are CPD's most frequently held events, and involve a selected group of participants addressing a particular issue of topical interest. These dialogues are intended to cover a broad spectrum of areas. Some of the recent dialogues have addressed such issues as Quality of Municipality Services, State of Local Governance, Efficiency of Fiscal Policies and Gender Dimensions in the Development Process. Another in-house dialogue format has been designed to expose visiting donor missions to a cross-section of opinion from civil society, concerned with issues of both aid policy and domestic policy reforms. Agencies which have participated in such dialogues include UNRISD, DGIS from the Netherlands, CIDA, NORAD, the Ford Foundation and the World Bank.
The need for an ongoing process of policy dialogue has arisen due to the fact that the tradition of public discussion of critical policy issues has rarely flourished in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi public thus remains largely uninformed about the policy regime which conditions their daily lives or the circumstances which have influenced the adoption of particular policies where they specifically touch particular individuals or groups. In order to move away from the prevailing tradition of rhetorical exchanges which have served to undermine the efficacy of most public discussions, CPD designs the dialogue format to provide a more constructive exchange of views. This requires careful advance preparation of the format for each dialogue. This involves spelling out more fully the main themes of the discussion and the principal questions to be addressed. Each dialogue is expected to serve the dual purpose of exposing the participants to key policy issues and educating the public about the issues under discussion. The dialogues thus target policymakers and public representatives as well as civil society. In practice, CPD brings together, on a regular basis, high government officials, senior agency executives, members of parliament, the business community, professionals, academics, NGO activists and donor representatives to discuss specific policy issues in which they have some involvement or relevant expertise.
CPD also seeks to initiate policy dialogues with public interest groups such as trade unions, peasant organisations, women's organisations, professional associations and local community groups when the dialogue is moved to the field. Eventually, the idea is to take this dialogue process, in co-operation with other membership organisations, to the village and factory floor, where policymakers and academics can be exposed to audiences drawn from the public who actually have to face the consequences of particular policies and may have quite plausible ideas as well as concerns about the validity of such policies. Because of the importance of bringing together political parties to promote a consultative process for designing the reform process, CPD aims to be completely non-partisan in its outlook and composition and retains complete independence in designing its dialogues. This non-partisan position has enabled CPD to bring together cabinet ministers and opposition leaders around the same table even at times when these contending parties were not communicating with each other in the Parliament. CPD dialogues thus proceed in an environment where the most controversial issues can be discussed in a non-confrontational manner and constructive solutions can be jointly explored. These initiatives of CPD to bring political protagonists together have now extended over two successive political regimes. This suggests that political forces, even in times of political contention, may find it useful to draw upon such institutions as CPD to maintain a dialogue with each other.
Since the goals of CPD are not merely academic, but operational, the dialogues are designed so as to culminate in specific recommendations to current and prospective policymakers for both redefining policies and for ensuring their effective implementation. A lucid summary of the proceedings of each of the dialogues is prepared which is later published with a set of recommendations as a CPD Dialogue Report. These Dialogue Reports are widely disseminated as part of the process of public education which informs CPD's activities.