Democracy Dialogue held by the Aathung Foundation in Bandarban, Bangladesh, 8 September 2018

Participants: 30 people (20 male, 10 female) from youth, student and indigenous organisations


This democracy dialogue with indigenous youth focused on the activities of youth human rights defenders and the human rights violations committed against indigenous communities in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Participants used flip cards to express their opinions. They wrote their views in Bengali on the flip cards, then provided justification for their views. Key points listed below are representative of the opinions of the participating indigenous youth leaders regarding human rights violations in Bangladesh.

1. Definitions and concept of democracy

  • Democracy means ensuring fundamental rights to disadvantaged peoples.
  • Democracy means governance by the people.
  • Democracy means access to information and legal rights.
  • Democracy means granting decision-making power to all ethnic groups.
  • Democracy means free prior consent by indigenous peoples.

2. Key problem and issues in Bangladesh

  • Indigenous peoples’ land grabbed by people from the majority population.
  • Marginalised adolescents and girls raped by people from the majority population.
  • Militarisation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

3. Key civil society responses

The civil society responses listed below civil were highlighted as the most effective ways to demonstrate and protest against human rights violations, in the participants’ experience. Participants emphasised that these would allow news to reach the media rapidly, forcing the government to take immediate action.

  • Human chain organised by various youth organisations.
  • Press conference organised by several human rights groups.
  • Civil society providing information to the media for writing and publishing reports.

4. Challenges/issues found by civil society in responding

  • Lack of helpful attitude by the local government authorities.
  • Lack of security of human rights defenders.
  • Legitimate binding/limited access: There is conflict among various local justice systems regarding whether they recognise distinct indigenous peoples or smaller ethnic groups, or simply consider them as part of a wider marginalised population. As a result, indigenous human rights defenders face identity recognition issues.

5. Support needed by civil society to respond

  • Training support for civil society members on human rights issues.
  • Support priority/quotas for marginalised and indigenous community activists to participate in international meetings and events.
  • Small funding support for event organising.

6. Recommendations for civil society and other actors in reimagining democracy

  • Stay connected with national and international human rights groups.
  • Share more information with other groups or individuals.
  • Follow the rules – think globally, act locally: civil society actors need to work more effectively at the grassroots level, in consultation with global activists.

7. Additional creative/innovative ideas to reimagine democracy

  • Democracy or human rights youth camp with youth human rights defenders.
  • Music show on democracy and human rights.
  • Photography training for human rights defenders.