New CLEAR research programme to aid Covid recovery in Bangladesh

Published on 4 October 2021

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is launching a new initiative in Bangladesh to generate policy-relevant research and evidence to support Covid-19 recovery and increase resilience to future shocks. Supported by the UK Government’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the new CLEAR programme will build a consortium of research organisations in Bangladesh and work in close collaboration with BRAC Institute for Governance and Development (BIGD).

Bangladesh reported its first cases of Covid-19 on 7 March 2020. Since then, like many other countries, the country has experienced successive waves of the virus leading to significant social and economic costs. Poor people, urban informal workers and small business owners have borne the brunt of the impacts that will outlive the pandemic and could threaten the remarkable progress the country has made on many health and development challenges in recent years.

The pandemic has disrupted production in agriculture, industry and the informal sector- creating a new class of poor and rising inequality. Disruption in access to basic services like health care, education, social protection, and nutritional services, have adversely and disproportionately affected the most vulnerable.

Bridging the evidence gap

The social, political and governance impacts of Covid-19 in Bangladesh and the best ways to address them are not well understood. Whilst there is some emerging evidence on these impacts, and on the coping strategies of the poor and vulnerable, there is very limited evidence on interventions to help them recover quickly. These gaps in the existing evidence-base mean that there is an urgent need to gather evidence on a number of priority areas to analyse the social and political impacts of the pandemic and create a coalition of actors who will champion use of this evidence to develop effective policy and programmatic responses.

The Covid-19 Learning, Evidence and Research Programme (CLEAR) is a two-and-a-half year FCDO-funded programme to support an evidence-informed Covid-19 response and recovery in Bangladesh.

CLEAR will build a consortium of research organisations to deliver policy relevant Covid-19 research and evidence for Bangladesh. It will support increased evidence uptake among policymakers and share lessons from the Covid-19 response to better prepare the country for future shocks.

Priority research themes for CLEAR

The programme will focus on the secondary impacts of Covid-19 on health, education, and social protection covering four broad thematic areas:

  • Poverty and vulnerability
  • Service delivery
  • Accountability and governance
  • Rights of marginalised population and disadvantaged groups; and innovations.

It will also generate evidence on shifts in state- citizen relationship, particularly negotiations around protection of worker’s/labour rights, gender equality and rights of other marginal groups.

CLEAR will target shifts in policy response at the national level and improving local level response to the pandemic through civic action and innovations in service delivery and workers’ rights.

IDS is the lead implementing partner of CLEAR and will lead the co-development of the research agenda in close collaboration with BRAC Institute for Governance and Development (BIGD) and research partners in the country.  As part of our management role IDS will also support these partners in the design and delivery of effective policy engagement activities and support learning across the cohort of partners and stakeholders.

Research grants will be awarded in two phases – an initial phase of rapid “agile” grants to support and strengthen existing research and a later call for larger research proposals.

Judith Herbertson, Development Director, British High Commission Dhaka said

“The Covid-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on people and society in Bangladesh. Good quality and timely data are essential to understand the nature and scale of the health and social impacts. Evidence on the most effective ways to support those in need is also critical to ensure that Bangladesh is making the best use of its resources. The CLEAR programme responds to this by supporting the collection of high quality data and evidence, in partnership with researchers, government agencies and NGOs in Bangladesh. The UK Government is a long-standing development partner of Bangladesh and this new programme marks a growing collaboration on the sharing of knowledge and expertise between the two countries.”

Mehnaz Rabbani, Head of Operations at BRAC Institute for Governance and Development (BIGD) said

“BIGD has been actively engaged in research on the immediate effects of Covid-19 in Bangladesh since the onset of the pandemic – supporting policy makers and practitioners in their response. We are committed to continue research on recovery and building back stronger. We are very excited to be part of CLEAR and look forward to support further policy engagement, with our research and that of our CLEAR partners, to address key challenges and identify ways forward.”

Sohela Nazneen, Research Fellow at IDS and programme lead for CLEAR said

“Bangladesh is at a critical juncture as it faces the economic, health and social shocks of covid-19 and deepening inequality. New evidence generated by Bangladeshi organisations will be key to overcoming these challenges – to determine what works and to understand how Bangladesh can create systems and institutions that address these intersecting inequalities. IDS has a long history of partnering with Bangladeshi research organisations to produce insights and evidence that have had far reaching impacts. We are proud to have the opportunity to support this initiative.”

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