NGOs in Bangladesh


Over the past two decades Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have taken center stage all over the world in matters pertaining to good governance, functioning of democracy, and upholding of human rights and fundamental freedoms. They have also been at the forefront in the fight against corruption, political partisanship and abuse of familial connections.
Some NGOs have grown an international character and their representations are present in many countries of the world. Some of them, like Bangladesh's "Grameen Bank," or United Kingdom's "Amnesty International" or France's "Medicines sans Frontier," have gained international acceptance, respect and recognition.
Their efforts have been mostly voluntary and have been facilitated through conviction and sincerity of purpose. They have helped in poverty reduction, in gender empowerment, in greater access to healthcare, in the creation of alternative avenues of employment and in the removing of the curse of illiteracy.
In Bangladesh, since the early seventies, NGOs have played a pivotal role. Over the years, they have supplemented the role of the government and helped in opening doors and windows all over the country, particularly in the vast rural hinterland. We have seen how the concept of micro-credit has strengthened credit extension potential for rural women and created self-employment opportunities.
It has also assisted in the growth of micro agro-based units (horticulture), small-scale pisciculture in small water bodies, and poultry farming. It has helped to empower women and fostered girl child education. Similarly, certain NGOs have been remarkably successful in the spread of non-formal education and vocational training. This has helped in the growth of skill within the population. NGOs have been the source of hope.
They have also been the cause of great frustration. Unplanned growth in this sector has led to duplication of efforts and, sometimes, abuse of resources. Moral integrity and fiscal probity have been sacrificed in the quest for funds and resources that are made available by foreign donors. This aspect has been the source of anxiety among many like us.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has now stepped into the fray. Interested as they are in mis-governance and corruption, the TIB commissioned a study titled "Problems in good governance in the NGO sector." It has recently been made public, and as expected, unleashed a storm throughout the NGO landscape in Bangladesh.
The study took into account the activities of 20 NGOs operating in different districts within the six divisions of Bangladesh. The composition of the NGOs covered included one international NGO, eight national NGOs (operating on a national scale), and eleven local NGOs.
The research team came out with certain critical observations in their report. They also acknowledged that their findings were hampered "due to lack of transparency and the autocratic attitude of certain heads of these NGOs." It was observed in this context that "those who had information were not willing to talk, or said that they did not have time." If this is true, it is indeed unfortunate. It must have also affected the investigation.
The TIB report noted lack of accountability as well as serious irregularities in the dealings of most of these NGOs. Their findings were seen by many as being consistent with the presumption that a large number of NGOs in Bangladesh were associated with mid-level corruption and absence of regulatory control.
The wide-ranging findings of the TIB study revealed the existence of the following: