The most critical issue with international development is getting the right resources to where they are needed most and ensuring those resources are being integrated in a sustainable manner. The greatest failure of international development to this day is the wasting of resources due to a lack of comprehensive knowledge of the realities on the ground. It is this lack of accountability and meaningful investment—“the tragedy of aid”—that William Easterly denigrates in his book The White Man’s Burden. To ensure accountability and meaningful investment in development ‘Bottom Up’ strategy takes into account ‘comprehensive knowledge of the realities on the ground’ as it starts with the grass root level stakeholders involved in the process of development.
With the core idea of empowering the vulnerable and marginalized agents of the society, through different policies ‘Bottom Up’ strategy strives to achieve the development outcomes. Resources in the capture of the bureaucracy, especially in developing countries where prevalence of corruption is significant, while transferring from top to bottom lose considerable amount of its potential. While resources like community platform, strong local governance and access to information empowers the marginalized portion of the population, creates better scope of development.
Community platform gives a podium to the unprivileged section of the society to make their voice heard to the upper level and the whole process helps to transform bureaucratic practices at the local level to be more responsive to the needs of the poor. With access to information these people get to know more about civic rights, local government and its services and a strong and participatory local government develops capacities of the local government and rural citizens to plan and deliver accountable and more equitable services and resource allocation.
The case study of BRAC Community Empowerment Programme shows the evidence of success of ‘Bottom Up’ strategy. Different government policies exist, aiming welfare of the left back section of the population but not all of those works properly. One of the policies is inclusion of women’s representative in the Union Parishad in order to ensure voice of women. But in reality, in most of the cases those female members, physically present only, cannot play the proper roles they are supposed to play. Most often they are suppressed and dominated by the Chairman and the male members and has no say in decision making.
This is not because of lack of capacity of the women rather is because of lack of information regarding their rights and entitlements. Tahmina Begum since 2003, being a member of the Bidyanandakati Union Parishad in Jessore was not informed enough about rights, roles and responsibilities and thus could not play any effective role unless of signing the resolutions dictated by the Chairman and other male colleagues until 2010 when she participated in Capacity Building Training for Union Parishad Representatives and came to know about her responsibilities.
On the following days when allocations for the 2011-2012 cycle of Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) scheme, a safety net programme of the Bangladesh government for the vulnerable poor women, reached Bidyanandakati Union Parishad Tahmina Begum acted promptly. She, by consulting with the community, prepared a list of the eligible candidates who are to receive VGD and submitted to the Chairman and followed up to identify the irregularities done. She protested, took steps to correct the irregularity.
This empowering of Tahmina Begum with proper information has enabled to the system to ensure proper utilization of resources and benefit the deserved ones. This example shows us that it is possible to rip better results by empowering the oppressed segment, you need to allocate proper resource towards the bottom and the benefit will go up. On a different incident in Shikarpur village of Majidpur union in Keshabpur sub-district under Jessore district citizens lead by Mr. Abdus Salam established an example of what they are of if equipped properly with resources.
Those people were not aware of their civic rights and responsibilities, which is the case in most of the places of Bangladesh. Things changed when ACALG project started in Jessore. Community mobilization through forums such as the Citizens’ Committee, Polli Shomaj, and Popular Theatre informed the community members of their civic rights and responsibilities. A general awareness was created among them on the importance of participating in local government initiatives as informed and active citizens.
The empowered citizens acted to ensure their rights, collected the relevant information on a project of road construction using the Right to Information Act, cross checked it with the ongoing construction work, and upon finding evidence of misappropriation, started a mass protest and eventually stopped the Financial misappropriation by local government official. While at Kantonagar village of Kalerpara union in Dhunot sub-district under Bogra district, unlike of most other places of Bangladesh, community concerns were not being taken into account during local government planning, budgeting and resource allocations.
Citizens, aware of their rights and duties, empowered, participated in preparing a draft budget for the Union Parishad, showed it to the Chairman and afterword which was then shared with the community members through open budget meeting. There, a platform for the general citizens was created where they can promote their views and ideas and got those incorporated with the Union Porishod Plan. These two examples again show that in order to ensure the proper use of resources for the betterment of the community, the community itself needs to be empowered.
This empowerment of the bottom level leads to accountability and transparency even in the higher level. If this practice of empowering the bottom tier can be promoted in mass manner, the allocation and utilization of resources will be more efficient; will be more realistic in terms of addressing the concerns of the deprived and marginalized section of the population and achieve the development goals with higher effectiveness.