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Project: Enhancing Accountability and Transparency of Government Social Protection System in Bangladesh [SGSP-Civil Society Component]

Duration of the Project: January 2014 to August 2017

Supported by: DFID- Bangladesh and UKAid


1.   Rationale and background: 

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress over the past two decades, particularly in poverty reduction and human development. The country has maintained robust economic growth averaging 6% per year since 2001. Poverty has decreased from 48% in 2000 to 31.5% in 2010, a drop of 1.75 percentage point a year over this decade.  It is widely thought that Bangladesh has already met MDG 1. However, poverty remains a significant and persistent problem in Bangladesh. Over 50 million men, women, girls and boys live in poverty and around 28 million of these live in extreme poverty, without the means to even feed themselves properly. Female-headed households are twice as likely to live in extreme poverty.  Households with severely disabled members are also disproportionately represented amongst the poor. 

Between 63 - 80% of the total population are vulnerable to shocks that could drop them into poverty.  Bangladesh is particularly prone to natural shocks - especially floods and cyclones - which can cause great harm to livelihoods. Bangladesh is very exposed to impacts from climate change. Health shocks are also important in driving economic difficulties in poor and vulnerable households.

The Government of Bangladesh spent £1.87 billion in the fiscal year 2012-2013 or 2.13% of GDP on social protection. This reaches around 78 million people. The projection for 2013-2014 is £2.05 billion, or 2.05% of GDP.

Bangladesh however does not use its resources well and this significant expenditure could generate far greater results. Evidence shows that better, sustained results require systemic change including more focused strategic leadership; fewer, larger programmes which are better targeted to the poor and more focused on helping them lift themselves out of poverty; larger average transfers; greater coordination across Ministries and transparency of decision making. DFID support will improve the Government’s use of its own resources to ensure better targeting of social protection schemes at the poorest and ensure that they are supported to lift themselves out of poverty.

Ministry of Finance (MoF) of the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and DFID agreed that GOB will improve the efficiency/effectiveness of the expenditure on social protection. Hence, the “Strengthening Government Social Protection Systems for the Poor (SGSP)”project is designed to provide Technical Assistance (TA) to the Government of Bangladesh. WFP, World Bank and UNDP are the key actors to provide the TA to the government of Bangladesh especially concern ministries and implementing authorities of country’s social protection programs. The Government of Bangladesh has indicated its willingness to establish a Social Protection Unit (SPU) at MoF to adopt policies, budgets and costed plans to make the delivery of social protection benefits more efficient and effective.  Among other outcomes, this will result in a higher proportion of the poorest people benefiting from social protection schemes, an increase in the size of benefits, less leakage of benefits to corruption and patronage, and more regular and reliable transfers to beneficiaries. The civil society component of the programme entitled ‘Enhancing Accountability and Transparency of Government Social Protection System in Bangladesh’ currently implementing by MJF aiming to incorporate the beneficiaries’ feedback in the social protection system of Bangladesh. At the same time, the project aims to reduce at least 10% of the targeting errors of social safety net programmes which will supplement the mainstream of social protection schemes to lift the extreme poor out of poverty.


2.   Goal of the programme:

“Get feedback from the poor on the reach, effectiveness and impact of government of Bangladesh’s social protection schemes and use the evidence to influence good governance in the sector”.

3.   Outcome of the programme:


4.   Target population: 

Direct beneficiaries: 190,451

5.   Geographical coverage: 12 Upazilas of 12 Districts




# Local Government Unit(LGUs)






1.      Mithapukur






2.      Kolaroa





3.      Saghata





4.      Moheshkhali





5.      Kazipur





6.      Jamalgonj





7.      Sadar





8.      Banshkhali





9.      Ramgati





10.  Sujanagar





11.  Banaripara





12.  Borkol







6.   Allocated budget: 3 million (GBP)

7.   Major Interventions of the Project:  

Citizen engagement:  The project will engage beneficiaries in gathering feedback at district, upazila and union level. The project will also work with different community groups, e.g. School Management Committees (SMC), Safety-net Beneficiary Selection Committees, Health User Groups, etc. Social accountability tools (ie qualitative Tools) that MJF partners use will include community score cards to assess the quality of services, public hearing meetings with local government, citizens’ charters describing social protection services available for the people and the cost of accessing them, complaint boxes and duty rosters to gather feedback. MJF has had substantial impact with CSOs at the local level on rights awareness of the poor. The expectation that the community will demand accountability from the service providers needs to be moderated against the social reality where the poor have little voice. Communities need to be aware of the minimum quality standards and services that the social protection system will deliver.

