Message of Fr. R.W. Timm, CSC for Launching the Hotline Web.
Congratulations and Felicitations on the opening of the Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh Website!
The Website is a natural stage of progress in the evolution of the organisation. After being proposed and accepted at the first meeting of the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Asia in Tokyo in October 1979, Hotline Asia opened in the Centre for the Progress of Peoples in Hong Kong on January 1st, 1980, with Christine Tse as the first Director. The central organisation sponsored a Hotline worker in Bangladesh to help it get started, though the Hotline branch in each country is independent of the central office. Hotline Bangladesh comes under the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, though it now works independently of the commission. There have been several Hotline representatives since the start , including the present Executive Director of Caritas, Dr. Alo Benedict D’Rozario. The Hotline representative for the past twenty-two years has been Rosaline Costa, working with Father R.W. Timm, CSC as Advisor to Hotline Bangladesh.
The original aims of Hotline Asia were two: 1) Gathering information about major violations of justice in Bangladesh and sending Urgent Appeals for action to the Hong Kong office for distribution to a widespread network. Several Urgent Appeals have been sent in and updates given on what influence the appeals have had in bringing about change. 2) Forming a network of like-minded organisations in Bangladesh to work on specific justice issues, especially of the minority communities and other organised groups which need support, such as the garment workers. A seminar was held under the Justice and Peace Commission in 1983 to introduce to the NGO community the idea of a central coordinating body for human rights, which would be helpful even to the development NGOs, since development of the poor in Bangladesh requires a close attention to the awareness of their rights. Building up such an awareness was one of the aims of the proposal. The idea met widespread approval and NGO representatives met bi-monthly until a Constitution was drawn up and accepted. In 1987 The Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in Bangladesh (CCHRB) was registered and opened its own office. It is still functioning. Two of its most important contributions were to publish an extensive human reports each year in book form. Another was to launch the first independent unbiased monitoring of elections, both parliamentary elections and upazila elections. This function has been taken up for other registered bodies, whose sole activity is election monitoring.
Since Hotline Bangladesh had largely succeeded in achieving the two-fold objective that it originally had, it turned itself to other activities as well. Training of various groups had always been part of its work, in addition to the two aims of Hotline Asia. and this work occasionally continues. As the word spread about Hotline’s ability to resolve problems and conflicts, there were many appeals for mediation and many successful outcomes. A second major work that has been taken up is advocacy for certain vital causes and movements, such as that for debt forgiveness for the poorest countries and advocacy for women’s rights in situations of domestic violence and oppression.
Since its beginning, Hotline Bangladesh has been publishing 8-page monthly newsletters, one month in Bengali and the next in English. The two are independent of each other.
Because of the diversity of its present activities the need for a Website has become apparent. It will also serve as a permanent historical record and source of information for anyone who is dong research on the NGOs.