people's Voices be Heard
on human rights and governance: local and global perspectives
effort aims to facilitating the process of giving voice
to the voiceless and also try to build consensus in the
society. Let people's voices be heard- by asserting the
slogan Manusher jonno-an initiative for promoting human
rights and good governance, along with its 61 partners
organised the conference on "Human rights and Governance:
Local and Global perspective", that was held from
January 16th to 18th at Bangladesh Institute of Administrative
Management (BIAM), Dhaka.
special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief and
internationally renowned human rights activist Asma Jahangir
was presented at the inaugural session as guest speaker.
Dr. Hameeda Hossain, chairperson of Manusher Jonno, chaired
the inaugural session. Law, Justice and Parliamentary
Affairs Minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed was the chief
guest of the occasion. Among the special guest's prominent
economist professor Rehman Sobhan, Head of DFID-Bangladesh
David Wood and country director, CARE, Bangladesh Steve
Wallace were present at the inaugural session.
Jahangir, a founding member of the Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan, stressed the need for ensuring independence
of the judiciary and said if an independent judiciary
is in place, only then a government with strong political
will can address law and order problems. She called for
coordinated initiatives by the South Asian human rights
organisations at national and regional levels to protect
human rights in the region. In this regard, she called
to appoint human right officers in the SAARC Secretariat
to deal with the human right issues in this region. Hameeda
Hossain, chairperson of Manusher Jonno, echoed Asma's
views and said impact of extra-judicial deaths on the
law and order may not be good in the long run. Economist
Professor Rehman Sobhan said justice and law have become
marketable commodities in Bangladesh, and only so-called
elite class can afford those.
Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Moudud Ahmed,
said in his speech that all the pre-conditions to ensuring
good governance are prevailing in Bangladesh. 'A democratic
system, a democratically elected parliament, an independent
judiciary and a free press are all there providing a favourable
condition to ensuring good governance in the country.
Now the question is how to improve the quality of governance,'
Anam, team leader, Manusher Jonno, presented the keynote
paper. Steve Wallace, country director of CARE Bangladesh,
David Wood, head of DFID, Bangladesh, and Manusher Jonno
partner representative Nasima Begum also spoke at the
opening of the conference. Speakers called for the empowerment
of poor and marginalised people, who have been so far
deprived of their human and social rights. An exhibition
of publication, posters and other materials related to
human rights and governance was also organised on the
sideline of the three-day conference.
second day of the conference held a total of six sessions
including 'Human Rights: Local and Global Perspectives',
'Violence against Women', 'Rights of Marginalised People',
'Child Workers Rights' and 'Electoral Rights'.
the first plenary of the conference on human rights Asma
Jahangir, asked the human rights activists of Bangladesh
to submit evidences of genocide during the country's Liberation
War in 1971 to the United Nations, so that they could
take legal steps against the war criminals. "I found
documents on genocide on Rwanda and other countries in
the UN archives, but not any on Bangladesh's Liberation
War'. She stressed the need for making the activities
of criminal courts more transparent and accountable to
improve the human rights scenario.
Sara Hossain and advocate Shahdeen Malik spoke at the
plenary while Shireen Huq of DANIDA was presented as chairperson.
Adovacte Sara urged the human rights activists and members
of civil societies of the SAARC countries to take coordinated
initiatives to prevent extra-judicial killings. Advocate
Shadhin Malik stressed the need for ensuring independence
of the judiciary and said only an independent judiciary
could improve the human rights situation of the country
and, thereby, improve the law and order situation.
specialist Dr. Maleka Begum presented the keynote paper
on the workshop on "Violence against women".
She illustrated and explained different forms of torture
and violence against women and also argued women to strongly
protest the mentality of this patriarchal society. Monira
Rahman of Acid survivors foundation and Dr. Firdous Azim
from Naripokko were the panelists of the workshop.
at the session on child rights said people have to uphold
the rights of children. Human rights and advocacy director
of BRAC, Afsan Choudhury, said that in the development
activities NGOs have a tendency to please the government,
but thereby the programmes fail, as government's traditional
machineries are not pro-child and pro-development. Child
neurologist Dr Naila Khan, head of Shishu Bikash Kendra
of Bangladesh Shishu Hospital, said that the government,
instead of ensuring free reproductive health service for
women, has introduced community clinics for women, which
indicates commercialisation of the service sector. UM
Habibunnesa, head of the justice and violence programme
of Save the Children UK, said that 3,634 children were
arrested by the police as offenders in 2004. Dr Muhammad
Ibrahim, executive director of the Centre for Mass Education
and Science, moderated the session.
