Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) | Bangladesh

Concept, Nature, Types, Functions, Problems and Recommendations of NGOs

Definition of NGO

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) is a not-for-profit organisation independent of states and international governmental organisations. They are usually funded by donations, but some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers. NGOs are highly diverse groups of organisations engaged in various activities and take different forms in different parts of the world. Some may have charitable status, while others may be registered for tax exemption based on recognition of social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious, or other interests.

According to Investopedia, "A non-governmental organization (NGO) is an organization that is not for profit and operates independently of any government. Nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, are frequently referred to as civil societies. They are established on local, national, and international levels to advance a social or political cause, such as humanitarian concerns or the environment."

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The number of NGOs worldwide is estimated to be 3.7 million. Russia has 277,000 NGOs.India had around 2 million NGOs in 2009, just over one NGO per 600 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India. China is estimated to have approximately 440,000 officially registered NGOs. In recent years, NGO has been a much-used term. The diversity of the NGOs strains any simple definition.

In the most simple sense, the term “NGO” refers to “ any voluntary non-profit agency involved in the field of development cooperation or in education and policy advocacy activities.” (Brodhead:1987)

NGOs are also defined as organizations that are “established and governed by a group of private citizens for a stated philanthropic purpose and supported by voluntary individual contribution.” (OECD, 1988)

Other defines NGOs as “institutions outside the public and private sectors whose goals are primarily value-driven (humanitarian and co-operative) rather than profit-driven (World Bank, 1990, Bhatnugear)

The term “NGO” also includes “all those organizations which are involved in various development activities with the objective of alleviating poverty of the rural and urban poor.” (Task Force Report, 1990: Islam and Hussain 1993)

At last, it can be said that NGOs are those organisations that are not affiliated with political parties. Still, non-profit, voluntary, service and development-oriented organisations are working only for the development and welfare of the community.

NGOs are also traditionally known as:
a) Voluntary Organisations (VOs)
b) Voluntary Agencies (VAs)
c) Voluntary Development Organizations (VDOs)
d) Non-Governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs)


Features of NGOs

1. An NGO is a non-profit, voluntary, service-oriented/ development-oriented organisation, either for members (a grassroots organisation) or other population members (an agency).

2.   It is an organisation of private individuals who believe in certain basic social principles and structure their activities to bring about development in the communities they are servicing.

3.   It is a social development organisation assisting in the empowerment of people.

4. An organisation or group of people working independently of any external control with specific objectives aims to fulfil tasks oriented to bring about desirable change in a given community, area, or situation.

5. An independent, democratic, non-sectarian people's organisation working for the empowerment of economic and/or socially marginalised groups.

6.   An organisation not affiliated with political parties, generally engaged in working for aid, development and welfare of the community.

7.   An organisation committed to the root causes of the problems trying to better the quality of life, especially for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalised in urban and rural areas.

8. Organisations established by the end for the community with or without little intervention from the government; they are not only charity organisations but work on socio¬economic-cultural activities.


There are numerous classifications of NGOs. The typology the World Bank uses divides them into Operational and Advocacy. Generally, NGOs act as implementers, catalysts and partners. Firstly, NGOs act as implementers in that they mobilise resources to provide goods and services to people who are suffering due to a man-made disaster or a natural disaster. Secondly, NGOs act as catalysts in that they drive change. They can 'inspire, facilitate or contribute to improved thinking and action to promote change. Lastly, NGOs often partner with other organisations to tackle problems and address human needs more effectively. NGOs vary in their methods. Some act primarily as lobbyists, while others mostly conduct programs and activities. For instance, an NGO such as Oxfam, concerned with poverty alleviation, might provide needy people with the equipment and skills to find food and clean drinking water. In contrast, an NGO like the FFDA helps through investigation and documentation of human rights violations and provides legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses. Others, such as Afghanistan Information Management Services, provide specialised technical products and services to support development activities implemented on the ground by other organisations.


Operational NGOs seek to "achieve small-scale change directly through projects"They mobilise financial resources, materials, and volunteers to create localised programs. They hold large-scale fundraising events and may apply to governments and organisations for grants or contracts to raise money for projects. They often operate in a hierarchical structure; the main headquarters is staffed by professionals who plan projects, create budgets, keep accounts, and report and communicate with operational fieldworkers who work directly on projects. Active NGOs deal with various issues but are most often associated with delivering services or environmental issues, emergency relief, and public welfare. Operational NGOs can be further categorised by dividing relief-oriented versus development-oriented organisations, whether they stress service delivery or participation, religious or secular, and whether they are more public- or private-oriented. Although operational NGOs can be community-based, many are national or international. The defining activity of active NGOs is the implementation of projects.


Types of NGOs

Based on certain factors such as size, class, life span, location, the status of personnel and characteristics of the beneficiaries, NGOs are divided into particular types. Here is given a brief description of the classifications of NGOs.

Classification based on Orientation

i) Charity Oriented NGOs: The activities of these NGOs are based on the philosophy of charity, including the distribution of food, clothing, medicine, educational facilities, relief work etc.

ii)Development Service Oriented NGOs: The activities of these NGOs include provisions of health care, family planning or education services.

iii)Participatory NGOs: These NGOs are characterised by self-help projects where local people are involved by contributing cash, tools, land materials, labour, etc.

iv)Empowerment Oriented NGOs: These NGOs work to strengthen the awareness of the target group and their potential to control their lives.

