The civil-society network involves more than 300 organizations, including development NGOs, trade unions and associations of farmers, agricultural workers, small-scale producers, women, teachers, poor people and businessmen.
There is a 15-member civil-society steering committee that works together with its counterparts from the government and the World Bank in the National Steering Committee, coordinated by Professor Rehman Sobhan -- Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue -- to oversee the exercise. Civil-society steering committee members include representatives of Proshika (the lead organization), the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), the National Association of Small and Cottage Industries of Bangladesh, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Coalition of Environmental NGOs, the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers' Federation and other trade unions, women's organizations, agricultural workers' and farmers' associations, as well as members of parliament and the media.
A six-member civil-society technical committee was formed to design and monitor the research process, in coordination with the government and the World Bank.
Society Steering Committee Members
Society Technical Committee Members
Organizations affiliated with SAPRIN include:
Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB)
Following the agreement by the government in April 1997 to participate in the tripartite initiative, two outreach meetings were held in Dhaka in May and June with the purpose of mobilizing civil-society organizations and NGOs to participate in the national SAPRI exercise. A series of broader meetings followed in July, from which the civil-society steering committee was formed.
Five regional organizing meetings were held between August 1997 and January 1998 to expand the civil-society network nationwide and to provide a forum for discussion of issues that are of primary importance to people at the grassroots level. This broad-based consultative process continued in 1998 as part of the preparatory process leading up the Opening National Forum. Over 500 people participated in three day-long regional consultative meetings -- held in Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi -- and five sectoral-based focus-group discussions, in which they voiced their concerns on the impact of structural adjustment policies and suggested areas of priority for further research. An additional focus-group discussion was held in January 1999, prior to holding the third thematic workshop that was to have taken place during the Opening National Forum but had to be postponed at the last minute due to unavoidable circumstances.
Summary reports of these nine consultative sessions were prepared by the civil-society network.
From 20 to 22 October 1998, over 300 people from all across the country -- including representatives of labor unions, small-farmers' associations, environmental organizations, women's groups, professional associations and members of all the civil-society organizations affiliated with SAPRIN.-- participated in the Opening National Forum in Dhaka. They were joined by present and former ministers and other officials from the government and the World Bank, as well as by members of parliament from various political parties.
Over two-and-a-half days, three plenary sessions and three thematic workshops or syndicates were organized. The third syndicate, however, was originally planned for the morning of 22 October but had to be postponed due to unavoidable circumstances and was finally held on 17 February 1999. The proceedings recorded the voices of a wide array of citizens on key adjustment issues and, through a participatory process, designated issues on which to focus the SAPRI research process.
In order to facilitate an informed debate by the Forum participants, a resource document titled "Towards Demystifying a Process: The Structural Adjustment Policies in Bangladesh" was prepared by an information team that had been given access to previously confidential Bank documents, thanks to the Information-Disclosure Agreement reached by SAPRIN with the Bank at the global level.
A Forum Report was prepared to reflect the outcome of the discussions that took place. A more extensive country report was drafted by the civil-society team to explain the proceedings and provide a more detailed overview of the discussions in each plenary and workshop.
The National Steering Committee and Technical Committee each met several times during the first half of 1999 to design the research process, select the researchers, and narrow down the study themes, which had been identified through the consultative process and further refined during the Opening National Forum, into researchable questions.
Based on the results of the consultative process and the Opening National Forum, the National Steering Committee agreed on a complex breakdown of three policy areas into various studies.
In the area of agricultural policy, two studies focus on:
In the area of trade and industrial policy, three studies focus on:
In the area of fiscal reform and social policy, there is one study with a focus on:
The National Steering Committee also decided that, in order to give sufficient weight to aspects that must be considered when using a gender-sensitive, political-economy approach to research, specific cross-cutting studies would be undertaken to focus on how adjustment policies impact: women; the poor and vulnerable; the environment; and practices of corruption. In addition, a research team was contracted to take on the responsibility of ensuring that all studies are carried out using participatory methods that involve stakeholders, particularly those most affected by the policies being examined.
An initial selection of researchers was made in April 1999 from lists presented by civil society, on the one hand, and by the Bank and government, on the other. Yet disagreements between civil society and the Bank over the final selection of researchers delayed progress for several months.
