Under the PEER program, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) organized a consultation meeting to develop a National Community Volunteers Guideline on 23 September 2021. Representatives from the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Fire Services and Civil Defence (FSCD), Cyclone Preparedness Partnership (CPP), Bangladesh Scouts, and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) took part in the consultation to discuss how the existing volunteer guidelines developed in 2019 can be enhanced further and formulate a Minimum Standard for all community volunteers in Bangladesh.

The discussion aimed at describing the proposed framework of the National Community Volunteers Guideline and identifying ways to improve the guideline draft and sections. It also focused on planning concrete actions as a way forward for drafting, validating, endorsing, and disseminating the guideline. Mohammed Ahsan Ullah, Senior Project Manager, ADPC started the consultation and presented the objectives of the meeting. 

Volunteering has seen visible progress in Bangladesh and it has been widely practiced and accepted. However, the national volunteer management guideline is only focused on Urban Community Volunteers managed by FSCD and needs to integrate other volunteer networks from the Cyclone Preparedness Program, Bangladesh Red Crescent National Society, Bangladesh Scouts including from the health volunteers from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). John Abo, Technical Lead of Emergency Preparedness, ADPC, highlighted the need for laying out a set of practical operational guidelines for community volunteers and said, “Our priority is to figure out how we can effectively integrate the community members in the national disaster response system while taking care of the volunteer welfare and safety.” 

Abdul Momen, Assistant Director (Training), FSCD, said, “A holistic approach towards volunteer management will have a greater impact on urban communities.” Ahsan Ullah presented the key components and sections of the guideline document. He explained the various processes in detail like recruiting, safety, communication, training, etc. The document covered a wide array of topics that could affect community volunteers and laid down a set of guidelines for each topic. 

The development steps of the Community Volunteers Guideline.

This was followed by an open discussion with all the participants. John suggested getting an endorsement from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) regarding the proposed review and updating of the national volunteer guideline to facilitate stronger ownership by the government. Ahmadul Haque, Director – Admin, CPP, highlighted the need for volunteer groups that are headed by group leaders to ensure the sustainability of volunteers and also suggested having the revised guideline both in Bangla and English for wider dissemination and use. 

Mr. Kaiser Ahmed, Technical Project Officer, DRM, BDRCS suggested In the operation aspect of the guideline, provision for developing a mobile app can be considered to facilitate data collections or documenting during a response by community volunteers.

A National Technical Working Group (TWG) will be proposed to lead the updating of the guideline with ADPC providing technical support as part of the PEER Bangladesh Program.

Cover photo by Freepik.