The Cox's Bazar Civil Society Organisations and NGO Forum (CCNF), a network of more than 50 local and national NGOs, has urged the UN to revise the conditions of allocating a $4 million USD emergency coronavirus fund to ensure participation of local NGOs in the humanitarian response for Rohingyas.
On June 30, Inter Sectoral Coordination Group (ISCG) -- a coordinating body of UN and other aid agencies -- issued a circular on behalf of UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh (UNRC), asking NGOs to apply by July 2 for the fund that will be managed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
In a statement issued today, CCNF Co-chair Abu Morshed Chowdhury said there is a condition in the circular that the NGOs have to have independent projects and be a part of the Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya as prepared by ISCG.
Referring to the Grand Bargain Commitment, UN agencies and INGOs have expressed commitments to empower local NGOs, but 34 months have passed since the Rohingya influx and yet the commitment has not seen fruition, the statement said.
The Grand Bargain, launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016, is a unique agreement between some of the largest donors and humanitarian organisations who have committed to get more means into the hands of people in need and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action.
Abu Morshed Chowdhury also asked why INGOs were receiving UN funding when they can raise funds worldwide. The UN should prioritise local NGOs while funding humanitarian activities.
"Moreover, in Cox's Bazar, these local NGOs, community-based organisations and local government organisations are the first responders. Considering these aspects, they should be recognised and facilitated by the UN," he said in the statement.
He said the conditions as set out in the fund allocation application are meant to fund the INGOs and drive out local NGOs from Rohingya humanitarian response.
Bimal Chandra Dey Sarker, another co-chair of CCNF, said "In principle, INGOs should mobilise funds on their own initiatives. In reality, they are creating a culture of aid business, and hardly empowering the refugees and host community," he said.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust, said that the circular in fact has deviations from the Grand Bargain Commitment and also from UN's highest committee, the Inter Agency Standing Committee's recent guideline on localisation during Covid-19.
The committee categorically seeks promoting leadership of local and national government organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also said the UN agencies and INGOs hardly have any partnership policy based on local social analysis of the Rohingya crisis and they do not have any transparent or competitive practices.
"This is the reason why they are selecting partnership of local and national NGOs mostly based on cronyism," Rezaul Karim said.
He said the INGOs coming from thousands of miles away will mostly disappear when there will be no fund.
Abu Kashem, co-chair of NGO Platform, said Rohingya response requires an inclusive approach, but the UN does not have a proportionate or balanced approach for ensuring participation of local NGOs and local government bodies.
"We believe giving only two days to submit an application is a dire intention to deprive the local NGOs," he said.
The government should also look after whether the interest of local government and local NGOs is rightly addressed or whether the aid money is going back to developed countries, Abu Kashem said.