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ISCG undermining local NGOs in Rohingya crisis response

  • Published at 11:53 pm July 28th, 2020
Rohingya Camp
File photo of a Rohingya camp Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The civil society leaders have also questioned ISCG and UN role in distribution of Central Emergency Response Fund

Leaders of Cox’s Bazar CSO NGO Forum (CCNF), a platform of local NGOs in Cox’s Bazar district, on Tuesday raised questions over the role of the ISCG (Inter Sectoral Management Group), which provides an umbrella to manage the Rohingya response led by UN agencies and their partners.

They said the ISCG is effectively shutting out local NGOs and local government bodies from the process.

The civil society leaders have also questioned ISCG and UN role in distribution of Central Emergency Response Fund (Cerf), which they termed as top-down and pre-decided matter. None of the Cox’s Bazar origin NGO received the fund, they said.

They also said that the UN hardly respected the Grand Bargain commitment, or even the recently announced IASC (Inter Agency Standing Committee) guideline on localization during Covid-19.

IASC is the highest UN body formed in view of a UN general council resolution for coordinated and principled humanitarian response. 

The CCNF raised the questions during a virtual press conference on the recent distribution of Covid-19 Cerf in Rohingya response. The press conference was attended by media persons from both Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar.

Moderated by Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, co-chair of the CCNF and executive director (ED) of COAST, the press conference was addressed among others by Abu Morshed Chowdhury,  co-chair of the CCNF and ED of PHALS (Program for Helpless and Lagged Societies), Bimol Chandra Dey Sarker, co-chair and CEO of Mukti Cox’s Bazar, and Sheuly Sharma, ED, Jago Nari Unnayan Sangstha, Cox’s Bazar.

In his address, Abu Morshed Chowdhury said that the UN and ISCG this time gave very little time for a bid, and attached a number of conditions that restricted the local NGOs to apply. “But from discussing with high officials it is already understood that who will get funds was already decided  from on-top,” he said, strongly suggesting a conspiracy or some form of distortion of the process.

He also said that International NGOs should bring funds from their own origin country, not raise funds or compete with local NGOs in Bangladesh and Cox’s Bazar. In future, all Rohingya response funds should be decided in Cox’s Bazar level with the involvement of local administration for better accountability, transparency and cost effectiveness, Morshed added.

Bimol Chandra Dey Sarker said that local NGOs have very little access to the ISCG process due to language and process barriers.

He said that CCNF was proposing proportionate funding from Cerf for local, national, and international NGOs. Since the beginning, the CCNF was raising the issue of aid transparency and disaggregated figures and gradual transfer of technology and know-how to the local actors, he said.  

Sheuly Sharma said that UN leaders have committed to localization in the Rohingya response. They have formed LTF (Localization Task Force) and assigned CPJ (Centre for Peace and Justice) of Brac University to give a report on localization road map. But after almost two years, there is little to show for that commitment, she noted. 

“INGOs and UN agencies often talk about the lack of capacity of local NGOs. But now it is the matter of capacity exchange or convergence. They should not deny that all above local NGOs will not leave even if there is no funding. They will remain here as they are a part of the local community,” she said.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury mentioned that, in 2018 there was a good example of ISCG and CCNF working together to jointly organize a series of public dialogues with local NGOs and local government on JRP, but the present ISCG leadership is avoiding opportunities to cooperate whenever proposed from CCNF.

He said the CCNF leadership pro-actively tried to have meetings on JRP and other issues but response was very little.

Rezaul Karim also said it is the right of the Rohingyas and locals to know how much aid is received for the refugees.

Bangladesh government should protect the interests of local NGOs, host communities and Rohingya refugees, by ensuring transparency in disbursal and management of all funds.