16 June 2013, Dhaka. Central European University awarded its 18th Open Society Prize to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC and the affiliated BRAC University, at a commencement ceremony that included more than 600 masters and doctoral students from nearly 80 countries last week in Budapest, Hungary.
Sir Fazle founded BRAC, formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, in rural Bangladesh in 1972. The anti-poverty organization now works in 11 countries, reaching an estimated 126 million people.
In his commencement speech, he told students, “After my country’s independence, I began working to try to help the poor of Bangladesh. My early colleagues and I initially thought that BRAC would be a short-term relief effort. But the realities of entrenched poverty soon changed our minds.”
“I have learned much along the way,” Sir Abed continued in his speech. “Perhaps the most important thing I learned was that when you create the right conditions, poor people will do the hard work of defeating poverty themselves.” In addition to BRAC, Sir Abed is also founder and chairperson of BRAC University, a Dhaka-based institution of higher learning launched in 2001 to train future leaders, especially those from developing nations.
Previous recipients of the Open Society Prize include Sir Karl Popper, author of The Open Society and its Enemies, after which the prize is named; Vaclav Havel, writer and first president of the Czech Republic; Richard Holbrooke, U.S. diplomat; and Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations. The prize is given “to an outstanding individual whose achievements have contributed substantially to the creation of an open society.”
Both the Open Society Prize and Central European University have close ties to visionary philanthropist and investor George Soros, who founded the university and currently serves as its honorary chairperson.
11 June 2013, Dhaka. BRAC’s founder and chairperson, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed visited Myanmar to attend the World Economic Forum held from 5th- 7th June, 2013. The forum’s sessions were structured to identify the lessons of leadership and innovation which are emerging from East Asia, as the world looks to the region for resilient growth and new models of regional integration.
On 5th June, Sir Fazle initiated the session Aligning Actors for Inclusive Growth and Development.The session promoted common goals and activities already underway, and identified opportunities for coordination and collaboration to create further positive developments in the country. This session was held in the presence ofspecial guests, Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and Shwe Mann, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Myanmar. Also in attendance were heads of global organisations working actively in Myanmar, as well as representatives from local businesses, civil societies, government and other stakeholders. Aung San Suu Kyi thanked him for sharing the Bangladesh experience and stressed the need for skills development and education for the people of Myanmar.
On 7th June, Sir Fazle, sharing the panel with Tony Blair, the Middle East Quartet Representative, addressed the interactive session titled Chasing the Next Big Idea, which focused on the dimensions of investing in smart infrastructure for the future, moving beyond low-cost manufacturing and further up the value chain. Sir Fazle stressed the need of focusing on scaling good ideas rather than generate more new ideas. Tony Blair also stressed the need to focus more on enabling innovation and execution of the ideas.
In an op-ed for the Myanmar Times, Sir Fazle wrote, “The country has the opportunity to forge its own balance of partnerships and by opening up to NGOs and industries it can experience more innovations which can happen to scale”.
During the numerous sessions at the World Economic Forum, Sir Fazle offered suggestions which can be achieved by three sectors collaborating together: the government, by setting the right policies so inclusiveness is maintained; the private sector, which can create jobs and opportunities; and the social sector, which can provide the services which are not provided by the other sectors.
10 June 2013. Dhaka. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC has been nominated as the member of a very high level global panel on agriculture and food systems for nutrition.
On 7 October, 2012 Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, UK, opened this "Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition" with the following members:
Sir John Beddington (co-chair), former chief scientific officer of the UK government; John Kufuor (co-chair), former president of Ghana; Akin Adesina (member), federal minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria; Mahabub Hossain (member), executive director, BRAC, Bangladesh; Jane Karku (member), president of Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA); Rachel Kyte (member), vice president of World Bank and chair of CGIAR Fund Council; Mauricio Antonio Lopez (member) president of EMBRAPA, Brazil; K Srinath Reddy (member), president of Public Health Foundation, India; Jose Graziano da Silva (member), director general of FAO; and Roda Peace Tumusiime (member) commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union.
