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Building Social Cohesion Between Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh through Engagement, Dialogue & Training

CSI is contributing to improved social cohesion & cultural exchange between host communities and refugee communities in Cox’s Bazar District

Photo of India Meshack
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

An estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees currently reside in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with over 700,000 having arrived since what has been described by the UN as an attempt at ethnic cleansing in Myanmar in August 2017. While the hospitality and generosity of the Bangladesh government and its people are unparalleled, the protracted presence of this large influx of people has significantly impacted the daily life of the host community. In an already poor region, tensions between the host and refugee community worsen due to added strain on the host community’s natural resources, fears of increased crime and encroachment on limited economic resources. Meanwhile, refugees feel discrimination and blame for the abounding problems. Lack of meaningful contact amplifies these issues and prevents a joint and meaningful approach to overcoming them. Fostering an atmosphere for strengthened social cohesion between the Cox’s Bazar host and refugee community is essential. This project aims to alleviate social tensions between host and refugee communities and promote peaceful coexistence through social cohesion trainings, intercommunal dialogue and engagement. CSI will assemble 2 advisory committees, one from the refugee community and one from the host community, each with 6-8 elder leaders. The two committees will be separately trained using tested social cohesion curriculum, and later, they will unite for facilitative dialogue and engagement, with the aim of fostering understanding and tolerance. Each committee will then identify 20 youth from their respective communities (40 total) to participate in separate social cohesion trainings, and later, the youth will unite for their own facilitative dialogue and engagement. Finally, both youth groups and advisory committees will unite for an intergenerational dialogue on the collective way forward. This event will be followed in a final phase by intercommunal social activities attended by host and refugee youth.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The surrounding communities of Ukhia Upzilla and Teknaf Upazilla, Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh and the Kutupalong refugee camp. The targeted region is the location of the host communities most directly impacted by the refugee influx, as well as the refugee camps where the Rohingya refugees reside.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The project builds a bridge between the host community in Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh, and the Rohingya refugee community through accessing first separate, then joint capacity building and recreational opportunities. It addresses the barriers that inhibit positive engagement between the two communities due to fear, stereotypes and lack of contact, by increasing understanding of the principles and benefits of social cohesion and creating spaces for intercommunal dialogue and engagement.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

This project fulfils the need for tolerance and more peaceful engagement between two communities inhabiting the same region. The stress of displacement and disrupted environmental norms takes its toll on both refugee and host communities. Host communities often grapple with the significant adjustment of absorbing a population influx that may surpass even their own while, themselves impoverished, may perceive the goods or services being offered to refugees as insensitive to their own plight. These tensions can cause conflict, fear and ill-adjustment to a new and evolving environment. Further, refugee communities, conscious of the power imbalance between them and the host community, may fear retributions, attacks or simply avoid engagement with those in the host community, due to their vulnerable status. This project fulfils a much-needed space for alleviating social tensions between the host and refugee community by building bridges to mutual understanding and more peaceful coexistence.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will contribute to greater tolerance and improved relations between the Cox’s Bazar host community and the Rohingya refugee community by building knowledge and practical application of social cohesion themes and contributing to mutual understanding, helping reduce misperceptions and stereotypes of the ‘other’ by creating a safe space for facilitated dialogue and interaction. It is hoped that this will create a ripple effect within the respective communities, ushered in by the leadership of the trained diverse groups of elders and youth, men and women within each community. By giving both youth and elders a platform for leadership in contributing toward peaceful intercommunal dialogue and engagement, CSI is empowering communities to take the lead in initiating continued intercommunal interaction at all levels. Project impact will be measured by giving pre- and post-training surveys, and through focus group discussions on perceptions before and after the project.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