MJF has been using community scorecards as part of its social accountability initiatives in Bangladesh.  They have been used to ensure effective participation of communities in monitoring the delivery and impact of public service providers in primary education and social protection programmes. As with other social accountability tools, however, the global evidence shows that scorecards work in some contexts and not in others, with no generalised conclusions yet being reached on the types of context in which the tools work best.


Interface with service providing institutions: Findings and concerns will be shared with local government institutions involved in delivering the transfers. They will also be involved in accumulating, reviewing, inspecting and mediating any conflict between beneficiaries of the programme and those in the community who are eligible but not receiving any transfer.


Grievance mechanism:  The project will pilot grievance system(s) linked to a few selected programmes. It will initiate mobile phone based grievance registering system where people can lodge complains. Learning from these pilots will feed into the nationwide appeals mechanism which the government of Bangladesh has committed itself in taking forward under the NSPS.


Capacity building: MJF will work towards building capacity of partners to use evidence in lobbying and advocacy. Local government bodies will be supported to facilitate dialogues with stakeholders and collate their feedback in a way which is credible and robust.


National Forum for Social Protection (NFSP): A national civil society platform will be organized to amplify demands from the grassroots and lobby for necessary reform through effective implementation of NSPS. NFSP will initiate discussions with relevant stakeholders and policy makers to enable civil society organisations to engage in policy dialogue by undertaking research, building their capacity or undertake advocacy, and act as an effective challenge function in monitoring the existing schemes.  The forum will consist of NGOs, think-tank, education institutions, community based organisations, national coalitions, media and representatives from local government instructions.MJF will act as the secretariat of the forum providing secretarial, logistical and technical support.  The forum will convene on a quarterly basis to discuss work plan and finalize strategies.


Research: Partners supported through the programme will gather and analyse relevant evidence, data (using both quantitative and qualitative tools) and information for monitoring, assess the quality and present information in a structured, logical and useful way. Community feedback will be gathered through surveys and studies. MJF will partner with research institutions and think-tanks for data analysis and disseminate the findings at appropriate forums for lobby and advocacy purposes. The think-tanks are expected to have expert skills in communicating beneficiary feedback on the effectiveness of different social protection programmes, policies, the theoretical assumptions on which they are based and the context in which they operate. They will possess negotiating skills ensuring recommendations from the grassroots are properly utilised by the government. Evidence on the effectiveness of different programmes – including attempts to influence legislation and policy implementation – will be used to learn lessons for this and other DFID programmes in Bangladesh.


Proposed social protection programs:


Type of safety net Programmes

Name of Safety Net Program

Cash transfers

1.       Old Age Allowance (OAA)

2.       Allowance for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women (AWDDW)

3.       Allowance for Financially Insolvent Disabled (AFID)

Conditional cash transfers

4.       Primary Education Stipend Program (PESP)

5.       Female Secondary School Stipend Program (FSSSP)

6.       Maternal, Child Reproductive and Adolescent health (MCRAH)

Public works or training based cash or in kind transfer (employment generation and community development through cash/in kind transfer)

7.       Vulnerable Group Development (VGD)

8.       Employment Generation for Extreme Poor Program (EGEP)

Emergency or Seasonal Relief

9.       Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF)

10.    Test Relief (TR)


8.   Identified advocacy issues:  

The evidence based advocacy issues on social protection schemes will be identified from the grassroots level project intervention. The project intends to collate these issues by the members of grassroots social protection forum. Therefore, the advocacy issues will be prioritized and placed to the national forum for social protection to lobby with the policy planners.  The representation of grassroots social protection forum will have an established upward connection with the national forum for social protection to recommend the necessary changes of national social protection strategy. 


9.     Challenges:

·         Challenging political atmosphere for reforming the sector

·         Change of government and resistance from local government officials

·         Resistance towards  reforms in social protection policies from Line ministries

·         Harassment of beneficiaries by vested interest groups


10.Future plan:

              ·         Launching of national forum for social protection

              ·         Baseline report dissemination

              ·         Implementation of social accountability tools

        ·         Community awareness raising activities


Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF)

House # 47, Road # 35/A
Gulshan-2, Dhaka-1212
Tel: +880-2-9850291-4
IP Phone: +880-9609-444888
FAX: +880-2-9850295