The panel, during their three year tenure, will provide technical leadership based on an assessment of the available evidence, guide country level investments and policies in agriculture and nutrition, and commission new research and evidence generation. The panel, supported by a secretariat located at DFID, London, UK, is expected to meet annually between 2013-2015 and report at least three times to the international community.
On 8th June, 2013, the UK government, as the chair of G8, convened a summit, "Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science" to harness commitment from national governments, donors, business communities, and civil society organisations to place a greater emphasis on proper nutrition in the global development agenda.
During the summit, UK Aid, Children's Investment Fund, and the government of Brazil initiated the "Global Nutrition for Growth Compact" comprising of the following goals for 2020:
a) To ensure that at least 500 million pregnant women and children under-two years of age are reached with effective nutrition interventions.
b) To reduce the number of stunted children under-five by at least 20 million.
c) To save the lives of at least 1.7 million children under-five by preventing stunting, encouraging more mothers to breastfeed, and increasing treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
The Global Nutrition for Growth Compact was endorsed by 90 stakeholders who attended the summit, including governments from 20 countries (Bangladesh was represented by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare), and 28 business and science organisations. The governments of 14 countries entered into a commitment to increase domestic resources invested in scaling up national nutritional plans. The donors pledged an estimated USD 19 billion to contribute towards improved nutritional outcomes from nutrition sensitive investments from 2013 - 2020. The Compact will launch an annual global report on nutrition from 2014, together with online annual publication of plans, resource spending, and progress updates.
06 June 2013, Dhaka. Civil Society Alliance for Scaling Up Nutrition, Bangladesh (CSA for SUN, BD) organised a meeting with nutrition and policymakers on “Exploring Opportunities for Scaling Up Nutrition” on June 04, 2013 at Spectra Convention Centre. Policymakers were invited to the meeting to discuss issues relating to nutrition and ways to improve the nutritional status of the country. Honourable State Minister for Women and Children Affairs, Meher Afroze Chumki, MP attended the event as the chief guest whereas the event was chaired by Dr. Sultana Khanum, SUN global civil society network focal point. Dr. Rukshana Haider, Chairperson of CSA for SUN, BD, Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Secretary of CSA for SUN, BD, Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, Programme Manager of IPHN attended the meeting as special guests.
On the onset, Dr. Sultana Khanum welcomed and thanked all participants and guest for attending event. She also mentioned that the event has been organised in alignment with the Global Hunger Summit, 2013 titled “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science” Summit scheduled to be held on June 08, 2013 at London.
Dr. Rukshana Haider, Chairperson of CSA for SUN, BD in her speech highlighted that malnutrition in children and women still remains as a frontline challenge for Bangladesh and therefore collective multi-sectoral approach should be adopted to combat malnutrition in Bangladesh.
Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Secretary of CSA for SUN, BD in her speech stated that nutrition is not a standalone agenda rather requires multi-sector approach including nutrition, education, water, sanitation, agriculture, etc. According to her, a well-nourished woman would deliver a healthy baby and “if the baby gets proper nutrition he/she will grow strong and will succeed in schools and earn more”.
She pointed out that Investing in nutrition is a smart decision as she said “It can increase a country’s GDP by at least 2 to 3 percent annually. Investing a dollar in nutrition can result in a return of up to $ 30.”
The chief guest, Meher Afroze Chumki, MP Honourable State Minister for Women and Children Affairs stated that her ministry is relentlessly working to uplift the nutrition of women and children since about two third of the country’s population is composed of women and children. She shared that the government along with other stakeholders including NGOs and private sector has been able to significantly reduce maternal mortality ratio which has been accredited by the global community.
Following the panel discussion, the floor was made open for open opinions and questions.
In response to the statements and queries, the chief guest stated that maternity leave cannot be made specific since mothers face problems both before and after delivery. Therefore, the leave is given as per advice of the doctor.
28 May 2013, Dhaka. BRAC’s chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed spoke at the 19th International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan last week.
The annual forum, held this year on 23-24 May, brought political leaders and top business executives together to discuss the future of Asia-Pacific nations and how development in the region stands to impact the global economy.
