Leadership: Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder & Chairperson
Sir Fazle was born in 1936 in Bangladesh. He was educated both at Dhaka and Glasgow Universities. He was a professional accountant in his thirties, working as a senior corporate executive at Shell Oil, when the 1971 Liberation War had a profound effect on him, dramatically changing the direction of his life. He left his job, moved to London and devoted himself to Bangladesh’s War of Independence. There, he helped initiate a campaign called “Help Bangladesh” to organise funds in raising awareness about the war.
When the war was over, he returned to the newly independent Bangladesh, finding the economy in ruins. Millions of refugees, who had sought shelter in India during the war, started returning to the country and their relief and rehabilitation called for urgent efforts. It was then that he established BRAC to rehabilitate the returning refugees in a remote area in north-eastern Bangladesh. He directed his policy towards helping the poor develop their capacity to better manage their lives. Thus, BRAC’s primary objectives emerged as alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor. Under his leadership, in the span of only four decades, BRAC grew to become the largest development organisation in the world in terms of the scale and diversity of its interventions.
Sir Fazle has received numerous national and international awards for his achievements in leading BRAC, including the WISE Prize (2011), Conrad Hilton Foundation Humanitarian Award (2009), the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2008), the Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award (2007), the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership (2007), the Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Award for Lifetime Achievement in Social Development and Poverty Alleviation (2007), Gates Award for Global Health (2004), UNDP Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution in Human Development (2004), Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Award (2002), Olof Palme Award (2001), UNICEF’s Maurice Pate Award (1992) and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1980).
He is also recognised by Ashoka as one of the “global greats” and is a founding member of its prestigious Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2010, he was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Eminent Persons Group for the Least Developed Countries. Sir Fazle has received several honorary degrees including Doctor of Humane Letters from Yale University in 2007, Doctor of Laws from Columbia University in 2008, Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford and Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Rikkyo University, Japan in 2009, the Doctorate of Laws from the University of Bath in 2010, and Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa, The University of Manchester, UK in 2012. In February 2010, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) by the British crown in recognition of his services to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and internationally.