21 June 2013, Dhaka. The Word Bank signed a US$2.58 million grant agreement with BRAC today to implement a pilot project on Safe Migration for Bangladeshi Workers, with the objective of reducing vulnerability of migrant workers and their families. The pilot will be implemented across 80 upazilas in 20 districts and aims to benefit 864,000 potential migrants and their families.
The pilot project aims to develop and strengthen local information and support systems through Community Based Organizations (CBOs) for potential migrant families. CBOs will be strengthened to provide accurate and timely access to information and services for safe migration and ensure that potential migrants are well informed if they decide to pursue migration. Migrants’ family members will also be able to obtain information on more affordable ways to fund migration as well as manage remittances. Particular focus will be paid to female migrants. The pilot will also help to support and formalize local networks to facilitate information sharing on the migration process.
“While the economic gains from migration are obvious for both migrants and their families, migrants incur substantial costs, especially in the absence of complete information,” said Christine Kimes, Acting Country Head, the World Bank Bangladesh. “This project has great potential for reducing the vulnerability of potential migrants and their families by enhancing information flows about migrant rights, the migration process, affordable financing, and remittance management.”
Remittances from migrant workers in the fiscal year to date amount to more than US$ 13 billion and account for approximately 10 percent of GDP. Remittances are thus a major source of Bangladesh’s foreign exchange earnings. At the family level, they enable poor households to obtain better nutrition, education and health care for family members, and thus play a vital role in the fight against poverty.
“During the recent past, there has been a significant rise in work-related temporary overseas migration for export of services. Migrant remittances provide direct, immediate and far reaching benefits to the country,” said Mahabub Hossain PhD, Executive Director, BRAC. “This project will help strengthen BRAC’s efforts to better prepare potential migrants for overseas employment while improving the “migration value chain”, including lower migration and remittance costs for families.”
The grant financing is made under the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) financed by the Government of Japan and managed by the World Bank.
20 June 2013, Dhaka. A Consultation on Significance of Remittance: Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood Development in Bangladesh was arranged by BRAC Migration programme on 20th June 2O13, from 2.45pm to 5:30pm at Auditorium, BRAC Center Inn, Dhaka. Practitioners, Academics, Economists, Researchers, Government officials, Service providers, Media and activists were present at the consultation.
The key Note on the consultation was presented by Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC and was moderated by Sheepa Hafiza, Director, GJ&D and Migration Programme, BRAC.
The participants discussed about the importance of remittance in the country’s economy and development and also the importance of developing proper policies to manage the migration and remittance flow and how to maximise the use of remittance to decrease the poverty and create alternative livelihood option.
The Key Note speaker Dr. Mahabub Hossain mentioned in his key note presentation ‘Migration is considered as essential, inevitable and potentially beneficial component of economic and social life of individual household, as well as for economic progress of both sending and recipient countries′. He shared findings from his researches done in 1988, 2000, 2008 and 2010.
Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, MP and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said ‘remittance is a net source of income for us, because migrants are sending the money home which they are generating at abroad; we should re think about our migrants workers security and benefit, they should be treated as hero but still we are not providing them the support we owe to them, we should ensure their safety and well-being and we need to provide them technical education rather than higher education to make them more equipped to work and earn better on migration More allocation should be kept in national budget.’
Zahid Hussain, Lead Economist, World Bank, Dhaka office, Bangladesh said, ‘Remittance is the no. 1 source of foreign currency. But as we generalize that migrants don’t invest in productive sectors, it’s not correct, they do invest on productive sector. Constraints of migration must be dropped.’
Zafar Sobhan, Editor, Dhaka Tribune said ‘We should not only be happy by considering the increasing amount of remittance as a success story but, we should also take it to account that, how the Bangaldeshi Migrants are vulnerable and victimized on migration and we should focus on how we can provide them more safety coverage and migration facilitation for them.’
Dasgupta Asim Kumar, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank said, ‘Apart from Anti money laundering Act Bangladesh Bank has taken a lot of steps to increase remittance flow like establishing exchange houses, introducing mobile banking, establishing BACH, online banking, NPS. Now the beneficiaries’ are getting quicker remittance service and the remittance flow is increasing’.
Delivered at the 2013 Commencement of Central European University
13 June, 2013
Palace of the Arts, Budapest, Hungary
I’d like to begin by thanking the Central European University for bestowing upon me the Open Society Prize. What a great honour, and a wonderful opportunity to deliver a commencement address at this great university.