In a dialogue with Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), BRAC's founder and chairperson said the poor needed more than money alone to improve their lives.
"You can help the world’s poorest people with assistance more than investment," Sir Fazle said. "You need to provide nutrition and education to get the poorest to an appropriate level for entering industry."
He added, "We need to provide skills training so people have an opportunity to earn income."
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe
In addition to the Nikkei and Japan Center for Economic Research organised forum, Sir Fazle met with the Japanese press and prominent business executives such as the president of Kumon, Japan’s number one education company. On 27 May, the chairperson attended a press conference in Tokyo organised by Alliance Forum Foundation (AFF) to discuss BRAC’s work with the AFF, the BracNet project and microfinance graduate course, and spoke about microfinance’s potential to create a stable middle class in Africa.
22 May 2013, Dhaka. BRAC’s community empowerment programme (CEP) with the support of Saferworld has initiated a project on community safety and security, titled “Improving the conditions for reconstruction and development in South Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh Project”. The project aims to improve public safety and security at the grassroots community level and contribute to more effective and accountable state institutions. It uses a participatory framework built on the active engagement of rural communities in identifying safety and security concerns and comes up with local context-sensitive solutions to address those issues. Its current project is an extended replication of a successful piloting by BRAC and Saferworld, which will work with communities to identify their security needs, and with those who are best placed to respond to them, including local authorities and development actors.
A high level meeting of BRAC and Saferworld was held on May 11, 2013, at BRAC Centre in attendance of Dr Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC and Mr Paul Murphy, Executive Director, Saferworld, and both shared their valuable opinions regarding this new initiative in perspective of Bangladesh. Ms Anna Minj, Director, Community Empowerment Programme & Integrated Development Programme, BRAC and Ms Chamila Hemmathagama, Head of South Asia Programme, Saferworld were also present in the meeting and shared their profound views throughout the meeting.
CEP shared the findings of community safety and security needs assessment conducted at the project sites to give a clear understanding of the local safety and security concerns. The attendees emphasised on the contribution of BRAC-Saferworld partnership to create safer communities by increasing public safety and security through more active, informed and inclusive societies. They highlighted the importance of creating a platform for sharing this participatory based project learning and experiences at both national and international levels, for ensuring the betterment of the community people by responding to their safety and security needs more accurately.
A few of the staffs who work at the grassroots level, pointed out that the longer timeframe of the project gradually makes the development easier which also leads to the consistency. They also referred to the vibe of progress of the project as self realisation of the community people has already started taking place during the systematic process of focus group discussion. Mr Murphy concluded by mentioning their eagerness on continuing their collaboration with BRAC by teaming up and learning together. He also specified that the best way to manage such projects is by keeping the communication channels as much open as possible. The Community Safety and Security Project is being implemented across 16 sites within five districts of south-western region of Bangladesh, i.e. Faridpur, Gopalganj, Bagerhat, Jessore, and Satkhira, for the duration of June 2012 to June 2016. This project is being funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Royal Netherland Embassy, and the Netherlands through Saferworld.
15 May 2013, Dhaka. BRAC’s chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed addressed The International Congress “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development” which is being held in Hangzhou, China, from May 15 to May 17.
“Culture is not just theatre and arts and crafts; it’s also about how we deal with the challenges of life and in doing so shape our world view,” explained Sir Fazle to members of the global community and major international stakeholders on the first day of the conference. He spoke in a plenary high-level discussion on ‘Culture in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda’.
Taking the example of how BRAC, in the 80s, reached 12 million households and taught 90 per cent of mothers how to make oral rehydration solution (ORS), Sir Fazle said, “In doing so it influenced how diseases and treatment are understood and power is gained over adversity. This was both a health intervention and a profoundly cultural act as it affected the world view of millions.”
