Tuesday 21 January 2020
Home      All news      Contact us     
reliefweb - 2 month ago

Bangladesh: Independent evaluation of the Aktion Deutschland Hilft e.V. (ADH) joint appeal to “Rohingya Myanmar Bangladesh” - April 2019

Source: Aktion Deutschland Hilft Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar
Executive Summary Committed to ensuring high quality work and in line with its policy and culture of building on lessons learnt, Aktion Deutschland Hilft e. V. (ADH) appointed the Humanitarian Exchange and Research Centre (HERE) in December 2018 to carry out an independent evaluation of its joint appeal “Rohingya Myanmar Bangladesh”. This report reflects the main findings of this evaluation, which aims to identify which approach ADH Member Organisations (MO) have adopted to contribute to the protection of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. More specifically, the evaluation has looked at the extent to which MOs have considered the Sphere Handbook Protection Principles, which are sector-wide standards, in the design and implementation of their work. As of 25 August 2017, the world witnessed one of the largest and fastest refugee movements in recent decades. In the following weeks, an average of 20,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh per day, victims to gross and serious human rights abuses in their native region of northern Rakhine, Myanmar. They arrived in a rural, hilly, and forested area without any infrastructure which was entirely unsuited to receive such large numbers. While the government of Bangladesh is to be commended for keeping its borders open, it insisted that the refugee situation is a temporary one, which together with the ill-suited environment resulted in formidable challenges for providing effective humanitarian assistance and protection. In this light, it is no small achievement that epidemics have so far been avoided, and the situation in the refugee camps has largely been stabilised. Carried out in the period of mid-January until early March 2019, this evaluation has looked at the work that ADH member organisations and their partners have done for the Rohingya refugees and their host communities. It found that ADH MOs have given consideration to integrating protection aspects in their work, as evidenced by a number of examples of good protection practice. In particular, the MOs are making an effort to ensure that their engagement does not create further harm. Situations where hundreds of thousands of people are desperate to find ways and means to survive are easy breeding grounds for abuse and exploitation. Recognising this sad fact, all of ADH MOs have policies in place to prevent survival practices such as trading sex for assistance, better known as the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation. That said, serious challenges remain in place in the overcrowded camps. Contributing to the protection of the Rohingya refuges does not only include the aspect of preventing further harm, however. That would be too low a benchmark. The protection of refugees first and foremost involves ensuring the respect of refugee rights. In a context where the government has kept a restrictive policy towards recognising these rights and is even avoiding the use of the term refugee, this is particularly challenging, but also all the more necessary. The evaluation found that ADH MOs and their partners can do a better job in this regard. First, the evaluation found that while MOs do consider protection aspects in line with their specific activities, many of them need to widen their focus. For example, other than contributing to the massive deforestation, the collection of firewood exposes women and men, boys and girls to significant risks, such as sexual assault. While the government agreed to the distribution of LPG gas cylinders in 2018, the evaluation saw that these were not in place in many of the areas the Evaluation Team visited. Yet, this protection concern did not appear as prominent in the minds of MO interviewees. Similarly, the government has prohibited the presence of aid organisations in the camps during night, when in fact their presence could help reduce incidents of trafficking or rape. Again, the evaluation found that MOs paid too little attention to this serious issue, seemingly as it is not directly within the area of activities defined by their programmes. One way of adopting a wider approach is to combine the delivery of services with engaging with the refugees on protection concerns. Medical clinics or therapeutic feeding centres may provide safe spaces for consulting with refugee women, men, and adolescents on what protection risks they face and how organisations could do a better job in addressing these challenges. Second, the evaluation identified the need for MOs to be bolder in their protection work. One immediate protection threat that the evaluation saw is the intimidation of Rohingya women who have been engaged as outreach- or community workers by the organisations in the camps, including MOs. Religious and other leaders are pushing back on giving Rohingya women such a prominent role to the level of (physical) threats and assault. While aware of this serious issue, MOs had not yet adopted an appropriate set of protection measures, supposedly also as the government has prohibited that they employ Rohingya as staff. Third, in line with the previous finding, the evaluation sees the need for the MOs to ensure that they are prepared to speak out and refrain from self-censorship. Besides protection in the camps, there should be a concern for overall refugee rights and principles under international law. Even though Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, it is under certain obligations, including to respect the principle of voluntary repatriation. With the exception of a welcome joint NGO statement on premature repatriation, the Evaluation Team saw too few efforts among the MOs to engage in advocacy – individually or collectively – to promote the rights of refugees. Similarly, a stronger positioning may be required in light of the risk that up to 100,000 refugees will be relocated to a silt island in the Bay of Bengal. This may amount to internment, a clear violation of the rights to freedom of movement and to a livelihood. Humanitarian organisations may adopt different positions when the government asks them to remain involved with these refugees. Some may believe that it is only by being on the island that they will be able bear witness to the situation and remain in touch with Rohingya. Others may refuse to associate themselves with such a relocation, as it could be interpreted as condoning a de facto detention. Both positions require that NGOs engage in advocacy, either through diplomatic channels or in public. To ensure better protection of the Rohingya refugees, the evaluation sees the need for MOs to further train their staff on the specific characteristics of refugee protection. As noted, the MOs have integrated protection aspects in their work, but there is a need for more depth and a better understanding of the wider refugee context. A range of protection concerns pertaining specifically to refugees require more priority, such as the uncertainties linked to the issues of registration, repatriation, and relocation, to name a few. It is clear that ADH’s MOs make up a very small number of the actors involved in the Rohingya refugee response, and operationally they can only do so much to address these concerns, but this does not relieve them from adopting a holistic approach, instead of siloed one in which they concentrate on their specific activities. Protection as an overarching concern in humanitarian action has implications that go beyond the specific activities that are part of organisations’ programmes. Principally, it involves questions as to the culture, strategy, and approach of organisations in terms of taking risk. Protection work requires courage as it involves activities and positions that may put an organisation at odds with a government’s policy and expectations. This may be a new experience for organisations working in Bangladesh, but it is an inherent aspect of pursuing a protection agenda. In the months to come, when the government of Bangladesh will further acknowledge that the Rohingya cannot return to their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar, there will be a continuous need for MOs to negotiate and advocate for protection space for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and to work towards improved safety of the refugees in the camps.


Latest News
Hashtags:   

Bangladesh

 | 

Independent

 | 

evaluation

 | 

Aktion

 | 

Deutschland

 | 

Hilft

 | 

joint

 | 

appeal

 | 

“Rohingya

 | 

Myanmar

 | 

Bangladesh”

 | 

April

 | 
Most Popular (6 hours)

Most Popular (24 hours)

Most Popular (a week)

Sources