The Right to Information (RTI) Act in Bangladesh was passed on March 29, 2009. In order for RTI to achieve its potential, and as international experiences s how, it is critical that the Act is effectively implemented. Systematic and regular use of the RTI Act by various stakeholders may contribute to effective implementation. Through its use, it will be possible to identify areas for improvement, as well as contribute to the familiarization of government officials with the importance of RTI. Yet using the RTI Act requires a strong demand side force that can navigate the application and appeals process. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Bangladesh presently are working on strengthening the demand side for seeking information from the authorities through the RTI Act. And though the Act is young, it is being embraced by people across the country. With support from NGOs, people have started using the Act to obtain their entitlements under public schemes that provide vulnerable groups with health care, food, education, and other services. Otherwise, all too often the benefits from these schemes never reach the people that they are designed to help.
This publ ication documents the experiences of NGOs working in the field and how the RTI Act has had an impact on individuals. The result is fifteen stories of how citizens and communities have used the RTI Act to obtain information from the government in order to hold their local government
bodies to accounts and improve their living conditions. In general terms, the stories highlight the processes through which people requested, obtained and used information, as well as the immediate impact. Taken together, the cases are early testimony of how RTI has helped ordinary citizens to
claim their dues, services, and entitlements that previously had been denied to them. Moreover, these stories from Bangladesh suggest that use of the RTI Act to claim entitlements and expose mismanagement and discrimination is fundamental to the practical realization of other rights, especially socio-economic rights.
This publication also highlights the importance of documenting work undertaken by NGOs. Oftentimes the achievements and impact of RTI efforts, especially at the local level do not receive enough attention. Due to this, exercises toward the documenting including tracking and monitoring of information requests that would then inform the cases efforts by NGOs will contribute to showcase in a compelling way the impact of their work. In order to also contribute to provide resources for NGOs to do this, annex II in this document includes a brief template that could be helpful for NGOs in the development of cases of their own.