Union Parishad Election 2011
The Union Federation is a local development organisation of the rural poor for advancement through collective efforts. RDRS Bangladesh facilitated the formation and gradual progress of the Union Federation through capacity- building and leadership development of representatives of the poor. RDRS initiated this thrust move of organising the disadvantaged rural poor in 1989.
The Union Federation has now been nationally and internationally recognised as a model development approach. The Federation platform helps the poor achieve their rights and inspires the Federation leaders to represent their people in the local government and other institutions and thus work in the greater interests of the poor. As a part of this course of action, the several Federation members contested in the Union Parishad election this year and a significant number of them have been successfully elected.
The Union Parishad (UP) is the lowest tier of the local government structure in Bangladesh. It comprises 13 members including Chairman, three members of seats reserved for woman and nine general members, elected by the direct vote of local inhabitants. A total of 1,430 members from 343 Union Federations of 343 unions of nine northern Districts took part in the UP Election 2011. Of them, 559 were elected. And 27 Federation members were elected to the position of Chairman, 218 to the reserved sets for woman members and 314 as general members.
This success is a milestone in the advancement of the rural poor. A significant number of Federation members are going to represent the deprived poor in the local government institution.
Experience has made Federation leaders realise that changes in the life of the poor depends on the competence and attitude of the public representatives. Those to the UP body by virtue of their money and social influence, simply exercise power for their own narrow interests and the interests of their sycophants and supporters. Such a biased mindset leads hampers development.
The common voters are unaware of their rights as well as the role and responsibilities of the local government. They are ignorant about the budget of UP and its utilisation or about the duties of different standing committees under UP. They have no idea how to prevent and protest against the corruption or illegal action of the public representatives. This can never ensure accountability of local government. It weakens democracy and governance and hinders socio-economic development.
To overcome these difficulties and obstacles, the Federations feel that they need to establish their representation in the Union Parishad. This enables poor people to raise their voices, can ensure critical engagement of the poor in local government, make pro-poor participatory budgeting, planning and allocation of safety net schemes. Through this, the 13 different standing committees would be activated so that they can play a significant role in establishing pro-poor and participatory governance in the Union Parishads.
A total of 224 members from 260 Union Federations in seven northern Districts were elected in the UP election of 2003. By dint of their sincerity and actions, these 224 won repute as pro-poor UP leaders. Federation members believe that Federation leaders elected to UP are committed to establishing the rights of the poor. Accordingly, they prepared to participate in the next UP election which was supposed to be held in 2008. They underwent detailed planning to compete in the election, nominating suitable candidates who were trusted by the federation members, who had leadership qualities, honesty, accountability and so on.