NGOs and INGOs in Bangladesh in promoting Human Rights

NGOs and INGOs in Bangladesh in promoting Human Rights

1.      Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a national legal aid and human rights organisation, provides legal and social support to the dis empowered, particularly women, working children and workers. Its goal is to create a society based on equality, social and gender justice and rule of law. It seeks to create an environment for accountability and transparency of governance institutions.

ASK was registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, Bangladesh under the Societies Registration Act, XXI in 1986, and with the NGO Affairs Bureau under Foreign Donation Regulation Ordinance, 1978 in 1993. It was accorded special consultative status with UNECOSOC in 1998.

r  Programmes and Activities of ASK
o   Investigation
o   Legal Advocacy & Policy Reform
o   Mediation & Rapid Response
o   Child Rights
o   Gender and Social Justice
o   Human Rights Awareness
o   Litigation
o   Outreach
o   Halfway Home

2.      Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF)

Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) is a national network of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) actively engaged in child rights work. It was formed and launched in 1990, following the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by Bangladesh in the same year. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection, Development and Participation and the Plan of Action for its implementation as adopted by the World Summit on Children in September 1990 and subsequent Declarations provided the framework for its operational objectives, which seek to ensure services and rights to children as provided in the CRC. BSAF started its journey in 1990 with eighteen member NGOs which has been increased to 260 member NGOs at present.  BSAF advocates for a Child-Friendly world. It works as a networking entity and brings together and assists child rights organizations to pursue common goals. It helps synthesize the viewpoints of member organizations and works to mobilize material and human resources for promoting child rights programs. It provides collective leadership in program matters to member organizations. It works with law and policy makers to bring positive changes in national laws and policies relating to children. It runs a vigorous campaign at macro level to make the civil society and policy makers aware of the provisions of CRC and plays a proactive role in promoting and upholding these rights. It also provides guidelines and assistance to member organizations to carry out advocacies for promoting child rights and influencing the policies of the Government.

r  Programmes and Activities of BSAF
o   Rights of The Child Domestic Workers
o   Child Trafficking
o   Protecting Children from Sale, Prostitution and Pornography
o   Action Against Child Abuse and Exploitation
o   Rescue, Rehabilitate/Reintegrate Abused & Exploited Children
o   Alternative Report To UNCRC
o   Strengthen Capacity of BSAF Network to Influence Policy
o   Strengthen Children Voice to Influence Policy

3.      Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)
BLAST, a major legal aid service provider in Bangladesh was established in 1993 as a free and voluntary legal services organization. After beginning operation in five offices, BLAST has grown steadily and now has 19 unit offices across the country in Barishal, Bogura, Chittagong, Comilla, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna, Kustia, Mymensingh, Noakhali, Pabna, Patuakhali, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet and Tangail in addition to in addition to its head office in Dhaka. BLAST’s primary concern is improving access to justice in Bangladesh for the poor and disadvantaged, and for marginalized communities in particular.

BLAST works through its staff lawyers, paralegals and other staffs at headquarters and in each district unit, in collaboration with its enlisted panel of about 2300 lawyers across the country who provide legal redress to clients either on a pro bono basis or with a nominal honorarium. BLAST is such a legal aid providing NGO that provides all sorts of legal support to the client at all level of courts. BLAST provides legal aid in the form of advice and legal Chapter-VI Page 37 of 61 representation, as well as alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It conducts trainings and workshops with a wide range of actors within the justice system, as well as with the public to spread knowledge of constitutional and legal rights. BLAST also conducts public interest litigation and advocacy campaigns to help shape and implement laws, and to enable the provision of remedies that ensure access to justice.

r  Programs and Activities of BLAST
o   Legal Aid
o   Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
o   Capacity Building
o   Advocacy and Networking
o   Research

4.      Bangladesh Manabadhikar Bastabayan Sangstha (Manabadhikar)
‘Bangladesh  Manabadhikar Bastobayan Sangstha’ (in English – Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights - BSEHR) is the pioneer and leading organization in Bangladesh, established on the 10th of December, 1977, to work on establishing and protecting Human Rights of the poor and vulnerable women, men and children in Bangladesh. This organization believes that human-rights are the basic elements of human development as well as of the social and economic development of a country. Manabadhikar recognizes the fact that these rights have been incorporated into the Constitution as fundamental principles of state policy and fundamental rights of all persons. Most codified laws are also in force to protect the rights of the citizens and the persons living in Bangladesh but at the same time, it is convinced that due to the lack of proper enforcement these laws have been rendered ineffectual. The root causes of the violation of human rights are the lack of knowledge and the lack of voice of the people and poor governance in the government agencies. For total development of the country, it is essential that endeavors are taken to instill the respect and knowledge of the laws, rights and obligations amongst the public. This is possible through the enforcement and promotion of Human Rights and as such  Manabadhikar sees itself as a force and partner of choice in this movement and dedicates itself to promoting the administration of justice, the Rule of Law and secures legal guarantees for the protection of the basic Human Rights of persons in Bangladesh.