Classification based on Spatial Coverage & Functions

i) Local NGOs: These NGOs operate in only a few villages, in a thana or a union receive local/national/international funders.

ii) National NGOs: These NGOs operate in four or more geographical locations and receive funds mainly from foreign donors.

iii) International NGOs: These NGOs operate in several geographical locations having their headquarters outside the country and serving primarily by expertise.

iv) Mixed NGOs: These NGOs are voluntary organisations organised locally but receiving money from foreign governments or organisations.


Classification based on Role

i) Relief and Welfare NGOs: These NGOs work to provide relief support to helpless people.

ii) Service NGOs: These NGOs operate their activities to deliver services to the target groups.

iii) Funding NGOs: These NGOs operate as conduits of foreign donors engaged in making grants to NGOs and also help local NGOs to get foreign assistance.

iv) Networking/Coordinating NGOs: These NGOs work to facilitate mutual sharing of learning & experiences and also promote mutual support & cooperation among the NGO community.

v) Development NGOs: These NGOs operate to mobilise the poor through education and consciousness-raising to develop their own organisations.

vi) Consulting NGOs: These NGOs provide consulting services to the govt., donor agencies and other actors to complete the programs.


Functions/Activities of NGOs

In Bangladesh, about 20,000 NGOs operate their functions in different development fields. The NGO supported programs are mainly targeted at poor and disadvantaged groups that cover a wide range of activities. Here is a brief discussion about the programs undertaken by different NGOs in our country. NGOs provide value-added services in promoting sustainable development through 

a) innovation—identifying new approaches and models for specific development activities and drawing upon their close knowledge of local communities; 

b) accountability—helping ensure that project components are implemented as envisaged and planned; 

c) responsiveness—encouraging the implementation of projects to respond to local needs; 

d) participation—serving as bridges between project authorities and affected communities, and providing structures for citizen participation; and 

e) sustainability—nurturing continuity in project work, especially when implementing agencies lack capacity or when staffing changes.


Credit Delivery

To reduce dependency on the usual moneylenders, NGOs arrange collateral-free credit for individual or collective enterprises which is the most successful innovative development effort. The model pioneered by Grameen Bank(GB) has established micro-credit as the most widely replicated anti-poverty program, and by1995, cumulative disbursement by GB reached US$ 1.44billion(World Bank,1996)

Women Development

To develop the socio-economic condition of the women, NGOs provide special training to them in apiculture, silk production, embroidery, fishnet making, poultry and livestock rearing etc., to make them skilled.

Non-formal Education

NGOs have concentrated their efforts on eradicating illiteracy by providing non-formal education for men and women. They also take specific programs for the drop-out students and provide non-formal primary education to the target children, where the majority are girls.

Employment generation and Income earning.

NGOs expand the opportunity for employment generation through miniature trading, rickshaw pulling, mulberry plantation for women, social forestry, fish culture, weaving, poultry& livestock rearing.

Capacity building in Planning and Management

To enhance the poor's organising skills and managerial capabilities, NGOs undertake different activities at the grassroots level.

Occupational Skill training

NGOs arrange traditional and new skills training for men and women, including crop cultivation, silk cocoon rearing, operation of irrigation equipment, Para-machines, etc.

Political participation

NGOs influence to restructure the existing power relations by empowering the rural poor through continuous education, awareness building and resource mobilisation to ensure they participate in "Salish", local elections etc.

Health and Nutritional Knowledge

NGOs have directed their efforts towards reducing the incidence of infant, child and maternal mortality through various programs and also provide nutritional knowledge.

Family Planning & Development of Children

Family planning is considered an integral part of health service, and most NGOs are involved in motivational activities and the distribution of contraceptives at the community level. Some programs taken for underprivileged children include providing health care services, rehabilitation of orphan children, the establishment of child rights etc.


NGOs undertake different programs to combat deforestation and have also exhibited notable success in afforestation programs, improving sanitation facilities and ensuring the supply of safe drinking water through the distribution of water-sealed latrines and tube wells among the beneficiaries.

Mobilisation of target group & Consciousness-Raising

NGOs mobilise the target groups through village surveys, individual contacts, group meetings, motivational work, participatory group discussions etc., and mass awareness is created through a trainer.

Leadership Development

Cadres are trained at training centres on leadership within the group.

Access to govt. services & Activate Local Administration

In order to give the poor access to the 'Khas' land, health care facilities of the govt.,the NGOs make such demands to the relevant governmental authorities. The NGOs can also activate the local administration by giving the poor adequate access.

Development of appropriate irrigation technologies

To respond to the small and marginal farmers' needs and promote crop diversification, NGOs developed low-cost irrigation technologies through research and experiment. For example, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Services(RDRS) developed the treadle pump, bamboo tube-well, etc. There are currently more than 130,000 such technologies in operation in the country. (Ministry of Agriculture:1995)

Urban & Rural Development

For urban and rural development, the NGOs expand their activities through infrastructure development, slum development, low-cost housing, FWP, roads, bridges etc.

Humanitarian & Legal Aid

Different NGOs provide humanitarian and legal aid to distressed people by making them aware of various human and legal rights and providing necessary legal assistance.

Relief & Rehabilitation

For a long time, different NGOs have played a significant role in distributing relief to distressed people and govt. These are the significant programs taken by various NGOs in Bangladesh. Besides these, there are different types of functions to be taken.


Working Areas of NGOs in Bangladesh

Functionally, some voluntary organisations undertake one or a few schemes covering agriculture, livestock, small rural industries, irrigation, forestry, and health. Others combine a few of these. Several organisations take up projects for social activities such as primary health, sanitation, food, water supply, nutrition, adult and elementary education, vocational training, and family welfare. A few organisations try to mobilise public cooperation in environmental improvement-air, water, flora and fauna. There seems to be an increasing realisation among voluntary organisations that the sectoral approach has only a limited impact on the wellbeing of the target groups or on the development of an area. A suitably designed multisectoral strategy, in which each sectoral activity has meshed with others of allied objective, optimises the impact on people and regions.

