25 June 2009, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, was awarded the honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom for his role as "a tireless defender of the needy". Mr. Abed was admitted the degree on Wednesday, 24 June, along with five other leading figures from the world of development, the arts and science, by Oxford University chancellor, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, at Encaenia, the annual honorary degree ceremony.
Honorands at the 2009 Encaenia ceremony. From left to right : Fazle Hasan Abed, Dr Santiago Calatrava-Valls , Professor Erwin L Hahn , Dame Mitsuko Uchida ,Professor Barry Marshall, Mr Philip Pullman [Photo: University of Oxford]
"He regards poverty not as a simple phenomenon but as one with complex causes, which there is no possibility of eliminating without analysis of its nature and origin. He wants to help the needy to help themselves; he nourishes their mind as well as their bodies, appreciating that education is the engine of economic development. Above all, he has insisted on the rights of women, arguing that unless they get a fair share of respect and resources, men themselves will not succeed in overcoming poverty... I present a tireless defender of the needy, a citizen of Bangladesh and of the whole world, Fazle Hasan Abed, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters," reads Abed's citation.
Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world with nine centuries of continuous existence, is consistently ranked among the world's top ten universities. Previous recipients of Oxford's honorary degrees include Nobel Laureates Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, American author Mark Twain and former American president Jimmy Carter.
Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help rehabilitate returning refuges from India to newly independent Bangladesh. Later, BRAC changed its focus to long-term community development. Today, BRAC is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and its programmes in education, health, economic and social development and human rights and legal services cover a population in excess of 100 million. In addition to numerous national and international awards, Abed was previously awarded degrees of Doctor of Laws by Queen's University in Canada, Doctor in Education by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Doctor of Humane Letters by Yale University in the United States in recognition of his work with BRAC.