To achieve the objectives, the Bangladesh Manabadhikar Bastabayan Sangstha (Manabadhikar)has a membership of 7,682 voluntary activists in its 358 Chapters located at City Corporations, districts and sub-district level. This makes  Manabadhikar an effective tool in guaranteeing access to justice for all irrespective of gender, class, ethnicity etc.

r  Programs and Activities of (BSEHR)
o   Parallel Investigation /fact-findings 
o   Mediation
o   Legal Aid support
o   On-spot monitoring (Thana, court hajat, hospital) 
o   Policy advocacy and Research Initiatives 
o   Young Leadership Development
o   Lifesaving & livelihood support 
o   Combat Human Trafficking
o   Public Interest Writ
o   Local Platform / Chapters strengthening 

5.      Amnesty International Bangladesh

Amnesty International a voluntary movement for release of prisoners of conscience. It was started by a British lawyer Peter Benensen on 28 May 1961. In course of time this movement emerged to have been a vocal organisation for protection of human rights all over the world.
But the movement did not get any response from Bangladesh till Justice Syed Mohammad Hossain started activities in support of the movement in early seventies of the twentieth century. But before it could take roots in the country the activities of the movement was stranded possibly due to his elevation as a judge of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. In the early 1980s activities of the Amnesty International was resumed by a group of enthusiastic social workers in Dhaka, and this Dhaka Group was recognized on 28 June 1985 by the International Secretariat of the Amnesty International.
Subsequently, some other groups were formed, and in January 1989 Madaripur Group, in January 1990 Rajair Group and in August 1991 Kalkini Group were recognised. Thereafter some local and professional groups were formed such as Lawyers' group, Women's group, Doctors' group etc. At present, there are as many as forty local and professional groups having a total of more than one thousand members of the Bangladesh section of Amnesty International. The first biennial conference of the Bangladesh section was held on 28 August 1992 in Dhaka wherein its first executive committee was formed. The executive committee consists of a president, vice-president, a treasurer and seven members. The office of the Bangladesh section is run by a full-time director. The office is situated at 28 Kabi Jasimuddin Road, Kamalapur, Dhaka.
Bangladesh section of Amnesty International arranges workshops for training its members on human rights and the techniques for prevention of violation of such rights. It also organises meetings, seminars, rallies etc for the propagation of human rights and for prevention of their violation. It regularly observes International Women's day on 8 March, May day on 1 May, International Human Rights day on 10 December. It works for immediate unconditional release of prisoners of conscience; fair and speedy trial of political prisoners; elimination of all sorts of oppression and torture; and abrogation of death penalty. The organisation publishes its annual report on violation of human rights in the news-media thereby highlighting such violation to the notice of the people and of the authorities for prevention and remedy. It publishes regular bulletins, leaflets and posters for achieving such goals.
15-Point Program For Implementing Human Rights:
a)     The political role of the international community.
b)     No international `silent witnesses'.
c)      Human rights chapters in peace agreements.
d)    Effective and independent human rights verification.
e)     Ensuring peace with justice.
f)       On-site human rights monitoring.
g)     Frequent and public reporting.
h)     International civilian police monitors.
i)       Long-term measures for human rights protection.
j)       Human rights education and advisory assistance programs.
k)     The protection of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees.
l)       The gender dimensions.
m)  Adherence of international peacekeeping forces to human rights and humanitarian law standards.
n)     Prosecution of war crimes and attacks on international peacekeeping personnel

o)     Continued promotion and protection of human rights in the post-settlement phase

6.      Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association-BNWLA

Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association is a lawyer’s association based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was established in 1979. Its main goal is “to create equal opportunities and equal rights for every woman and child in the country.” BNWLA promotes the rights and status of women lawyers alongside fighting for access to justice for all women & children particularly for the most disadvantaged women and children in Bangladesh.

BNWLA, as a Human Rights organization with a special focus on establishment of women & children Rights, is always appeared as a pressure group to the government & international bodies & tried to keep the realities for women & children in the public eye. It has been found that without proper policy formulation and action, it is not possible to ensure any positive changes in overall developments of women and children. Following that, BNWLA is trying to bring changes in the society and also to ensure access to justice from grassroots to national level through partnership, networking and policy level advocacy.
The organization followed three thematic approaches (prevention, protection & rehabilitation and reintegration) and specific strategies [1) advocacy for introduction and reform of law/policies (including research, dialogues, seminars/workshops, PIL, media, Networking, Partnership); 2) right-based prevention, protection & integration supports (including comprehensive women and child friendly packages like legal, shelter, development, psychosocial counseling & others); 3) enhancing member women lawyers’ professional capacity to act as “ Change Agents”] to resist countrywide violence against women and children & fulfill its vision “ to establish rule of law with gender equality”.

p  Programs and Activities of BNWLA
A.    Individual (households) level
a)       Media messages to provide information to girls and young women on gender equality, women's rights and protection against violence (radio, TV, etc);
b)       Girls and young women reached through sports programs;
c)        Girls and young women reached through (socio- legal) protective services;
d)      Girls and young women reached through awareness, knowledge and skills building initiatives.
e)       Media messages to provide information to communities on gender equality, women's rights and protection against violence (radio, TV, etc)
f)        Communities reached through sports programs
g)       Communities reached through sensitization measures on gender equality and protection against violence
h)      Communities reached through capacity building measures (trainings, workshops) on gender equality and protection against gender-based violence.