Voluntary organisations may be identified especially by their clientele, i.e., the socio-economic classes and sub-classes of people they work with. While some voluntary organisations may be concerned with the development needs of all or most types of people, others have an orientation towards specific classes only.
Over the last three decades, NGO activities have been concentrated in several areas of intervention. Keeping in view their long-term objectives and visions, these areas may be identified as:

a) establishment of an effective democratic process at the grassroots;

b) poverty alleviation;

c) women's rights;

d) education;

e) health and sanitation;

f) family planning, and

g) environment.

The 'distribution and involvement of NGOs in Bangladesh cut across all sectors and all areas of intervention with a development agenda. These NG0s are known all over the world for their innovations. To mention a few of them, these innovations are the successful models in micro-credit, non-formal education, and primary health care developed mainly by Grameen Bank, BRAC, and ASA. These NGOs are also constantly exploring new frontiers by venturing into new areas of activities and social life, experimenting with new interventions and spearheading ideas.


Importance of NGOs/Why needed NGOs?

non-governmental organisation (NGO) is an organisation that is neither a part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business. Usually set up by ordinary citizens, NGOs may be funded by governments, foundations, businesses, or private persons. The existence of NGOs is proving to be a necessity rather than a luxury in societies throughout the modern world. I believe that the inability of the government alone to create just and sustainable societies is persuasively demonstrated throughout history. Prompted by the inadequacies of the state, citizens across the globe have developed organisations of civil society – NGOs – to help address a wide variety of social needs.

Read: NGOs Functions in Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh

Read: NGOs Initiatives in Poverty Alleviation in Bangladesh

Read: Role of GOs and NGOs in Disaster Management

Read: Legal Aid Services: NGOs Intervention

The functions of an NGO play a significant role in advancing our country's socio-economic development. However, due to the vastness of its democracy, there are still numerous issues and millions of people who require access to exercise their rights. The critical functions of non-governmental organizations have benefited the following sectors:

a) Human Rights and Social Justice

b) Sustainable Development

c) Eradication of Poverty

d) Improved Socio-economic Conditions

e) Nutrition, Health and Education

f) Financial Support/Counselling 

g) Empowerment of women

h) Disease Control and others

i) Conservation of Wildlife

j) Hygiene and Sanitation conditions

k) Humanitarian Relief

l) Good governance

m) Refugee Crisis/Crisis Intervention


NGOs have three primary roles in advancing modern societies.

First, NGOs can facilitate communication upward from people to the government and downward from the government to the people. Communication upward involves informing the government about what local people are thinking, doing and feeling, while communication downward consists in telling local people what the government is planning and doing.

Secondly, NGOs provide opportunities for the self-organisation of society. NGOs enable citizens to work together voluntarily to promote social values and civic goals, which are essential to them. They encourage local initiative and problem-solving. Through their work in a broad array of fields – environment, health, poverty alleviation, culture & the arts, education, etc. – NGOs reflect the diversity of society itself. They also help society by empowering citizens and promoting change at the "grassroots".

Thirdly, In some cases, NGOs become spokespersons for the poor and attempt to influence government policies and programs on their behalf. This may be done through various means ranging from campaigning and pilot projects to participating in public forums and formulating government policy and plans.

Thus NGOs play roles from advocates for the poor to implementers of government programs; from agitators and critics to partners and advisors; from sponsors of pilot projects to mediators. NGOs have a more explicit link to a guiding purpose, the greater good. They actually take up the responsibility of fulfilling moral and social needs that ought to be taken by the government. After all, there's more happiness in giving than receiving; NGOs truly embody this thought.

QQ. Individuals and groups' perceptions about the need to change or intervention.

QQ. Gov't unwilling to work in some specific fields (FEMA, Human Rights)

QQ. Need for PPP(Public-Private Partnership)


NGOs in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located in South Asia, enclosed to the west, north, and east by India, to the southeast by Myanmar, and bordering the Bay of Bengal to the south. Bangladesh declared independence from the then West Pakistan in 1971 and became a republic after successfully fighting a liberation war. The capital is located in Dhaka. (ADB-Bangladesh).

Development of Bangladesh’s Modern NGO Sector

A series of natural disasters and political upheavals in Bangladesh during the 1940s and subsequent decades provided the impetus for the development of what is today one of the world’s largest non-government organization (NGO) sectors. In 1943, a famine took more than 3 million lives, and in 1970, a typhoon killed more than 500,000.

Between 1947 and 1970, village-based cooperatives were replaced with union-based multipurpose cooperative societies. During this period, some large cooperative enterprises (such as the National Industrial Society, National Fishermen Society, Sugarcane Grower’s Federation, and transport cooperatives) were established. In 1955, the State Bank began to make agricultural loans to cooperatives. The following year, the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) was established at Comilla3 and the “Comilla Cooperative Model” was launched in 1959 on an experimental basis. Throughout the 1960s, the Comilla Academy provided the conceptual model for two decades of integrated rural development programs supported by major bilateral and multilateral development partners around the globe. 

In 1971, the independence war resulted in about 3 million deaths and a similar number of refugees fleeing Bangladesh for India. In 1974, famine killed another 3 million. Floods and droughts destroyed, on average, 1.7 million tons of food crops per year in the 1970s, and 1.46 million tons per year throughout the 1980s. The civil society's response to these events was phenomenal. In 1972, Fazle Hasan Abed founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (now known as BRAC) to resettle returning refugees who had fled to India during the independence war.


