As one of the most densely populated countries on earth, Bangladesh needs a government that is responsive to over 160 million people and capable of confronting the variety of challenges they face. To address this challenge, IRI has worked in Bangladesh since 2003 to help political parties, government officials, civil society, and marginalized groups in their advocacy for greater rights and representation in Bangladesh’s democracy.

Group meets to create poster on the pillars of governance

IRI’s programs in Bangladesh empower people on many different levels with the goal of advancing democratic governance. To ensure political parties hear and respond to citizens, IRI holds citizen townhalls, sponsors candidate debates, and conducts party trainings on policy development, party structure, campaign messaging, and good governance practices.  This allows party leaders to better understand constituent priorities, while learning how best to communicate their agenda.

For any democracy to succeed, a nation’s youth must be involved. To build the capacity and awareness of young people, IRI has held civic education workshops and trainings on non-violence, pluralism, and tolerance with student leaders and activists on university campuses, including from the party student wings. A younger generation’s understanding of how a democracy works is key to building a bright future.

There are many marginalized communities in Bangladesh.  Members of these communities need to feel that their government also works for them. As a result, IRI supports civil society organizations and activists in marginalized communities, including ethnic, linguistic, and sexual and gender minorities, advocate for greater rights and protections.

Along with a capable political system, a vibrant civic culture is an important part of a nation’s identity. IRI has provided small grants to photographers, filmmakers, dance groups, rappers, and painters whose work promotes a positive political or social message. These artists have used their grants to produce new art, hold exhibits or performances, and produce books or films.

Violence and extremism are not characteristics that belong to successful democracies. To prevent radicalization that may threaten different elements of society, IRI conducts extensive research on the drivers and dynamics of extremism in Bangladesh. With this research, IRI has conducted counter messaging campaigns and holds trainings for NGOs, local government officials, and young people on approaches to preventing and countering violent extremism.  This work is key to advancing long-term security in Bangladesh.

One of the unique aspects of IRI’s programs involves research. For over a decade, IRI has been one of the only organizations that conducts annual nationally representative public opinion surveys. IRI also conducts focus group discussions with youth, marginalized groups, and ordinary citizens. This research and its key findings are published and shared with political party leaders and the public. Through public opinion research, IRI is helping amplify the voices of the people of Bangladesh.

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