Ahmed Kamal moderated another workshop on 'Rights of Marginalised
People' where Khushi Kabir and Dr Nafisur Rahman spoke.
Suriya Haq of the Fulki moderated the workshop on 'Rights
of Working People in Formal and Non-formal Areas' and
Enayetullah Khan, editor of the New Age, Shirin Akhter
of Kormojibi Nari, Sultan Mahmud of the BILS and Pratima
Paul of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies
held the discussion. Dr Shirin Sharmeen Chowdhury placed
a keynote on 'Electoral Rights' where Munira Khan of the
FEMA, Dr Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah of Janipop, Roekya Kabir
of the BNPS, AHM Noman of the CCHRB and Sharmin Mursheed
of the Brotee took part in the discussions.
third day of the conference also held six parallel workshops.
Renowned women and human rights activist Farida Akhter,
of UBINIG presented her keynote paper on the session of
"Civil society activism: Media and role of state
for good governance". She expressed her great concern
on media's role in generating activism and to make it
effective. She emphasised that whether civil society activism
includes or reflects the voice of poor, marginalised mass
people like farmers, day labourer or grass-roots level
women. The editor of the daily Prothom Alo Mr. Matiur
Rahman also expressed the need for a strong and accountable
news media. Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed of Bishwa Shahitya
Kendra and Aroma Dutta of Prip trust also spoke at the
workshop titled "Role of international institutions
to promote good governance: country perspective "
was moderated by Mr. Mahfuz Anam, the editor of The Daily
Star. Dr. Atiur Rahman, chairperson of Unnayan Shamunnay
presented the keynote paper. Professor MM Akash of Dhaka
university, Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman, of Bangladesh institute
of development studies spoke at the conference, while
Zakir Shahin, from Krisoker Saar (Farmers' Voice), a tinny
research institute expressed the need for changing our
attitude from donor funded project culture to life long
program approach. Dr. Anannya Raihan from CPD also presented
his paper on the workshop of "Corporate Governance:
social accountability " and country director Nasreen
Huq of Action Aid moderated the session.
chief justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman addressed as the
chief guest of the concluding session of the conference.
He stressed that we ought to have asked for the report
when the first incident of death occurred. That would
make the law and order men more cautious". Noted
lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain and Rokia A Rahman, president
of Women Entrepreneurs Association attended the function
as special guests. Shaheen Anam, Team Leader of Manusher
Jonno, was in the chair. Dr Kamal Hossain expressed his
frustration over the prevailing law and order situation
and said no case is taken at any police station without
consultation. Shaheen Anam, team leader of MJ expressed
that their efforts would be fruitful if they could able
to bring some changes in the society. She thanked all
concerned for making the conference a success.
three-day session concluded by presenting a set of recommendations.
According to the recommendations, there should be no extra
judicial killing without trial, freedom of judiciary and
the government's willingness are enough to curb crime.
Poverty reduction strategic paper (PRSP) and Millennium
Development Goal (MDG) should be taken into account while
formulating government rules in establishing good governance
and human rights. The role of the attorney general as
an independent public prosecutor is vital to keep the
judiciary above controversy. Competent people should be
appointed judge in the higher court. Articles 33 and 35
of the constitution should be upheld to function criminal
procedure. More women should be included in economic activities.
The government should bring transparency and dynamism
in its administrative affairs to curb corruption. Proactive
media are a must to create public awareness and bridge
existing divisions among the civil society.
governance is basically a mechanisms by which people uses
to voice there concerns and interests, workout their differences,
exercise their legal rights and meet their obligations.
Thus the conference attempted to bring all the mass people
and civil society in one umbrella by upholding the vision
of human rights and justice. Hence access to justice and
the voices of the poorest and most vulnerable need to
be reflected in all policy making body of the Government.
Only then we would be able to create space for people
to live in peace and harmony.
author is working as Law Desk Assistant of The Daily Star