Agricultural cooperatives and agri-development organizations formed a consultative group called the Agricultural Development Association of Bangladesh, which later transformed itself into the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB). Among the cooperatives operating in the country are the Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union, Cooperative Bank, and Didar Cooperative. 

Over time, NGOs increasingly shifted the thrust of their work toward the social and economic development of vulnerable groups. Moving beyond relief and rehabilitation, new organizations emerged to undertake work in the delivery of services, particularly in the fields of health and education. In 1987, the Association for Social Advancement (ASA) was established to serve the less fortunate and in need. ASD played an important role in commercializing microfinance in the country. NGO policy advocacy on various issues of citizen concern also become more common, including environmental conservation, gender equity, trafficking of women and children, good governance, and aid conditionality.

Domestic NGOs Today

From relief and rehabilitation, microcredit loan programs, and education to strategies for water treatment, NGOs have found a niche for themselves in the gap between society and state, seeking to promote the people’s welfare through grassroots initiatives and development programs. In a country with large numbers of underemployed and unemployed, NGOs also provide much-needed job opportunities, stimulating small enterprise development, and inspiring and equipping people from a traditionally agricultural society to pursue non-farm livelihoods. In short, NGOs play an indispensable role in partnering with international development partners to bring precious resources to the country during times of devastation and implement health education and literacy programs. 

NGOs in Bangladesh are participating in grassroots legal reform to target and empower the most vulnerable portions of the population, in the hopes that such a reform will provide at least a satisfactory solution to disputes where none was previously available. Few countries have witnessed the dramatic growth of NGOs as much as Bangladesh, which currently has a total of 26,000 NGOs registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau.

As a result of the legal vacuum in which vulnerable groups are unable to enforce their rights, NGOs in Bangladesh have taken on an increasingly broad role in addressing legal and political issues beyond their traditional focus, such as strengthening economic and social programs. Evidence of NGO participation in judicial and legal reform in Bangladesh is growing. On a local level, NGOs are partnering with bilateral aid agencies, such as the United States Agency for International Development to strengthen traditional dispute resolution and mediation procedures in rural villages, a technique used increasingly in developing countries where customary law still predominates. 

NGOs, such as the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), are working to expand public interest litigation, in part by providing greater representation for poor people, and bringing them to light in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, public interest litigation work done by BLAST has resulted in victories in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh against the police for illegal detentions, abuse, and corruption. Another marked trend over the past years has been NGOs acting as service providers, acting in effect as consulting firms.

The anti-corruption group, Transparency InternationalBangladesh (TI-Bangladesh), published a study in October 2007 highlighting problems in the NGO sector. The study was motivated by reports and complaints that some of the country’s NGOs have moved away from the values of volunteerism and selfless service to the poor and needy. TI-Bangladesh also noted that there have been allegations that while NGO intervention has significantly helped in facilitating the uplift of the poor, it is only a relatively much lesser portion of the resources that reach the real target group. 


Legislation Regulating NGO Activities 

NGOs in Bangladesh are registered under different acts. The main ones are The Societies Registration Act, 1860; The Trust Act, 1882; Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 1961; Co-operative Societies Act, 1925; and The Companies Act, 1913 (amended in 1914). NGOs registered under these abovementioned acts are controlled in accordance with The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 1961; The Foreign Donation (voluntary activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978 (amended in 1982); and The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Ordinance, 1982. The highest number of NGOs is registered under The Societies Registration Act, 1980.


Challenges of NGOs in Bangladesh

a) lack of financial sustainability; 

b) shortage of efficient employees and high employee attrition; 

c) inadequate infrastructure; 

d) undue interference and control by the Government; 

e) lengthy process for releasing funds; 

f) low level of inter-sectoral cooperation; 

g) inadequate training and low level of true professionalism among employees, often aggravated by lack of job security; 

h) lack of information and relevant research; 

i) religious conservatism and militancy, and the threat of terrorism; political pressure and political instability; 

j) unfavourable tax regime; and natural calamities. 

The TI-Bangladesh study makes 23 specific recommendations for the NGO sector, Government, and development partners to strengthen the capabilities, regulatory environment, and integrity of NGOs.


Sources of Funding for NGOs 

NGOs have been able to flourish in Bangladesh due significantly to the availability of funding, especially from foreign development agencies and international NGOs (INGOs). Smaller NGOs tend to receive a greater proportion of their financing from northern INGOs, while larger organizations receive more from development agencies. Most NGOs rely on funds received from foreign sources, such as INGOs, development partners, foreign private organizations, and multinational organizations. 

A World Bank Report (2003–2004) indicated that 34.1% of the foreign aid ($379.4 million) received by Bangladesh was allocated to the NGO sector. There are no estimates of funds from other sources involved in this ever-growing sector. The NGO sector is also an important employment generator. There is no estimate of the number of people employed in the sector, but BRAC, for example, the second largest employer after the Government, employed 93,843 people as of June 2006. 

Some civil society experts believe that Bangladesh NGOs rely too heavily on foreign development partners. Rehman Sobhan of Dhaka’s Centre for Policy Dialogue suggests the ubiquity of foreign funding has contributed to an enormous NGO sector, which has pushed the Government out of the provision of public services through delegitimization of the State. “The reality of the matter is that NGOs cannot substitute the Government any more than the private sector can…so whilst this may not have been the intention of the donor community, the objective results have been not just downsizing, but also a devaluation of the State. And an increasing reliance, at least in the social sector, on NGOs which has become a counterproductive exercise.” Members of the NGO community have argued that the Government does not have the capacity to provide these services, regardless of NGO involvement. 

