The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), with financial assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) conducted a political finance BRIDGE workshop for journalists in Bangladesh. Through the Bangladesh Election Support Activities (BESA) program, the IRI and IFES teams have been working on political finance in Bangladesh for close to three years.
The workshop was held at The Daily Star building in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 12 March 2016. Fourteen participants attended the training course. The facilitation team consisted of two accredited BRIDGE facilitators, one local and one international: Sr. Assistant Secretary Mr. Md. Shahedunnabi Chowdhury, Election Commission of Bangladesh and IFES Chief of Party Ms. Silja Paasilinna. Having both a local and international expert residing in Bangladesh ensured a locally appropriate but internationally informed workshop.
Participants were given an overview of international best practices and examples from other countries on regulations, enforcement and reform, which informed the discussion regarding the political finance framework in Bangladesh. There was a strong desire to use international examples and best practices but to also to discuss them in the Bangladesh context. A new activity, which called for participants to develop a budget for an electoral campaign (based on four different types of elections in Bangladesh) was created for this workshop. It became clear to the participants during the course that no matter how strong the political finance framework, monitoring and enforcement is absolutely essential.
The results of the pre- and post-workshop evaluations show that there was a significant increase in the self-reported level of knowledge of participants, with 58.3% of respondents rating their knowledge of campaign finance as poor, below average or average before the training, with only 25% remaining in these categories after the training. Similarly, while 33.3% of participants reported above average or excellent knowledge before the training, and 75% reported in these categories after the training.