06 October 2012, Madrid, Spain. On October 5, 2012 Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, one of the largest development NGOs, gave a lecture at IE School of Arts & Humanities, in which he analyzed the key issues in poverty alleviation. BRAC currently operates in 10 countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, and its work touches the lives of an estimated 126 million people. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was joined by Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of Arts & Humanities, and Javier Gila, President of the Asociación AIDA – Ayuda, Intercambio y Desarrollo.
In 1972, Bangladesh was the second poorest country in the world. Back then, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed created BRAC with the aim of improving people’s living standards and education. In order to do this, BRAC focused its work on marginalized groups, especially women, who, in the words of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, “tend to have fairly realistic outlook on situations”. As an example of best practices, BRAC promoted the intervention of experts by interviewing mothers in order to understand the reasons behind such a high mortality rate in Bangladesh. The findings concluded that most children died due to dehydration caused by diarrhea. BRAC also implemented a plan to promote ways to reduce the country’s high birth rates. To do so, it was crucial to know and understand the “beliefs, wishes, and thoughts” of the population, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed recalled.
In addition to reducing infant mortality and fostering ways to lower Bangladesh’s high birth rates, over the past decades, BRAC has also played an active role in the field of education, key factor in a country’s socioeconomic development. Moreover, BRAC runs one of the largest private school systems in the world, with over a million students. During his lecture at IE School of Arts & Humanities, Sir Hazle Hasan Abed pointed out that, “at BRAC schools, students learn to think”. BRAC has also established a joint program in Education and Leadership with Columbia University geared toward Bangladeshi government officials. Sir Abed likewise insisted in the importance of promoting community development, “empowering those in need so that they can find solutions to their own problems”.
Finally, BRAC has also established a financial institution focused on financing small and medium enterprises. BRAC Bank has grown to become the fifth largest bank in Bangladesh. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed closed his lecture by saying that, “to me business opportunities exist only if they entail improving, developing, or helping someone or something”.