Some NGOs have sought to mobilize resources through commercial ventures. BRAC has been able to meet three-quarters of its financial requirements with resources earned from such ventures. Gono Shasthya Kendra operates a pharmaceutical factory and two hospitals. ASA, another national NGO involved in large-scale microcredit programs, meets its administrative costs entirely from the interest earned on its loans. A few NGOs, including Proshika, run internet services on a commercial basis.

However, some NGO commercial ventures have been subject to severe criticism from the private sector as the latter reportedly face uneven competition since NGOs do not pay taxes on some of their commercial ventures. NGOs argue that they do not appropriate profit from ventures, but rather spend income earned on development works for the community. The ongoing debate is whether NGO commercial ventures should enjoy tax relief for financing their philanthropic activities, or should incentives be provided in some other form.


Government–NGO Relations 

The Government’s attitude toward the NGO sector, as manifested in its successive 5-year plans and other official documents, has generally been positive. The Government acknowledges that NGOs can play creative roles in overcoming gaps in delivering services to poor people. Among other things, NGO service delivery creates competition between government organizations and NGO programs addressing poverty, bringing into sharper focus issues such as cost-effectiveness, transparency, and accountability of the use of public funds.

Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), established in 1990, is a state-run microcredit funding institution. Established in 1990, it works as an apex microcredit funding and capacity-building organization for eradicating poverty by providing microcredit to poor people through its partner NGOs. In English, the organization’s name means “Rural Employment Support Foundation,” although PKSF expanded beyond its rural base to include work in urban areas. ADB and other major international financial agencies have provided resources to PKSF. 

Under the ADB-financed Primary Urban Health Care Project, essential primary health care services were contracted through NGOs or private providers via competitive partnership agreements. The project covered the city corporations of Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, and Rajshahi, particularly the slums located in populous areas inhabited by poorer city dwellers. Completed in 2005, the project had a significant positive impact on the primary health, family welfare, and nutrition of the urban population, particularly women and children.


NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) Bangladesh

The NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) was established in 1990 through an administrative order of the Government. Its prime objective is to provide a one-stop service to the NGOs operating with foreign assistance and registered under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978. In addition, it facilitates the activities of the NGOs in the country, and ensures their accountability to the state and thereby to the people of the country. Initially, it was located in the President Secretariat's Public Division and later on, in the Cabinet Division. In 1991, with the re-introduction parliamentary form of government, the NGOAB was placed under the Prime Minister's Office as a regulatory body of the NGOs with the status of a government department.

Bureau has no field office, therefore heavily relies on Deputy Commissioners and Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNO) for monitoring the NGO project/ program activities at the field level. Deputy Commissioners (except 3 districts of Chittagong Hill Track) once a month hold coordination meetings with NGOs working in the districts. In Chittagong hill track Districts Chairman, District council held coordination meetings where all Districts level officers and NGOs attend the meetings. Meeting minutes detailing the project and non-project activities of NGOs are sent to the bureau for review. Bureau approves the project proposals submitted by NGOs by completing the form called FD-6; it includes project rationale, objectives, target group, year-wise planned activities, sources of foreign money and contact details of the donor.  Bureau communicate with the line ministries for views on the project proposal as project proposal should be well aligned with national priorities and international agreed goals like SDGs. It should also avoid duplication of interventions and target the marginalized and vulnerable people.

Read: History of Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh

During an emergency situation like floods or cyclones bureau approves project proposals called FD-7 within 24 hours mainly for the distribution of relief materials. Local administration of the affected area is kept informed while issuing approval of FD-7. Form FC-1 is used to receive a one-time foreign contribution. Mainly the faith-based NGOs especially the Muslim charities channel a one-off contribution for arranging iftar or Eid gifts for the poor during Ramadan or sacrificial animals in Eid ul Azha.

NGOs much certify in the project proposal that they receive foreign donations or contributions from legal sources. Sources could be the foundation, trust, government, education institutions, or even individuals. As part of enforcing the Anti Money Laundering Act 2012 and Combating the financing of terrorism, the bureau has the responsibility to make sure that money being channelized by NGOs is from legal sources.

Bureau also realizes government revenue-both tax (income tax, VAT etc) and non-tax (registration fee).

Bureau always coordinates with NGOs, line ministries, different state agencies and development partners in discharging its duty as the regulatory authority. Here the spirit is to facilitate the NGO activities, not to regulate them only. Director-General represents the bureau in different committees where NGO issues are involved.


Functions NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB)

The NGO Affairs Bureau has the following responsibilities :

a) Providing one-stop service to NGOs in respect of registration & processing of project proposals.

b) Approval of NGO projects, fund releases, permission for appointment of foreign expatriate consultants and fixation of their tenure.

c) Examination and evaluation of reports/returns submitted by the NGOs.

d) Coordination, monitoring, evaluation and inspection of NGO activities.

e) Collection of fees/service charges levied by the government.

f) Inspection of field level NGO activities and examining their accounts.

g) Liaison with the donors and the NGOs.

h) Formulation of reports on NGO activities and taking appropriate measures.

i) Enlistment of Chartered Accounting Firms for auditing of Accounts of the


j)  Approval of proposals for one-time grants and other matters relating to NGO Affairs.