Sir Fazle described how BRAC’s social enterprise arm, Aarong, brought together crafts and livelihood issues and has become one of the most successful commercial innovations. It reintroduced revived dying crafts, established new products and fashions and linked producers to the market. “Supporting cultural heritage is not enough,” said BRAC’s founder and chairperson. “It’s important to make them sustainable through access to market, going to scale and creating livelihoods. Today thousands of women who are employed as craft makers are also preserving and expanding our cultural heritage.”
He also shared his belief that empowerment and development are cultural ideas: “Culture lives in development and vice versa. By strengthening one, we enrich the other.”
This is the first International Congress specifically focusing on the linkages between culture and sustainable development organised by UNESCO since the Stockholm Conference in 1998.
Other speakers at the global forum include UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, H.R.H Prince Sultan Saudi bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and former Governor of Canada, Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean.
16 May 2013, Dhaka.
Photo copyright: BRAC/Ferdous Uddin Ahmad.
As Bangladesh braces itself for cyclone Mahasen hitting its coastal areas today, a combined effort by different BRAC programmes, including Disaster, Environment & Climate Change (DECC), is mobilising precautions. The coast between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar currently hoists a danger level of 7, on a scale of 1 to 11.
Standard operation procedures (SOP), established by DECC, are being followed to maximise the efficiency and resources of all necessary actions taken during different phases of this natural disaster. Emergency team meetings are being held in BRAC’s field offices and a situation room, activated in Dhaka’s head office to coordinate a prompt response, is managing constant updates from over a dozen districts as well as different international and national weather modelling sources.
District BRAC Representatives (DBR) in coastal districts formed the Incident Command System (ICS), following BRAC’s SOP, and are compiling resource maps, making inventories, disseminating information on protocols to the public, listing necessary emergency materials and identifying possible retail vendors that can help. They are also working with local authorities such as in Chittagong, Bagerhat, Cox’s Bazar, Barisal and Khulna, which are conducting consecutive emergency meetings to assess the situation.
BRAC closed its schools in vulnerable areas yesterday and ensured all government and BRAC cyclone shelters were opened and properly prepared. It is also providing meals for evacuated community members at cyclone shelters as and where necessary.
The extended BRAC family, including village organisation members, community health workers, school teachers and adolescent leaders, are being advised to carry out their roles as first responders alongside BRAC staff. Teams from BRAC’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Health, Nutrition and Population programme (HNPP) and DECC are also ready to provide support as first responders if an emergency situation arises.
For up to date information as the situation develops, please check our blog.
Media spokesperson from BRAC:
Dr Babar Kabir
Senior Director, Disaster, Environment & Climate Change
For Bangladesh Media:
Mahbubul Alam Kabir
Sr. Media Manager, Communications
For International Media:
For International Media(From May 21st):
Deputy Manager, Communications
12 May 2013, Dhaka. BRAC has announced changes to its senior level management. A circular was sent out on the 7 May, 2013.
Faruque Ahmed, Senior Director, BRAC International has been promoted to the position of Executive Director, BRAC International. In addition to all country representatives, BRAC Internatinal's chief financial officer and the director of internal audit will be reporting to Mr Ahmed.
Executive Director, BRAC and Vice Chairperson, BRAC governing body will provide support and guidance to BRAC International's agricultural programmes and research and evaluation department respectively.
Held on 29 and 30 April, BRAC’s Global Learning Meeting continued the work that began in Bangladesh in 2012, creating a network and platform to share knowledge and strategies for effective adolescent and youth development programming.
BRAC is the world’s largest implementer of the "girl effect" which is the unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world. Our programmes have led to a rich reserve of knowledge and experience, and this meeting enabled sharing of global best practices to design effective programmes for adolescents and youth.
The Global Learning Meeting fittingly took place in the world's youngest country in terms of the age of the population (78 per cent being under the age of 30), where we have seen measurable improvements in the lives of girls as the result of targeted interventions that empower girls both socially and financially.
The meeting was produced in partnership with Nike Foundation. Senior management and programme designers from 11 countries where BRAC operates, as well as representatives from Nike Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Save the Children, Population Council and UNICEF, attended the meeting.
More information and photos from the proceedings will be updated here and on the BRAC Blog in the coming days.