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 Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC), both of which have often challenged such organizations’ neutrality. Adherence to the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations can enhance their credibility as independent, impartial monitors of the electoral process. The declaration 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.
Ahead of 2013-2014 parliamentary elections, NDI provided intensive training on the declaration to Bangladeshi citizen observers throughout the country to prepare them to effectively deploy, monitor and report on the elections. Throughout the program, NDI integrated the interests of often marginalized groups such as youth, women, and religious and ethnic minorities, encouraging their participation as leaders, coordinators and volunteers in election observation activities. 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 during local elections, strengthen their organizational management and communication skills, and develop and track recommendations to sustain momentum for electoral reform, stability and transparency.
With grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), 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 convened the members and staff of the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs to conduct a simulated committee hearing — incorporating rules of committee procedures — which had never been done before. Participating MPs developed policy forums, briefs and video learning modules captured on a website archive of best-practice parliamentary reference materials. Leading together on issues such as climate change, this core group of reform-minded members of MPs is paving the way for a new model in cross-party cooperation.
With a separate NED grant, NDI has worked with women civic and political leaders, helping them to better understand their role as policymakers. The Institute has worked with a select group of women MPs to create a multiparty women's parliamentary caucus to help ensure that gender concerns are represented in policy development with the Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership (BDAWL). Through BDAWL, NDI helped in establishing an alliance of senior women political and civic leaders to help the next generation of women leaders rise to senior positions within their respective fields.
International Election Monitoring
NDI deployed international observers to monitor the 2008 parliamentary elections, as well as monitor post-election developments, including the 2009 upazila parishad, or local government polls. NDI consulted regularly with the Election Commission in Dhaka and at the district level during the pre-election, election and post-election periods, providing guidance and suggestions for the improvement of election administration. With NDI assistance, the Election Commission re-drafted the electoral law and domestic/international observer guidelines, and monitored their implementation.
NDI hosted a parliamentary orientation program Feb. 22-25, 2009, that let senior MPs, experts and international guests share experiences and best practices regarding parliamentary processes. 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, which were well attended by new and senior members.
NDI also held a three-day orientation for the 64 newly-elected women parliamentarians on June 6–8, 2009. The agenda included an overview of parliamentary structures, functions and procedures, as well as MP responsibilities, women's advocacy, caucus development and ensuring appropriate distribution of resource for women’s programming.
Political Party Strengthening
NDI held a series of three issue conferences at which political party leaders, former MPs and civil society experts used the private, multiparty setting to discuss issues, such as food security, parliamentary reform and women's political participation. Recommendations from each conference were compiled in final reports and distributed to all participants and the international donor community.
NDI hosted a program to orient the 120 newly-elected vice-chairwomen of the local councils, or upazila parishads. The orientations promoted understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the upazila parishad vice-chairwomen, and addressed constituency outreach and coordination with other levels of government as well as the importance of public speaking.
NDI also hosted a political party training with former British MP Michael Meadowcroft, on party finance, internal party organization and party management to enhance compliance with the EC's intra-party reform requirements.
NDI's programs in Bangladesh have been funded by the 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:
Dhaka: Rishi Datta,Senior Resident Director
Jacqueline Corcoran, Senior Advisor