Stopping As Success: “If the forest survives, we survive”: locally-led development in Bangladesh

Salem Osseiran, Peace Direct

Created 05/30/2019



In this article, Salem Osseiran of Peace Direct, part of the “Stopping As Success” consortium, discusses the theme of community agency in transitions, reflecting on a recent case study research visit to Bangladesh. 

“Stopping As Success” has, over the past two years, examined the foreign aid environments in more than a dozen countries, looking at responsible exits and transitions of INGOs from a variety of different contexts. Within this research context, Bangladesh itself makes for a fascinating story: the country’s move towards middle-income status has generated debate within the development community, both NGOs and INGOs, about their role, place, and sources of funding. At the same time, however, issues such as climate change now require attention and novel solutions.

“Any discussion of locally-led development and responsible exits, and indeed any project design, must begin with that respect of communities’ agency.”

In early February 2019, Salem Osseiran and Farzana Ahmed of Peace Direct, with consultant Partha Hefaz Shaikh, conducted case study research in Bangladesh. Partha, who has for more than twenty years worked with different INGOs on projects across Bangladesh, had an in-depth understanding of the local context, making him an ideal person to work with. The full report of the findings from Bangladesh will be written up by Salem in the coming weeks.

The case study in question was the Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL) project, funded by USAID and implemented by Winrock International, which serves as an example of a successful exit. The structure of the CREL project brought together numerous stakeholders – from local communities to the forest department – to form “co-management organisations (CMOs)”, coordinated efforts to take responsibility for conserving protected forests. Below, Salem discusses his observations of the interactions of CMO members and how they relate to the concept of agency. Understanding, and properly accounting for agency and power dynamics, is central to not only the case of CREL but also more generally the very idea of locally-led development.

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