Strengthening voices for democracy

15 Sep 2013

imageThe discussion was subjected to the demands of citizens and their idea of 'Democracy'. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

The voices were revealing. And were heard in the Parliament of Bangladesh Oath Room by no less an august audience than the Honourable Deputy Speaker, Members of Parliament from both the Ruling and Opposition Parties, Parliament Secretariat officials, the UNDP Country Director of Bangladesh, civil society leaders, academicians and youth representatives.

The essence of those people’s voices were gathered from the Dhaka city streets and revealed some simple demands. People’s voices indicated that their perception of democracy is not as simple as it is defined by political scientists – there was a clear recognition that democracy is the people’s right and an integral part of their freedoms and rights as citizens. Some of the respondents could not provide many ideas about what constitutes a democratic framework, but what they did provide was possibly the common aspiration of all Bangladeshi people which is to have the opportunity to work and exist in order to achieve a decent quality of life.

This defined the content and findings from a “Voice Pop” captured from the streets of Dhaka to mark the occasion of the International Day of Democracy which was observed on September 15, 2013 in 162 countries across the world in association with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

As part of the joint IPU initiative, the Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat and the Improving Democracy through Parliamentary Development (IPD) Project of UNDP also organized a roundtable discussion on September 15 about “Strengthening Voices for Democracy” which was the theme of International Day of Democracy 2013, where the five-minute “Voice Pop” was played.

It provided much food for thought as the people who participated in the Roundtable made repeated references to the simple demands of the citizens in the video. They urged the political leaders to seriously take those voices into consideration irrespective of whether were in Government or in the Opposition.  Underscoring the need and importance of strengthening voices for democracy in Bangladesh, the Roundtable speakers also emphasized the need to improve the enhancement of other indicators used to measure the quality of democracy including such things as application of the rule of law and the control of corruption.

Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Mr. Shawkat Ali, MP, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest and the Country Director of UNDP Bangladesh, Ms. Pauline Tamesis, was present as the Special Guest. Professor Dr. Rounak Jahan, a renowned political scientist, researcher and Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), made the keynote presentation on “Strengthening Voices for Democracy”.  Professor Md. Ali Ashraf, Honourable Chair, Committee on Government Assurances, moderated the roundtable which was followed by a lively open floor discussion.

The Country Director of UNDP expressed her satisfaction that the 9th Parliament had made much progress. A significant number of important laws had been passed during the tenure of the 9th Parliament. She mentioned the improvements in the functioning of the Parliamentary Committees and the work of the Committees in engaging more systematically and regularly with the citizenry by holding of public consultations and field visits.