NGO Registariton in Bangladesh

This NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) was set up in the Prime Minister’s Office in 1990 to oversee the Foreign Donation Regulation (FDR) and Foreign Currency Regulation (FCR) Ordinances. The Government assigned NGOAB all responsibilities under the FDR and the FCR. All NGOs seeking to be legal entities would have to establish themselves under the Societies Act or the Companies Act. NGOs engaged in activities defined by the Social Welfare Ordinance would still have to register with the Social Welfare Department.

To register with NGOAB, an NGO must be approved by the Home Ministry and at least one line ministry. The NGO must also submit a 5-year plan along with the application. For each grant, an NGO must submit a project proposal and letter of intent from a development partner. All foreign funds must go through a specific bank account, and the bank in which the NGO has its account must provide full reports to the central bank, which reports to NGOAB. NGOs must submit annual audits done by auditors who are approved by NGOAB. 

Registration-related delays by NGOAB are frequent and often prolonged despite strict deadlines stated in the laws (FDR and FCR). NGOAB had the same number of staff in 2005 as in the early 1990s—approximately 65—yet the number of registered NGOs has tripled. Analysis by the Asia Foundation indicates that NGOAB lacks capacity in the most fundamental aspects of its ability to perform its functions, such as accounting expertise, and is in need of information technology assistance, both hardware and software.

Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms 

The Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms registers companies and societies. In the latter instance, the Register, operating under the Society Registration Act, 1860, registers charitable societies involved in, for example, the promotion of science, culture, education, and the arts. A minimum of seven persons is required to form a society for charitable purposes. The income or profit of a society can only be used for the pursuit of its objectives and may not be divided among its members as a dividend.


List of Major NGOs in Bangladesh

There are 2505 registered NGOs in Bangladesh to the following report of the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) Bangladesh 2020; wherein 260 INGOs or International NGOs and 2256 Local NGOs. Besides, the Bureau has cancelled the registration of a total of 724 NGOs in Bangladesh. 

Top 10 Leading NGOs in Bangladesh

The following is a list of the ten best non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh:


BRAC is a non-governmental organization that began operations in Bangladesh in 1972, following the country's liberation, with the motto "International Development of the Country." It is a non-governmental organization that began operations in 1972 in Bangladesh following the country's liberation struggle with the motto "International Development of the Country." This non-governmental microfinance institution was founded by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

Read Also: BRAC: History, Graduation Model, and Activities

They manage their services in eleven countries worldwide. They are providing numerous benefits to the poor people who live in poverty, including social enterprises, social development, food insecurity crises, and also protecting coronavirus activities in the country by raising awareness among the poor living people about the importance of proper handwashing.

Grameen Bank

The Grameen Bank is one of the most well-known development success stories in Bangladesh. The organization was founded in 1976 by Professor Muhammed Yunus, head of the rural economics program at the University of Chittagong. There are now more than two dozen organizations within the Grameen family of enterprises, including the replication and research activities of Grameen Trust, handloom enterprises of Grameen Udyog, and fisheries pond management by Grameen Motsho (the Fisheries Foundation). The Grameen Bank aims to: extend banking facilities to poor men and women, eliminate the exploitation of the poor by money lenders, create opportunities for self-employment for the vast multitude of unemployed people in rural Bangladesh, and bring the disadvantaged—mostly the women from the poorest households—within the fold of an organizational format that they can understand and manage by themselves.

Read: Grameen Bank: History, Objectives, Principles, and Activities


ASA is also a well-known non-profit microfinance institution in Bangladesh. The founder of this non-governmental microfinance institution is Md. Shafiqual Haque Choudhury. They gained global recognition as the most effective microfinance institution (MFI). They began their adventure in 1978 in Bangladesh with the goal of improving the impoverished people's position and also establishing a poverty-free environment.

In Bangladesh, a sizable proportion of the population lives at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. That is why this not-for-profit organization is assisting in the reduction of economic imbalance.

BURO Bangladesh

BURO Bangladesh is also a well-known non-governmental organization that provides social development services throughout the country. It was created in 1990 in Bangladesh to meet the needs of urban and rural disadvantaged people. It is the country's first microfinance institution (MFI). They are achieving financial sustainability as a result of their success.

Shakti Foundation

Shakti Foundation was founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1992. They are always working to alleviate women's social and economic disadvantages throughout Bangladesh. They are attempting to establish women as strong, capable, and self-sufficient members of their families and society. Dr Humaira Islam is the founder and executive director of this non-governmental organization.


TMSS is a non-governmental organization based in Bangladesh that was founded in 1980. It was once known as the Thengamara Mohila Sangha. They gained prominence as Bangladesh's largest national women's group. Prof. Dr Hosne-Ara Begum serves as the executive director of this organization. It is a national NGO working for poverty alleviation, socio-economic development, and empowerment of women. The beggar women of Thengamara Village in the Bogra district established this organization in 1980. By 2004, 700,000 women were organized into groups within TMSS’s operational area (covering 34 districts throughout Bangladesh). Women who are literate, have less than 0.50 acres of land in the family and the worst victims of oppression and exploitation are the beneficiaries of TMSS.

Bangladesh Women’s Health Coalition (BWHC)

BWHC, a national NGO, was established in 1980 with the vision of “Equality of Women in a Just Civil Society.” The organization aims to provide mothers with access to health care services and the information required to make informed choices. BWHC works in safe motherhood; child survival; family planning; management of unwanted pregnancy; prevention and control of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; counselling; awareness-raising; and adolescent family life education.

Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM)

DAM is an NGO founded upon Islamic principles, working at the grassroots and national levels to focus on poverty alleviation and socio-economic empowerment of the poor, particularly women. Specifically, DAM’s programs support human resource development through formal and nonformal basic and higher education; environmental preservation; drug use prevention and rehabilitation for drug users; prevention of human trafficking; and curative health services, including the establishment of general and specialized hospitals, health clinics, maternity and child health centers, and homes for the elderly.


