The Bangladesh Field Visit
Bangladesh is exposed to a wide range of disaster hazards, and is consistently ranked amongst the most vulnerable countries in the world, because of a ‘disastrous combination of extreme exposure and high vulnerability’1. This stems largely from its position and geography. Furthermore, Bangladesh is rated as the nation most vulnerable to global climate change2, with the coastal areas predicated to be most vulnerable, increasing the impact of future disaster events. Bangladesh is seen as an example of the gains that can be made when a government commits to investing in Disaster Risk Reduction.
Civil society actors have played a central role in the development of post-independence Bangladesh. Often cited internationally as a model for the positive role that civil society can play in development, the civil society sector here is neither homogeneous nor without divisions, but instead consists of a broad range of actors collaborating and competing for their stake in the future of the country3. International aid agencies have been present in Bangladesh for many years, with some Start Network members since independence.
The Start Fund has financed responses to three alerts between August 2014 and August 2016. Two alerts were related to flooding, and one alert to a cyclone. A short field visit to the country provided an opportunity to better understand how the Start Fund members operate in this setting. It helped to develop a perspective on how current practices, which are partially but not solely, shaped by Start Fund policies and procedures, relate to ‘localisation’. It also provided a richer opportunity to hear the experiences and perspectives of national and local agencies, and listen to some of the communities who benefitted from Start Fund relief.
In addition, discussions are currently under way to establish a ‘national level Start Fund/Window’, i.e. a country-level pooled fund operated by the Start Network and according to its principles. Conversations about its design and procedures had not yet fully started at the time of the visit (15-25 January 2017), so recommendations on this issue are intended to contribute to the ongoing work.
The analysis of the three responses funded by the Start Fund provides recommendations on what changes need to be made to contribute further to localisation. The first issue this report highlights is that improving the quality of relationship with NNGOs is key. It will lead to improvement in funding flows and quality of funding. The second is the tension caused by the speed of response and working in partnership as well as intensive participation of affected populations. The third is the need for Start Fund processes to ensure inclusion of NNGOs in the various moments of an alert-response process. The fourth is the need to ensure that the new Start National Fund is set up in such a way that it creates a level playing field for NNGOs and INGOs. There is a need to safeguard a window of funding for NNGOs as they will not always be able to compete for funding on the same terms as INGOs, in formats, with a jargon and a mindset that over decades have been honed by the latter. The inclusive approach to set up the new fund is crucial if it is to have national ownership,and the Start Fund wants to help the Network achieve its stated goal of 25% of its (global) budget going to national actors by 2020, with at least a major reduction in intermediation.