This paper aims to develop the beginnings of a workable pro-poor strategy for civil society efforts in rural Bangladesh that will use advocacy to help the poor move beyond the patron-client relationships on which they have historically depended. New survey research indicates a great deal of movement into and out of poverty, and this combined with recent advances in agriculture should augur favorably for advocacy initiatives on behalf of the poor. Elite domination must be expected to continue, however, and pro-poor initiatives will have to contend with it in the struggle for developmental resources. Accordingly, it is suggested that rather than pursue advocacy for policies directly targeting pro-poor groups (e.g., land redistribution, minimum wage enforcement), it would be better to forge coalitions with non-poor groups to press for more broad-based agendas (e.g., health, education) that can gain widespread support. The paper argues that the latter course holds out more promise as a beginning effort that could build up the experience and knowhow needed to make pro-poor advocacy groups credible players in a local political arena that will in the process have become more pluralistic. By trading support with other groups initially, they will then be able to pursue more targeted agendas benefiting their constituents.
Civil society and pro-poor initiatives at the local level inBangladesh: Finding a workable strategy [Draft] presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 25 pp.