Proshika was founded in 1976 and has grown to be one of the largest NGOs in the world. The NGO’s name is an acronym of three Bangla words, which stand for training, education, and action. Proshika works in structural poverty alleviation, environmental protection and regeneration, improvement in women’s status, increasing people’s participation in public institutions, and increasing people’s capacity to gain and exercise democratic and human rights. Spread across 23,475 villages and 2,101 urban slums in 57 districts, Proshika now works with about 2.75 million men and women members drawn from rural and urban poor households and has organized them into 146,798 primary groups.

Jagorani Chakra Foundation (JCF)

It was founded in 1976 with the motivation of some of Jessore's young youths to develop the country's impoverished and is also known as JCF. They began by identifying the people's social and economic problems and then focusing their efforts on resolving them.

According to the Social Welfare Directories, they were registered in 1977. Md. Azul Kabir Arzoo serves as the Executive Director of this non-governmental organization. Additionally, they operate an education centre for children from impoverished families. Additionally, they provide their services, which include literacy programs and others.

Awaj Foundation

Awaj Foundation was established in 2003 out of the urgent need to protect workers’ rights in the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector of Bangladesh. Founded by former child worker and labour organizer Nazma Akter, Awaj Foundation is driven by the vision of decent work, dignified lives and gender equity in the industrial sectors of Bangladesh. The RMG sector in Bangladesh provides employment opportunities to over three million, mostly unskilled, poor women. Comprising over 80% of the country’s export earnings, the sector makes an enormous contribution to the country’s economy. However, the benefits of this highly productive sector have not been equally distributed. Poor working conditions and labour and human rights abuses at factories remain widespread. Moreover, increasing global competition has led to a race to the bottom and compromises on workers’ rights in order to reduce production costs. The catastrophic consequences of this were made apparent with the Rana Plaza collapse, which led to the largest industrial disaster in modern times and the death of 1,134 workers.

PRISM Bangladesh Foundation

PRISM Bangladesh Foundation is a non-profit voluntary development organisation established in 1989 in the name of PRISM Bangladesh. PRISM started its socio-economic development activities for rural poor communities in different areas of Bangladesh with the help of UN organisations like UNDP, UNICEF, UNDRO, etc. Simultaneously, PRISM has been increasing its development activities through implementing various programs and projects sponsored by many international and national agencies and organisations. In the meantime, PRISM has implemented a large number of development programs and projects in various major development sectors like aquaculture, rural water supply and sanitation, socio-economic development, rural enterprise formation and capital development, relief and rehabilitation, disaster management programs, income generation and self-employment, environment development and management, etc. The potential programs and projects in the above sectors are integrated aquaculture, intensive sanitation and hygiene promotion program, socio-economic development program, low-cost sanitation and awareness development, rural water supply, agriculture rehabilitation and minor irrigation, human resource development and skill development training, micro-financing/participatory rural credit and savings program, social forestation, sustainable environment management program, etc. Now PRISM is working with 60,100 direct partner beneficiaries in these areas to reduce poverty and enhance their socio-economic condition. The program beneficiaries are mainly vulnerable landless, small farmers and women. PRISM is also working in the Capital City, Savar, Narayanganj, Sylhet, Rangpur, Rajshahi and Jessore Town in developing the urban environment through Medical Waste Management. The program has been undertaken with the financial support of CIDA, WSP and the Embassy of Japan with the collaboration of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Sylhet, Rangpur, Rajshahi City Corporation and Savar, Jessore Pouroshova.


Top 10 International NGOs (INGOs) in Bangladesh

Numerous international NGOs carry out operations in Bangladesh. Among the more important are ActionAid Bangladesh, Care, Caritas Bangladesh, Concern Bangladesh, Concern Universal, Damien Foundation, Handicap International, Helen Keller International, Leprosy Mission International, Pathfinder International, Plan International Bangladesh, Practical Action, Save the Children USA, Save the Children UK, Save the Children, Sight Savers Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, Swedish Free Mission, and Terre Des Hommes.

ActionAid Bangladesh 

ActionAid Bangladesh always had a distinctive approach be it from the early days of simplicity to today’s complex nature of issues. ActionAid Bangladesh starting its journey from a very small with a minimalist approach today has become a relatively important player of the vibrant NGO movement that seeks to fight poverty in the country. ActionAid came to Bangladesh in 1983 to support an orphanage in Bhola named 'For Those Who Have Less'​ (locally known as 'Bittohin'​). Today ActionAid is committed to changing the capacities of people and groups whose rights have been denied and violated in attaining justice and a life of dignity. Vision A just, equitable and sustainable world in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity, freedom from poverty and all forms of oppression. Mission To achieve social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication by working with people living in poverty and exclusion, their communities, people’s organisations, activities, social movements and supporters.

Concern Bangladesh

Concern has been fighting extreme poverty in Bangladesh since 1972. For over 45 years, we have worked with the most vulnerable people to reduce extreme poverty. Thye is working hard to combat suffering and build resilience in Bangladesh. They are doing this by establishing programmes that will reduce poverty, respond to emergencies and improve health and nutrition. Their focus is mainly on Emergency response, Hunger and malnutrition and Reducing poverty.

Pathfinder International

Pathfinder International is driven by the conviction that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide whether and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to lead the lives they choose. As a global health organization with locally-led, community-driven programs, we support women to make their own reproductive health decisions.

