This policy brief, a joint publication by Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University (CPJ) and The Asia Foundation, conveys findings from a rapid analysis to understand refugees’ perspectives on community engagement and consultation approaches by the humanitarian agencies delivering services and aid in the camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The study’s themes and the research questions were designed by CPJ’s Rohingya research team in response to frequent community concerns, and all viewpoints expressed here are those of camp residents. As an academic institution and knowledge partner serving the humanitarian response, CPJ aims to help diverse stakeholders understand each other’s perspectives.
Background of Research
Three and a half years after the exodus of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017, medium and long-term strategies are needed to ensure that the basic rights and dignity of displaced Rohingya are upheld. Bangladesh lacks a national policy framework to delineate the rights and responsibilities of refugees, and has thus far regarded the displacement crisis as a short-term emergency. This scenario has given rise to various gaps with regard to camp governance, access to justice, and accountability. Policy-based solutions crafted by Bangladeshi authorities and humanitarian actors are ultimately needed to guide the comprehensive management of the crisis. In the meantime, humanitarian actors can already uplift Rohingyas’ sense of dignity and inclusion by adhering to AAP principles.
This is taking place to an extent, and much progress has been made since the early days of the response. The feedback expressed by refugees indicates some room for improvement. Humanitarians must approach programming and community engagement with an awareness of existing trust gaps, and can work to overcome them by demonstrating and explaining the ways in which they are accountable to Rohingya. This can be achieved through community participation in decision-making, greater and more direct responsiveness to feedback, complaints, and questions; and warm, honest, and personal interaction between humanitarians and refugees.
During each week of the Bridging community and humanitarian responses to Covid-19 in Rohingya camps project, CPJ’s 40-member team of Rohingya research volunteers invited camp residents in their personal “Trust Networks” (including neighbors, villagers, relatives, civil society members, religious leaders, teachers, and NGO volunteers) to confidentially share feedback, concerns, and questions. Each month, the Rohingya research volunteers conducted a rapid analysis on a specific research topic by inviting their Trust Network members to submit feedback.
The February 2021 rapid analysis sought to understand respondents’ experiences and perceptions of the community engagement and consultation approaches of humanitarian agencies, building on CPJ’s previous discussions with camp residents about these topics. The research volunteers also collected community members’ recommendations about how concerns should be addressed, and considered how perceptions of these issues vary amongst different gender, age and socioeconomic groups.
CPJ’s goal in using this purposive sampling approach was to broach sensitive topics that people may not be comfortable commenting on through traditional or randomized approaches to sampling, where respondents may not trust unknown enumerators sufficiently to disclose dissatisfaction. The findings in this paper should not be considered representative of the entire camp population, as some of the sampled groups tend to have higher socioeconomic status, educational attainment and income in comparison to the overall camp population. Trends indicated in these findings could be unpacked further by humanitarian research teams.
- Camp residents interact with humanitarian staff in various settings such as health clinics, rations distribution queues, and in awareness-raising sessions.
- Respondents said that humanitarian consultation and community feedback mechanisms should be strengthened.
- Respondents spoke of a trust gap between refugees and humanitarians.
- Refugees living across the 34 camps have diverse experiences engaging with and receiving services from specific agencies and sectors.
Partners: UK Aid, The Asia Foundation
Published: March 2021
Jessica Olney, Lead Researcher
Azizul Hoque, Research Associate