Once this obstacle was overcome and the terms of reference for the studies had been further refined, a methodology workshop was held on 30-31 August 1999 with the tripartite Technical Committee and the selected researchers. Following the workshop and based on its discussions, the researchers worked together with the Technical Committee to further revise the terms of reference for each study.
In the final process of revising the terms of reference, there were adjustments made in terms of the number and focus of the studies. The study on the health sector in the area of fiscal reform was eliminated, as this area had not been the highest priority for civil society and specific terms of reference were seen as not helping to provide new information on the issue. At the same time, the second policy area was re-conceived to focus on trade liberalization, with the central study looking at impacts on industrial development and employment and a separate but specific case study on the jute sector, while the study looking at the financial sector was expanded so as to be considered a separate study on financial sector reform.
Thus, the final terms of reference for the studies on specific policies have been defined as follows.
In the area of agricultural policy:
In the area of trade policy:
In the area of the financial sector:
Most of these research teams started work in October. They began by tracking the conditionalities, cross-conditionalities and actual policy shifts related to the particular adjustment policy initiative under study using documents accessed from the World Bank, as well as from government. Desk research was then carried out using existing information and work done on the relevant issues by independent researchers, as well as evaluations prepared for and by the Bank on the impacts and consequences of the adjustment policies in question. This was followed by fieldwork involving participatory appraisal as well as small surveys.
The participatory team played a unique role in the research process. In what is referred to as "pre-field interfacing", a participatory expert worked with the research team for each thematic study to help prepare and adapt the techniques to be used in the field. Then at the field level, the participatory team worked together with each research team to conduct the appraisal using a host of participatory techniques.
Nine draft research reports were submitted by August 2000. These included the following four reports on policy areas:
There was no new research undertaken on the jute sector, although previous work in this sector was utilized. There were also four cross-cutting studies completed, focusing on:
In addition, a separate study focusing exclusively on participatory techniques was completed.
All draft reports were reviewed and discussed by the Tripartite Technical Committee. As part of the review process, two full-day seminars were held, one in late May and the other in late August, with the presence of researchers, the Technical Committee and members of the national Steering Committee. Based on these discussions and input provided, researchers incorporated changes into their initial drafts and presented revised drafts in September.
A process of civil-society validation of research findings began in October and continued into December. There were three regional consultative meetings and four focus-group discussions held, in which researchers presented and received feedback on their findings. Delays in scheduling some of these sessions were due to prevailing political conditions in certain areas of the country, such as Chittagong. In addition, it was not possible to organize day-time activities with farmers during the Muslim month of Ramadan as they were fasting.
Final revised research reports were submitted in February 2001. An integrated synthesis was then prepared using the nine research reports. This document was presented at the Second National Forum. Summaries of these discussions were prepared in order to inform the final report and were distributed at the Second National Forum.
These documents, together with the summary reports of the consultation sessions during the outreach phase, were published by PROSHIKA as a book in 2001: Stakeholders' Perceptions: Reforms and Consequences (contact PROSHIKA for more information).
The Second National SAPRI Forum in Bangladesh was held on 13-15 March 2001 at the CIRDAP Auditorium in Dhaka. Over 200 representatives from a wide range of civil-society organizations from around the country participated together with government and World Bank officials.
The three-day event, which was widely covered by the local media, discussed the results of the participatory research and consultations. After the opening session, there was a presentation of the synthesis report and of the general study using exclusively participatory techniques, followed by presentations of research findings by each of the researchers of the four thematic and four cross-cutting studies. After each presentation, comments were made and a lively discussion by forum participants ensued.
The concluding session brought to light some agreements on generic issues resulting from the research and consultation process.
The forum concluded with a discussion of taking the process forward at a national level. It was agreed to seek an institutional arrangement to make consultation a regular and repeated element of the design and implementation of economic policies and programs. More immediately, all parties supported the creation of opportunities for participation in the formulation of the country's new five-year plan, as well as SAPRIN participation in the preparation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
Following the Forum, the Tripartite Technical Team and Steering Committee have been working on incorporating the discussions and feedback from the Forum into a final country report.