January 24, 2005


Have you ever wondered what is the role of an NGO (Non governmental organization alias aid groups or charities) and what are their mission or vision? Michael Hill writes in the Baltimore Sun about how the NGOs are shaping up in the developing world:

"The reality is that disaster relief is only the tip of the NGO iceberg. In fact, the organizations are as richly diverse in their goals and methods as private corporations. Many have specialties, ranging from trade policy to environmental concerns, democracy building to disaster relief."

Hill writes that "Bangladesh is considered a case of how to do it right".

After the liberation war, the country was left with destroyed infrastructure and a lot of poor mouths to feed. The NGOs like BRAC, Grameen Bank, ASA, Proshika, GSS etc. went into empty spaces that the government could not cover; like providing school infrastructures in remote villages, rehabilitating disaster stricken people and offering them collateral free loan to start a new business (micro credit).

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC is regarded as the largest NGO in Bangladesh as well as in the world considering the workforce and the area it covers. It's vision statement is:

"A just, enlightened, healthy and Democratic Bangladesh free from hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and all forms of exploitation based on age, sex, religion and ethnicity"

BRAC has unbelievable figures of achievement:
* Populations covered: 78 million
* BRAC employed: 204,346 persons
* Job created: 5,999,802 nos.
* Schools - Non formal primary - 34,753 nos. & Pre-primary 7,500 nos. all across Bangladesh
* Annual expenditure: US$196 million (with 20% donor contribution and rest from own resources)
* Commercial ventures under BRAC umbrella: Handicraft Outlets (Aarong shops), Cold storage, ISP, Land & Housing, Housing Finance, University, Small and medium enterprise Finance & Banking, Tea Plantation & Software development

BRAC's recent achievement is BRAC Afghanistan:

* It has 21 district offices in Afghanistan & 770 staffs (728 Afghans)
* 83 Community Schools
* Fixed Health clinics
* Offering micro credit to more than 10,000 people and helping revive Afghanistan economy

(Source: BRAC Annual report)

So you see what is the power of NGOs in the developing nations. These are a powerful tool to change the lives of the people of a country and steer it towards progress. No wonder NGOs are also seen as a rival by the government as they tend to undermine some of the government efforts (mostly distracted by corruptions). For an example Proshika , one leading NGO was much harassed by the current government, alleging its unethical involvement with the opposition party and conspiring against the ruling government. The government is enforcing rigid laws to control NGO activities in Bangladesh.

It remains to be seen that whether the achievements of the NGOs are carried forward to a larger scale or they become suppressed or limit their activities towards a cause away from their vision.


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