NGO activities in Bangladesh
Human service is an innate instinct of human beings. From time immemorial, religious institutions, individual and social reformers have come to the fore in social work for the betterment of the poorest segment of the society. Later, these institutions were organized to solve the complex problems of society. In Bangladesh various type of problems exist like poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, malnutrition, illiteracy and natural disaster etc--those cannot be solved by the government alone. In these circumstances, besides the work of the government, non-government organizations (NGOs) are playing an important role.
NGO activities have become one of the most well-known things in the poorest countries of the world. In the 1970s, the United States formed a private/voluntary organization as a new strategy to help the poorest countries. Addressing in a meeting of the World Bank's Board of Directors in Nairobi in 1973, Robert Strange McNamara, then President of the World Bank, highlighted the need to create an alternative rural organization and called it first NGO voluntary organization. Since then, the World Bank and other donors have been campaigning vigorously for its policies.
In addition, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a new perspective on aid agencies. The fact of the matter is that since there has always been social unrest, chaos and political instability in the less privileged and poor countries of the third world, private aid agencies have to continue to operate outside the bureaucratic framework. In the context of the new evaluation of financial aid agencies, the work of the aid agencies in the countries of the third world increased rapidly.
This volunteer work started in Bangladesh in the 1970s. At this time, foreign aid agencies came to support the victims of the natural disaster catastrophe in the southern part of the country. Representatives of foreign aid agencies gained practical experience on the natural location of Bangladesh and the socio-economic status of the affected people. This inspired the representatives of foreign aid agencies to come forward to help the needy and poor people of Bangladesh. This was the perspective.
On the other hand, as a result of Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971, the economic structure collapsed. The socio-economic structure was changed. Poverty rate was high at that time. Thus, massive actions were needed to rehabilitate the war-torn country. In this context, a number of individuals have taken the initiative to set up non-government organizations (NGOs) for the post-war rehabilitation of war-torn Bangladesh. At present, some of those are recognized as the leading NGOs at the national and international level.
Since then, the number of NGOs has been increasing rapidly. The scope and varieties of activity have also increased as the number of NGOs increased. Starting from relief and rehabilitation work, NGOs are now working on socio-economic development such as poverty alleviation, rural development, gender equality, environmental protection, social forestry, group formation, microcredit/microfinance, mother and child health, water and sanitation, gender equity, illiteracy eradication, pre-primary education, vocational and technical education, solar energy, agriculture, livestock, healthcare, environmental protection, quality education, skill development training, social forestry, legal aid, skills and development training.
Besides, after 1971, it started working in the small belt of war-torn Bangladesh, but various foreign-funded NGOs have expanded their scope of work through relief, reforestation and service projects. The context of the importance of NGOs in Bangladesh and the increase in funds is the 1975 Paris Consortium of the Group of Donors to Bangladesh. There it was realized that the main cause of mass poverty in Bangladesh is the lack of rights of the poorer sections of the population over resources. It has been recommended to ensure more roles of voluntary organizations in this regard. On the other hand, it was recommended that every effort should be made to ensure the rights of the poorest people of Bangladesh so that they can play an effective role in their development.
Apparently, the limited success of the initiatives taken by the government in tackling the massive challenges of poverty alleviation in Bangladesh; non-government organizations got the opportunity to enter quickly for the development of the country. Thus, NGOs got the opportunity to enter and work on key sectors such as agriculture, education, health and the environment, and development in the lives of the poor people of the country. Some NGOs have been particularly effective in providing services to the poor with bilateral and multilateral development cooperation with international donor agencies and Government.
To register and regulate non-government and voluntary organizations, Bangladesh government has adopted several acts and regulations. It is mentionable that most of the legal and regulatory framework for NGOs/voluntary organizations in Bangladesh was developed during the British rule. The legal framework for voluntary organizations in Bangladesh at present are: Registration Act of the Association (1861); the Trust Act (1882); Co-operative Societies Act (1925); Volunteer Act (1913); Voluntary Social Welfare Organization (Registration and Control) Ordinance (1961); Order of Foreign Grants (Voluntary Works) Ordinance (1997); The Foreign Contribution (Control) Ordinance (1982).
The Bureau of NGO Affairs was established in the Prime Minister's Office in 1990. Under the above legal framework, the activities of NGOs/voluntary organizations in Bangladesh are conducted and regulated. Beside this, the government has formed some other regulatory authority to regulate and monitor the NGO activities in Bangladesh.
The main objective of NGOs/voluntary organizations was to address the urgent need of the poorest people in order to accelerate the socio-economic development of the country. However, in spite of having some criticism, NGOs have done remarkable development activities in Bangladesh within the last five decades.
Dr Matiur Rahman, Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), Dhaka