I have recently been re-reading The Open Society and its Enemies, the book after which the Open Society Prize is named, whose author, Karl Popper, was the prize’s first recipient. I first read this book 50 years ago, when I was much closer in age to those in this graduating class.
It was a different time and place. My country, Bangladesh, had not yet achieved independence, and the world’s great powers were locked in a struggle between freedom and totalitarianism. But what strikes me today is how relevant many of Popper’s prescriptions still are – particularly for my own field, which is the alleviation of poverty.
To those about to graduate, it is likely that most of you, at some point in your lives, will question whether the path you have taken was the correct one. For me, this moment came following the cyclone that struck Bangladesh in 1970, an event that is still considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.
I was working at the time for a large multinational corporation, a valuable experience in its own right. I remember visiting coastal villages struck by the cyclone, seeing hundreds of dead bodies strewn on the ground. It seemed to me the life I was leading was completely irrelevant.
After my country’s independence, I began working to try to help the poor in Bangladesh. My early colleagues and I initially thought that BRAC would be a short-term effort. But the realities of entrenched poverty soon changed our minds. We began working in a host of areas – agriculture, healthcare, human rights, microfinance, education – wherever the poor faced obstacles.
We found that poverty was so entrenched that only a long-term effort of social and economic transformation would uproot it. And this task became my life’s work.
I have learned much along the way. 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.
I learned the importance of having lamps to illuminate your path, even when the precise course is unclear. For me, one of these lamps was Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator, who wrote a book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which had a profound effect on me. Freire's idea of conscientisation, or raising critical consciousness, informed us in our belief that poor people, especially women, can be organised for power, and that with right set of organisational tools, they can become actors in history.
This, to me, is the meaning of an open society – a society where everyone has the freedom to realise their full potential and human rights.
I’ve also learned the importance testing assumptions, of making sure your ideals correspond to the reality around you.
BRAC was founded with very high ideals, in part to fulfil the promises of our country’s liberation movement – the promise of freedom from exploitation. But if these ideals inspired us, we’ve always tried to focus on what works, rather than our theories about what should work.
This pragmatism has allowed us to translate compassion into action on a massive scale. Today, BRAC reaches almost 130 million people in 11 countries.
We’ve seen that without scepticism, scientific inquiry, and the constant questioning of one’s assumptions, the highest ideals will falter when tested against reality. In the words of Karl Popper, among the enemies of open society is the notion of “prophetic wisdom,” the type of knowledge that leaves little room for doubt. In contrast to utopian goals, Popper embraced “piecemeal social engineering” – solutions that are effective, even if they are not the most elegant.
There is an element of that in BRAC – in its willingness to adapt, in its constant innovation, and in its willingness to learn from its own mistakes. After more than 40 years, we are still a learning organisation.
The vision of BRAC is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination. I am sometimes asked if such a world is really possible – whether I believe that poverty can be truly eradicated. The truth is, I believe it can be.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can see today that poverty is on the retreat. Recent statistics from the World Bank show that in every region of the world, the number of people living in extreme poverty is dropping for the first time in recent memory.
But to borrow Popper’s phrase, there is no prophetic wisdom in this fact. The eradication of human poverty remains an ongoing and arduous task rather than historical certainty, and much work remains. And I invite you to bring your own creativity and potential to this task.
Therefore, is it with both optimism and humility that I accept the Open Society Prize, and I wish the graduating class my sincere congratulations. May you all find a meaningful path, illuminated by high ideals, guided by constant learning.
20 June 2013, Dhaka.
Habibur Rahman(middle) with the South Sudanese Minister of Education Joseph Ukel(Left).
BRAC family is deeply saddened by the loss of Mohammed Habibur Rahman, Regional Manager of education programme, who passed away on June 19, 2013 while travelling on official duty from Juba to Yei in South Sudan.
Habib served BRAC's education programme in South Sudan for more than three years. He joined BRAC in 1990 and worked tirelessly in the education programme for 22 years in Bangladesh before being posted to South Sudan in 2009. Habib was 45 years old and leaves behind his wife who is a school teacher and a son in primary school.
Habib's untimely death is an irreparable loss for BRAC. The organisation expresses its deepest condolences to the bereaved family and commits to provide full support to them to deal with this loss both in the short and long term.
BRAC is currently working with the country office in South Sudan to provide support for conducting a thorough investigation and bringing Habib's body to Bangladesh as soon as possible.
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.