, strengthen their organizational management and communication skills, and develop recommendations to sustain momentum for electoral reform, stability and transparency.
To prepare future members of parliament (MPs) to address key parliamentary issues following the 2008 elections, NDI held a series of issue-based conferences. Political party leaders, former MPs and civil society experts used the private, multiparty forum to discuss food security, parliamentary reform and women's political participation. Recommendations from each conference were compiled in reports and distributed to all participants and the international donor community. Immediately following the 2008 elections, NDI held a three-day parliamentary orientation program for over 200 newly-elected MPs. The program employed a peer-to-peer approach in which senior Bangladeshi MPs and parliamentary experts – as well as international guests from the UK, Germany, India and the US – shared their experiences and best practices. Topics ranged from the role of parliament in a democratic system to the individual responsibilities of MPs, including panels on committee structure, ethics and lawmaking. NDI also held a parallel orientation program for 64 newly-elected women parliamentarians that included sessions on women's advocacy, caucus development and budgeting approaches that contribute to the advancement of gender equality and the fulfillment of women's rights.
From 2009-2012, the Institute helped opposition parties engage in the parliamentary process by teaching new techniques for interaction and collaboration. NDI hosted roundtable meetings with civil society leaders, the AL and the BNP to discuss challenges and ways to improve cross-party cooperation in a divided parliament. NDI brought together the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs – including MPs and staff – to conduct a simulated committee hearing. The simulation, chaired by a former MP from the UK, promoted best practices for parliamentary oversight of the executive branch. NDI also facilitated policy forums, issue briefs and video learning modules for a group of young MPs, helping them to build an archive of parliamentary best-practice reference materials. This core group of reform-minded young MPs paved the way for a new model in cross-party cooperation on issues such as climate change.
Women’s Political Participation
NDI has also worked with women civic and political leaders, helping them to better understand their role as policymakers. In 2008, the Institute helped to establish the Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership (BDAWL), a local organization of senior women political and civic leaders whose goal is to promote 33 percent women’s representation in parliament and to help the next generation of women leaders rise to senior positions within their respective fields. With NDI support, BDAWL hosted programs throughout Bangladesh to orient the 120 newly-elected vice chairwomen of the local councils, or upazila parishads. The orientations focused on developing their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of upazila parishad vice-chairs, including constituency outreach and coordination with other levels of government. BDAWL is now fully independent and continues to promote its women’s leadership academies throughout the country, training future women leaders in effective management, presentation and political skills.
NDI's programs in Bangladesh have been funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Adam Nelson, Senior Program Manager