B.     Institutional (government) level

a)      Lobby and advocacy related to girls empowerment, girls' rights to be protected against violence and gender equality
b)     Capacity building of governmental professionals on the rights of girls and young women (in particular their right to be protected against violence)
c)      Dialogue between civil society and government in formal dialogue meetings
d)     Multi-level coalitions and networks developed to advocate for the rights of girls (in particular their right to be protected against violence).
C.    Civil society level
a)       Organizational support provided to community-based organizations (to strengthen their capacity to involve girls and young women and promote their rights).
b)       Organizational support provided to civil society organizations (to strengthen their capacity to involve girls and young women and promote their rights).
c)        Support provided to the self-organizing initiatives of girls and young women.
d)      Organizational and institutional support provided to the formation and strengthening of networks of civil society organization’s promoting the rights of girls and young women (in particular their rights to protection, education, socio-political participation and economic participation).
e)       Monitoring of government's responsiveness to girls and young women's rights and needs.
7.      National Human Rights Commission (NHRCB)
 The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh was reconstituted in 2009 as a national advocacy institution for human rights promotion and protection. It is committed to the accomplishment of human rights in a broader sense, including dignity, worth and freedom of every human being, as enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and different international human rights conventions and treaties to which Bangladesh is a signatory.

The purpose of establishing such splendid institution is to contribute to the embodiment of human dignity and integrity as well as to the safeguard of the basic order of democracy so that inalienable fundamental human rights of all individuals are protected and the standards of human rights are improved in the country.
Established by the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009 in consonance with Bangladesh’s commitment to international human rights law, the Commission serves as a mechanism for the enrichment of the realization of human rights. Its journey is aimed at creating a culture of human rights through public enlightenment on diverse human rights issues so that the people of the country can contribute to larger peace and security keeping in pace with the ‘progressive aspirations of human kind.’

A.    Functions of NHRC
Apart from entertaining complaints the NHRC can exercise the power suo motu.
a)       The NHRC can ask for report from the Disciplinary Forces or the Law Enforcing Agencies or any of its members on the allegation of human rights violation.
b)      The NHRC can visit any jail or correctional centers, custody and such other places and make recommendation to the government thereon for the development of those places and conditions.
c)       The Commission can inquire and report a matter being referenced by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on a writ petition heard by it.
d)      The Commission enjoys the power of a civil court in case of any inquiry or investigation.
e)       The Commission is empowered to appoint mediators according to established rules to dispose of a dispute relating to violation of human rights.
f)        In case of non-compliance of the reports and recommendations the Commission can bring the matter to the notice of the President who shall cause it to be laid before parliament.
g)      The Commission can ask for information from governmental authorities on any alleged violation of human rights and the government is required to give the information. In case of failure to provide information the Commission can start to work at its own initiative.
h)      Even the Commission itself can lodge application to the High Court Division if the case fits with the conditions of filing writ petitions under the constitution.
i)        Apart from suggesting legal remedy, the commission is endowed with the power to recommend the government to provide temporary grant to the aggrieved person or his family.
j)        The commission can publish the inquiry report fully or partially at its own satisfaction.
k)      The witnesses before the Commission are protected for their deposition.

B.     Responsibilities of NHRC
The NHRC follows the comprehensive mandate outlined in the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009. The cruxes of the functions of the Commission are: investigation and inquiry, recommendation, legal aid and human rights advocacy, research and training on human rights laws, norms and practices. To elaborate, in order to promote and protect human rights the Commission performs the following functions:
a)       Developing human rights policies through conducting human rights research and issuing legal and administrative policy recommendations;
b)      Analyzing laws, policies and practices from a human rights perspective;
c)       Investigating human rights violation cases and providing access to justice;
d)      Promoting human rights education and raising public awareness about perception of human rights;
e)       Promoting, monitoring and comparing the national standard and implementation of international human rights treaties;
f)        Co-operating with government agencies, civil society organizations, UN human rights bodies and national human rights institutions;
g)      Settlement of complaints having the tendency of violation of human rights through mediation, providing legal aid if possible to the aggrieved party;
h)      Lodging or help to lodge petitions in the apex court;
i)        Sensitizing law enforcing agencies through human rights training;
j)        Other matters deemed necessary to protect and promote human rights.

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