From 2013-2015, The UN Democracy Fund supported The Hunger Project-Bangladesh (THP) to implement a project titled: ‘ MDG Unions: Building Participatory Democracy From the Bottom Up in Rural Bangladesh’ in partnership with BRAC, which is a comprehensive strategy to build capacity, document and demonstrate the impact of ten Union Parishads who are empowered to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The project ran from May 2013 to April 2015.
The MDG Unions project addressed the problems of overcoming poverty in rural Bangladesh through demonstrating the developmental impact of fully implementing recent local government reforms. The objective of the project is to build the capacity of both the elected local government bodies known as ‘Union Parishsads’ and grassroots civil society to work together to achieve the MDGs.
The strategy was to create 10 MDG Unions across 2 districts (Mymonsingh and Tangail) through intensuve capacity building and mobilization, ensuring that each Union Parishad properly implements four key provisions of the Local Government (Union Parishad) Act, 2009:holding twice Ward Shavas in each Ward, feeding ward-level priorities into annual and five year plan, properly functioning standing committees and publishing a citizen charter.
The project wass designed to produce three key results:
Outcome 1: The capacity of the UP representatives and functionaries strengthened and the knowledge of rights, entitlements and responsibilities of public and youth developed for improving democratic local governance, and active citizenry.
Outcome 2: The local civil society, especially the women empowered for increasing their participation in public space, are asking for transparency and accountability,and taking action to reduce violence against women and achievements of MDGs.
Outcome 3: Experiences and lessons learned regarding the differences that stronger Union Parishads and regular Ward Shavas can make in development are expansively covered in media to influence public opinion and policy actors.
The key activities of the project are training for both local government representatives and a group of potentially active citizens, including women, men, youth and the ultra poor, conducting baseline and follow-up surveys, participatory formation of a five-year plan, mobilizing the people and government to work together to fulfill it, and publicizing the results to the media and policymakers.