4th Extended Civil Society Network Meeting

28 March was held fourth extended Civil Society Network meeting at Concern Worldwide. At the start of the meeting Mr. Nils Den Tex, Concern Worldwide, Bangladesh welcomed all the participants as a Chairperson of the meeting and requested Mr. Anish Barua to facilitate the meeting according to the given agenda.
Mr. Barua, in his brief introduction, observed that despite many successes in a number of areas, Bangladesh is still trailing behind with respect to achievement/progress against malnutrition though various GO-NGO-DP initiatives are there. SUN-CSO initiative (and 4 other initiatives) with support from UN organizations and others, has opened up an opportunity to fight malnutrition in a concerted manner. He hoped that the formation and operation of SUN-CSO with a synergistic approach involving its members will be a real leap forward for nutritional interventions.
Then an introduction of participants was done with name, organization and length of experiences directly with nutrition. It appeared that direct involvement varied between 2 years to 40 years and the total stood at over 360 years! While drawing conclusion the Facilitator opined that 360 years of accumulated exposure and experience in the room presents our love for nutrition, commitment to people esp. children/women and recognition to our potential. This can surely be the basis for creating the synergy (Synchronized Energy) to fight malnutrition!
During the process, certain disruptions were observed on the issues of calling the meeting, selection of invitees/membership, template for work plan, proposal/concept note finalization, focal person, communication with HO, etc. Dr. S K Roy (ICDDRB) and Dr. Sultana Khanum (Centre for Health Care Management and Research and Global Civil Society Task Force member for SUN), along with few others, briefly shared their views with historical background, developments in last few months and expectations from CSO and deadlines/challenges before. However, Eminence and its Consultant maintained their differences to some of the issues outside agenda.
At this stage, with the support from the chair, Mr. Barua had to draw the curtain of introduction with following remarks:

  • the presence in meeting responding to invitation (whoever issued) and participation in discussion (even with differences) reflect your interest in SUN-CSO forum;
  • if this is the 7/8th meeting, not 4th (as expressed by Eminence) reveals that the process suffered lack of clarity and transparency;
  • though the membership process was not initiated formally, presence and organizational representations in last meetings can be considered (if you all like) as the starting point/membership which can be expanded further;
  • as SUN-CSO is not an organization or program, rather a movement, it can start small with few as most of such initiative that can be expanded gradually;
  • as SUN-CSO is facing few deadlines, the meeting need to focus on the issues while other things taken on in next meeting.

The Facilitator then sought support from all to move forward with the process focusing on the issues that has urgent deadlines by adjusting the agenda proposed.
At first Mr. Barua briefly shared what such CSO initiatives can take on. He proposed five potential areas SUN-CSO can start working on. Those are: Policy, Technical aspects, Advocacy, Programs and Monitoring-Evaluation. Then he advised table groups to propose action ideas that SUN-CSO can take on within next 2 years. Mr. Barua was very clear that this is not an exhaustive list of areas and participants can expand the areas as needed, realistic and doable. But the ideas should be written in result terms.
Five groups came up with 18 action ideas which were taken through a dot-matrix exercise for prioritization considering importance, realistic and doable by SUN-CSO Forum on Nutrition. Most voted ones (showed in bold) came out as:

  1. Creating a linkage between policy & program
  2. Need to develop Nutrition Policy action plan based on strategic policy
  3. Ensure Political commitment
  4. De-politicization of Advocacy & Policy interventions
  5. Advocacy program to influence Government
  6. Develop community support group to mobilize rights based approach
  7. Civil society can play an influencing & coordinating roles between public & private sectors
  8. Developing specific monitoring system for implementation of National Nutrition Services
  9. Advocacy for developing and implementing of cost effective nutrition interventions
  10. Influence Government to acknowledge civil society’s implementation role in nutrition interventions
  11. Engage males for issuing & influencing policy makers
  12. Forum for program scaling to CSO partners
  13. Track implementation of NNS through regular assessment and gaps identification
  14. Organize advocacy campaign on specific nutrition issues
  15. Advocacy for putting policy in action so that CSO can assist NNS to develop strategy for pregnant and lactating nutrition
  16. If possible request to form a standing parliamentary committee  for nutrition
  17. Engage media for increasing awareness and for influencing policy makers
  18. Interventions for achieving target and outcomes

It was observed that issues were not isolated but closely related to one another. While voting provided a clue to prioritize activities but discussions on inter-relationship among the ideas, the following actions surfaced up as important, realistic and doable:

