Sunday, 19 March 2017 00:00

NGO role can be crucial in tackling terrorism

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While NGOs in Bangladesh are contributing to the socio-economic development, they can also play a significant role to curb the rising threat of terrorism. Government strategies and plans should create space for effective engagement of these organisations in this regard.

Speakers said these today on Sunday at a discussion titled 'NGO and development', organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital on the occasion of BRAC Day.

They also observed that creating an environment for comfortable co-existence of the government and the NGOs has become evermore important now.

Noted economist and chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue Professor Rehman Sobhan was the chief guest at the programme.

Moderated and chaired by BRAC executive director Dr Muhammad Musa, the event was also attended among others by Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, former adviser to Caretaker Government and executive director of CAMPE Rasheda K Choudhury, chief coordinator for SDG affairs at the prime minister's office Abul Kalam Azad and Professor SR Osmani of Ulster University in the UK.

Professor Rehman Sobhan stressed GO-NGO coordination in the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals saying that the prime minister can have meetings with the NGOs regarding the implementation of programmes to achieve the SDGs.

He observed that ‘micro-credit’ programmes of the NGOs have played ‘remarkable’ role in poverty alleviation and BRAC, as one of the largest NGOs of the world, has played significant role in this regard. Having cited examples from similar initiative in India, he further suggested that following their examples social business enterprises in Bangladesh also can share their profit with their producers.

Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud observed that at present the relation between the government and NGOs is rather that of ‘an uneasy coexistence’. ‘I think this should be turned into a comfortable coexistence. The NGOs have played crucial role not only in poverty reduction, but also in education, health, family planning and increasing women’s participation in employment.’

‘There was a time when women could not ride bike. Nor could they go to school. There was mass reluctance about family planning. NGOs played a crucial role to change the situation. And as they did it, they have the capacity in tackling the rising religious terrorism. The government can particularly engage them in spreading the spirit of non-communalism,’ he further said.

Rasheda K Chowdhury called on the micro-credit practitioners to reduce interest rates and loan processing costs to increase the overall poverty-reduction efficiency of these programmes>

BRAC Research and Evaluation Division (RED) director Professor Abdul Bayes delivered the keynote presentation.

Citing government and donor data, he said between 2002 and 2016, one crore 10 lakh (11 million) households came out of ultra poverty. Of them, about 15 per cent - around 18 lakh (1.8 million) families have escaped ultra poverty with the integrated assistance from BRAC.

He further said, 90 per cent of those who came out of ultra poverty with BRAC assistance have done so by securing sustainable development. Besides reducing ultra poverty, BRAC also significantly contributes to the national management of tuberculosis infection, medical treatment of cataract and ensuring of quality primary education.

He added that while through its micro-credit programme BRAC helps alleviate poverty, it also contributes to the social development of poor communities. It has so far, helped 30 lakh (3 million) people in the hard-to-reach areas sustainably access safe water,  trained 5 crore (50 million) people across the country on maintaining a healthy life and supplied sanitary latrines in 3 crore (30 million) households.

Stressing the challenges of the NGO sector, the speakers said partnership between the government and NGOs should further deepen in the face of reducing foreign development aid, which will help secure finance for such organisations. Innovation of new social business enterprises can also become a potential strategy to increase their financial stability. Bangladeshi NGOs should come up with new management techniques and system also as the country is steadily progressing towards becoming a middle-income country, they further said. They emphasised that these organisations should also increase their capacity and transparency, while run social development programmes besides distributing micro loans.

Speakers from BRAC added that currently BRAC micro-credit has reached 50 lakh (5 million) clients. The organisation is now in the process of overhauling its programmes with special focus on reducing ultra poverty, quality improvement of pre-primary education, capacity building to sustainably tackle climate change impacts, increase quality of health and nutrition, youth employment and women empowerment.

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