According to the 2019 Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Joint Response Plan, social cohesion should be a priority for humanitarian programming. The response to the crisis is slowly losing funding overall, and the Bangladesh government and non-governmental organizations have expressed a strong desire to localize the response. A gradual phase-out of most international workers and international non-governmental organizations will become a reality in the coming years. It is in this context of changing dynamics that CSI recognizes the importance of fostering positive intercommunal relations between the host and refugee communities. Negative perceptions of ‘the other’ in any context where there are barriers to interaction tend to become normalized or even strengthened. Mere exposure to the other in peaceful settings that include interactions that foster a level of interdependence has proven in many contexts to contribute to improvements of perceptions of and relations between divided groups.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

With a host population totalling an estimated 0.47 million, the newly arrived refugees, at nearly double their number, present a significant social, political and economic impact on the local way of life. The Rohingya community themselves are caught between wanting to return to a country of origin that still cannot protect them, and residing in Bangladesh where they are not allowed a full education or employment. Tensions between Rohingya refugees and the host community fester and a number of barriers persist including language and negative perceptions of ‘the other’. A recent social cohesion research study conducted by Oxfam found that tensions are worsening, with refugees often feeling left powerless in relation to the host community and being scapegoated for regional ills including drug trade. Meanwhile host communities grow increasingly concerned about the safety of their changing environment, perceived unequal access to resources and the negative impact on their livelihoods.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

CSI recognizes that the involvement of organic community leadership is important in projects aiming to transform communal dynamics. By involving and leveraging the leadership of community elders, and working within existing communal and cultural dynamics, CSI believes we will engender a stronger likelihood of community buy-in and success. Recognizing age and gender norms in both communities, the approach also bridges generational gaps by ensuring the participation of elders, youth, men and women. Elder advisory committees will play a key role in the success of this project, as they will be equipped with the knowledge to better understand and champion the value of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, while also playing a key role in the project’s coordination as community ambassadors for identifying youth participants. CSI aims to develop community change agents through all of those trained in the scope of this project.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

BASTOB – Initiative for People’s Self-Development is a registered non-profit, non-political, voluntary development organization founded by a group of committed social activists on 4th July, 1997 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. BASTOB is with working with 50,000 disadvantaged families in 9 districts of Bangladesh with its 45 branch offices and 350 staff. CSI has been formally partnered with BASTOB through what is known as FD7 registration since early 2018. CSI plans to work closely with BASTOB at host community level to identify appropriate project participants as well as benefit from their expertise on culturally appropriate approaches. CSI will also rely upon the leadership within our refugee volunteer network, with whom we have worked since the very beginning of our engagement in the Rohingya refugee response, for identifying refugee community participants. Artolution is an organization conducting arts training and trauma therapy, which may be engaged in facilitating arts activities.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Center for Social Integrity (CSI)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Center for Social Integrity is a registered Myanmar non-profit founded in 2016 with a focus on long term peacebuilding as well as immediate protection and aid for communities affected by conflict. CSI’s mission is to foster a society in which diverse peoples work collectively towards peaceful coexistence and resilience. CSI is uniquely positioned as having unparalleled access to Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, as well as having been a strong, grassroots presence in the Cox’s Bazar humanitarian response. In Myanmar, CSI implements youth social cohesion training programs as well as a wide-scale, multi-year community-based reconciliation initiative for diverse, conflict affected Northern Rakhine communities. CSI understands that efforts to dispel misunderstandings and facilitate reconciliation between communities require a multipronged approach. With a tested social cohesion curriculum in hand, CSI will leverage this experience in the implementation of the project described herein.

Website URL:

https://www.centerforsocialintegrity.org/

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Myanmar

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Yangon

2 comments

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Comment
Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Hello India Meshack great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. It's exciting and I really like your idea! As the ideas phase comes to an end within few hours, we would encourage you to again have a last look at the evaluation criteria here: https://ideo.to/NQ6TlJ
Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them!

Photo of India Meshack
Team

Thank you, Sevde, and apologies for my delayed reply as I am based in Asia. I had another look at the evaluation criteria and hope your team finds that our concept fits within that framework. I will definitely have a look at other ideas on the platform.