  • Ensuring positive/sustained political commitment reflected in policies/programs
  • (Forming a separate Parliamentary Standing Committee, Lobbying with parties, Activating National Nutrition Council, Developing a National Nutrition Policy, etc.)
  • Advocacy with government to be responsive/supportive to nutrition
  • (Develop/Implement nutritional guidelines, Separate MIS on Nutritional status/progress,
  • supportive rules/regulations, encourage NGO/CSO/PS initiatives, Central M&E system..)
  • Develop community support groups to mobilize rights based approach
  • (NGOs being closer to communities and mostly operate through groups can incorporate nutrition as an important issue for discussion and design community actions (courtyard meeting, community farming, cooking practices, etc. promote male participation in nutritional activities, etc.)
  • Developing specific monitoring system for implementation of NNS and NGO/PS interventions
  • (Responding to national concern/programs, a well coordinated nutrition monitoring system with defined indicators be developed involving all concerned, GO/NGO/PS/DP)
  • Engage media for increasing awareness and for influencing policy makers/communities
  • (Through designing/sharing modules/manual, orientation of media people, reporting/documentation/recognition, etc.) and
  • Plan & Organize advocacy and awareness campaigns and specific sharing events (involving members to highlight socio-economic dimensions and long-term impact of valuing nutrition, etc.)

It was discussed that these are just action ideas that will demand specific tasks to be reflected through a template for submission. Eminence expressed reservation that the circulated template does not reflect the requirements. Mr. Barua suggested that a smaller team/group can work to align it with the requirements and fill up with tasks.

From the discussions/differences, it was revealed that the SUN-CSO Forum is still in fluid state resulting questions/concerns over membership, accountability, transparency, interests and overall governance. Recognizing the gap and views expressed by the participants Mr. Barua suggested that based on regular presence in meetings, membership can be extended who will then nominate a (adhoc) Steering Committee, preferably on consensus) with 7-9 members. This could not be done in the meeting as there were differences of opinion by definition of membership, inclusion of more agencies/presence, etc. and thus, referred to next meeting

Dr. Sultana informed the participants that SUN has to submit the concept note by April 06, 2012 (extended deadline). Before sending it to HQ she needs to review it finally whether everything is prepared as per the given feedback (on the draft developed by Eminence consultant but not known to everybody) from Costanza. Then participants raised the issue that before sending who will finally compile the concept note? A suggestion came that the previous team could do it, but there were some disagreements. Dr. Ferdousi proposed if someone, different from the previous team, review/adjust it, it would be better and she proposed the name of Dr. Ruksana as the leader of the review team.

Then Dr. Shamim proposed to include some names including Dr. Shah Monir to lead. Observing the stalemate, Mr. Barua opened the floor for suggestion of names to form a small review team who will finalize the concept note by 5th April 2012. The following names came up:

  1. Dr. Rukhsana Haider, THAN
  2. Dr. Zeba Mahmud, Country Director, MI
  3. Dr. Selina Amin, Plan Bangladesh
  4. Dr. Khurshid Talukder, CWCH
  5. Hans J Ebbing, ACF
  6. Dr. Shamim Hayder Talukder, Eminence
  7. Dr. Tahmeed, ICDDR,B
  8. Dr. Izaz Rasul, Concern Worldwide
  9. Dr. Ferdousi Begum, FANTA III, FHI360
  10. Saiqa Siraj, BRAC
  11. Dr. Golam Mothabbir, SCI
  12. Erica Ketran, HKI, and
  13. Prof. Shah Monir Hossain

As facilitator, Mr. Barua was surprised with the size and reminded of the task and time! Utilizing the chaos and silence, it was decided that Eminence will facilitated the process with the help of Dr. Shah Monir and Dr. Shamim will circulate final concept paper along with feedback  of Costanza after the meeting to the review member who will send their feedback to Eminence by Monday April 02, 2012. After their review they will send it to the other members and it would be finalized for sending on 5th April and Dr. Sultana will send it to HQ on 6th April.
Due to time constrains in the meeting this issue has been shifted to the next meeting.
Dr. Sultana referred to an e-mail from Global TF-C Chair on use of the seed fund (3000 Pounds) which was not known to the members. Eminence informed in the meeting that they received the fund in November, 2011 and made all expenses. To ensure to transparency of this network it was decided in the meeting that Dr. Shamim will prepare a Statement of Expenditure to be shared with all and submission to the TF-C co chairs with supporting documents through Dr. Sultana.

Mr. Anish Barua expressed his gratitude to all for extending their support to the process despite the difficulties. Mr. Nils Den Tex, Concern Worldwide, Bangladesh thanked all participants for their best effort and concluded the meeting. The next meeting will be held in Save the Children International Office on April 25, 2012.

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