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Dilemmas in Planning Crisis Prevention: NGOs in


Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh
The situation continues to be determined by highly polarised ethnic difference, constructed
during a long period of intervention in the CHT from outside. This needs to be recognised as a
key underlying factor in the post-conflict interventions by international development agencies,
because such development action always implies tackling the various local actors in such a way
that development processes can be set in motion and conflict diminishes at the same time.
Bilateral institutions, such as the German GTZ, need to include the state. But in most of the
intra-state conflict cases the state is one of the conflict parties. In order to avoid being perceived
as partial, donor agencies have thus emphasised that supporting "Local Capacities for Peace"11
could be an appropriate strategy to avoid becoming part of the conflict and at the same time
reaching the people at "the bottom" and contributing to their development. The "Local
Capacities for Peace" appear in the form of civil society actors, which in the Bangladesh context
are predominantly NGOs.

Bangladesh is a country with one of the greatest NGO densities world-wide. The well
established NGOs in Bangladesh are usually characterised by a high degree of competence
and professionality. In Bangladesh in particular NGOs are thus expected to have the necessary
expertise in developmental matters related to crisis-prevention. Donor agencies are very well
aware of this and usually welcome possibilities to cooperate with them. The cooperation
between development agencies and developmental NGOs has thus been institutionalised and
the necessary structures have been established.

Prior to the Peace Accord there were only very few NGOs working in the region, partly because
it was heavily militarised, so that national NGOs were not able to implement their programmes,
not least because local NGO activities had been largely prohibited in Kagrachari and Rangamati
district.

In fact, local NGO activities started to be established in Kagrachari and Rangamati after the
cease-fire in 1992, while in Bandarban the move took a bit longer 16. At the time of research in
2000 a number of national NGOs had already started with working in the CHT; some are of
plain-land origin, but have specialised in the CHT. At the same time a boom of new local NGOs
has been observable.

By organising the "rural poor" in credit-receiving groups, the NGOs can effectively provide them
with other services such as incomegenerating activities, skills training, education and health
services.

After the Accord, the opposition to the national NGOs was already so strong, that in 1998 a ban
was placed on national NGOs, forbidding them to expand their activities into the CHT. Although
this measure was effective to a certain extent, the large organisations are nevertheless very
present.
The CHT people believe instead that they should establish their own developmental initiatives
and NGOs. While the case of the national NGOs represents the conflict between the majority
and minority within the state, the local NGOs draw lines of conflict between the various ethnic
groups in the CHT.
2. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
(Financed from the Japan Special Fund)
TO THE
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF BANGLADESH
FOR THE
CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS REGION DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Under the Fifth Five-year Plan covering FY1998 to FY2002, the Government aims at expediting
socioeconomic development of the CHT Region as one of the priority development regions. The
provision of increased financial and human resources is planned for the CHT Region to support
(i) better utilization of the existing health and educational facilities, (ii) improvement of transport
and communications facilities, (iii) mineral resources development, (iv) increased provision of
agricultural extension services for agriculture and horticulture development, (v) expansion of
agro-based processing industries, (vi) provision of safe drinking water, (vii) prevention of soil
erosion, and (viii) tourism development.

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