How Start Fund Bangladesh has influenced national practices to improve humanitarian action
Humanitarian coordination in Bangladesh involves a large number of stakeholders and forums, and a complex system of government committees that relate to disaster management actors, clusters, working groups, NGOs and INGOs. To be successful, this system needs to be responsive and adaptive to the local needs and contexts, well-coordinated and to ensure active participation of local and national actors.
This is where Start Fund Bangladesh (SFB) fits in. With a strong network base of 26 local/national and 21 international humanitarian NGOs, SFB has promoted greater collaboration within Bangladesh’s humanitarian coordination system; not only complementing it but also facilitating its continuous adaption to evidenced local needs. It has collaborated with working groups and clusters, UNRC Office in Bangladesh, and networks of NGOs on a number of capacity building and research initiatives; and through its member agencies, has continued to facilitate discussions on localization, local resource mobilization, and coordinating the roles of different stakeholders.
Here are some examples where SFB has facilitated or lead changes within the humanitarian system in Bangladesh.
It tested and advocated for an urban cash package, which has now been adopted by other humanitarian actors.
Until 2019, there was no specific cash package designed for urban disasters like fire or waterlogging. In March 2019, in response to an urban slum fire, Concern Worldwide designed and experimented an alternative package in consultation with affected communities. Building on this experience, SFB advocated for a national urban cash package in partnership with the Cash Working Group; and carried out a household expenditure analysis to design a new urban cash package of BDT 10,000 (GBP 114) per household. This is 50% higher than the existing package for cyclones and floods. This was implemented in the fire-related responses in Dhaka and Chattogram, demonstrating that the new cash package ensured flexibility to address diverse long-term needs, such as shelter and self-employment tools, and reduced negative coping mechanisms. There was also an increase in savings and repayment of debts which had not been seen in previous cash packages.
It pioneered the development of tools and platforms for accessible, accurate and timely data for dealing with disasters.
A major challenge in managing rapid onset disasters is timely and accurate information. In 2019, SFB supported the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG), in developing the urban disaster joint needs assessment tool (JNA). This tool, presented to the Department of Disaster Management on 17 July 2019, provides a common template to assess post-disaster situations and immediate needs in the urban areas across the country replacing the previous process which involved multiple data collection formats. Jafar Iqbal, who pioneered the process as the then lead of NAWG, said “Start Fund Bangladesh has provided an effective platform for conducting JNA in Bangladesh. With the support and collaboration of its member agencies, localized impact and needs information collection/validation has become more effective and enable NAWG to produce timely findings of the damage and needs of the disaster."
SFB also partnered with mPower to develop an online data repository to improve access to key pre-crisis data and hazard specific indicators for Bangladesh in a user-friendly, geo-referenced manner. Stakeholders working directly with communities affected by crises and carrying out surveys, will be able to access and utilize the data as per their requirements, and will have the opportunity to upload their own data through a formal validation process.
It was selected to lead on bringing together stakeholders around the localization agenda.
In September 2020, SFB was given the responsibility to lead the “Localization Technical Working Group” (LTWG) alongside NIRAPAD. This working group was established under the legal framework of national Humanitarian Coordination Task Team, co-Chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. SFB role as joint lead is to provide operational and technical support in monitoring localisation progress, preparing common tools and guidance, undertaking research, generating evidence based reports, case studies and best practices, supporting local actors to actively participate and influence national level decision-making, maintain close collaboration with humanitarian community and facilitating the flow of communication.
It developed a common framework on accountability to disaster affected populations.
In collaboration with NIRAPAD, SFB sought to broaden the understanding of and commitment to common principles of accountability across humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh through the development of the MAAP (Mechanism for Accountability to Affected Populations) document, a set of 16 practical accountability tools. SFB has translated the tools to Bangla and developed a report format, enabling the Secretariat to monitor the progress, challenges and lessons of members in implementing the toolkit. During 2020, these were used by members during 16 responses that helped member organisations to realise the importance of a dedicated staff for accountability. Local organizations such as Uttaran and Centre for Natural Resource Studies recruited accountability officers to oversee implementation of the tools beyond SFB funded projects.
Mosheur Rahman of Eco Social Development Organization said “Due diligence audits from Danish Refugee Commission, World Food Program, World Vision have greatly appreciated ESDO adoption of the accountability tools and helped it gain a niche in funding opportunities.”
The collective ownership of the accountability tools has led to its adoption in Bangladesh’s Humanitarian Coordination system through the localization technical working group as an implementation requirement for all humanitarian agencies responding to disasters.
It joined hands with others for the inclusion of a new task force on forecast based financing/action in the standing order on disaster.
SFB as an active member of FBF/A Working Group, was part of the joint advocacy resulting to the inclusion of a new Task Force on Forecast based Financing/ Action in the BD Standing Order on Disaster (SOD/2019). The Task Force will facilitate the coordination among government and non-government stakeholders, share lessons and influence complementarity among organisations that support the implementation of anticipatory early actions based on forecast data and analysis.
SFB has created a space for collective engagement and dialogue, and provided a sandbox where locally-led initiatives can be tested. By evidencing the impact and uniqueness of these initiatives, SFB has been able to promote these at scale, develop trust in local processes and create a space nationally for a more structured way to ensure participation of local actors and communities. However, the journey has only started, and SFB plans to continue using its platform to advocate for more system improving initiatives that seek to capacitate local actors and challenge existing inequalities.
Start Fund Bangladesh is a £10m rapid emergency response fund that was created in 2017 with support from UK Aid. Modelled on the Start Network’s successful Start Fund, which activates funding within 72 hours of a crisis alert, it fills a crucial gap in global aid funding. The fund is accessible to both national and international member NGOs operating in Bangladesh to respond early to under the radar emergencies.