In Bangladesh since 1978, for more than 60 years, Pathfinder has partnered with communities and the government of Bangladesh to ensure even the hardest-to-reach people can access contraception. Hand in hand, we have strengthened public-sector health services to better serve women and girls. Today, our partnership with the government increases access to sexual and reproductive health care through universal health coverage. We support the government with strengthening the public health system, including mentorship and training of health providers, integration of gender-transformative approaches, readying health facilities to provide quality services, and rolling out digital health solutions. We reach the most marginalized and underserved communities, including those living in urban slums, Rohingya refugee camps, and regions devastated by climate change-induced floods and natural disasters

HEED Bangladesh

HEED Bangladesh started its journey when war-torn independent Bangladesh required huge socio-economic development activities for its sustainability. Being registered as a non-government development organization, HEED Bangladesh took up a radical agenda for undertaking development activities in various sectors like health, education, and economic and social development. At its inception moment, HEED Bangladesh focused on relief and welfare programs. Later on, it redesigned its strategies in accordance with its philosophy of poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor. With time, the range and volume of activities of the organization expanded. Presently its development programs include health, formal and non-formal education, agriculture, aquaculture, livestock, advocacy, capacity building, forestry, environmental and natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, disaster management, socio-economic development of marginalized and underprivileged people, microfinance, nutrition & hygiene education, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, rural development, awareness build-up, arsenic, child & women rights and protection etc

Plan International Bangladesh

Plan International began working in Bangladesh in 1994. Across all our work, we encourage children and young people to be leaders in their communities and drive progress on the issues that matter to them. We also integrate gender equality and inclusion across all our areas of work. Among the issues affecting children’s development in Bangladesh are a lack of skilled birth attendants, malnutrition, a lack of sexual health rights, low quality education, a high number of girls dropping out of school, a lack of safety, especially for girls, low birth registration rates and poor hygiene practices such as open defecation. In addition, Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world with the most vulnerable children living in the worst-affected areas. Plan International Bangladesh targets the most excluded children and our programmes directly benefit over 2.3 million children across the country

Save the Children

Save the Children has been working to assist the children in Bangladesh since 1970. The programme works across five thematic sectors: Child Rights Governance and Child Protection, Health- Nutrition-HIV/AIDS, Child Poverty, Humanitarian and Education. With the support provided by our donors, SC Global Members and implementing partners, both in government and civil society organizations, we are making progress towards maximizing impact for children who are most in need of our support, including those affected by HIV/AIDS, ethnic minority groups, street and working children, refugee children, and others; vulnerable and socially excluded. As Save the Children is a dual mandate organization, we respond to disasters; and in ensuring the survival, protection and development of affected children. In Bangladesh, Save the Children is currently moving forward to strengthen the monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning [MEAL] aspects of its work to ensure programme quality. In simple terms, it is about reinforcing our programme learning in a way that brings lessons learned into the programme design and management decision making, leading to continual improvements over time. Save the Children directly reaches more than 12 million children and adults in Bangladesh through implementation of over 90 projects in all 64 districts of Bangladesh. Our 800+ highly skilled staff and over 65 partner organizations are instrumental in ensuring delivery of high quality programs that address the needs and rights of children and their communities. Save the Children member organizations with their internal resources and those of their governments, foundations and corporations further enhance our capacity to achieve more for the children of Bangladesh.

Caritas Bangladesh

Caritas Bangladesh was founded in 1967 in what was then known as East Pakistan. They are beginning by capitalizing on their familiarity as a Christian Organization for Relief and Rehabilitation (CORR). Then, in 1976, they established Caritas Bangladesh.

They are assisting Bangladesh in consolidating human development and catastrophe management. They also participate in their human rights, social justice, and other socially beneficial activities.

CARE Bangladesh

CARE Bangladesh was founded in 1949 as a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty among the underprivileged. They provide their services in 87 countries worldwide and also speak out against poverty in Bangladesh. They are undertaking numerous programs aimed at alleviating poverty and developing the country's disadvantaged.

Oxfam in Bangladesh

Oxfam is a not-for-profit organization that operates in Bangladesh and throughout the world. They began their adventure in 1970, in Bangladesh, with the goal of making poverty a less reasonable and dynamic society in which the country's people are empowered and men and women are restrained in their leadership power and empowerment.

Wikimedia Foundation (WMF)

Wikimedia Foundation is an American philanthropic and non-profit organization that began operations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2019. Additionally, they provide their services globally. Jimmy Wales is the creator of this non-profit organization, which manages numerous initiatives on a non-profit basis.

Hunger Project Bangladesh 

The Hunger Project Bangladesh is the nation’s largest volunteer-driven development organization. It was registered with the NGO Bureau, Registration No. 557, dated 11 November 1991. It has trained more than 250,000 volunteers, implementing strategies for gender-focused community-led development across every district of the country, with a concentrated presence in 181 “SDG Unions.” Its programs are supported by a highly committed staff based in 10 regional offices, with its national office in Dhaka. The Hunger Project-Bangladesh is an affiliate of the Global Hunger Project, headquartered in New York, a 501c3 organization incorporated in 1977 and in consultative status with the United Nations since 1985.


ADAB was established in the year of 1974. The primary objective was to establish and foster cooperation and coordination of the activities of International Donor and Aid Agencies engaged in relief and rehabilitation works in the war-ravaged Bangladesh. Then it was named as ‘Association of Voluntary Agencies in Bangladesh’ which was abbreviated as (AVAB). As agriculture and food production was prioritized by its member organizations to ensure food security, in 1977 the organization was renamed ‘Agricultural Development Agencies in Bangladesh’ (ADAB). Further was renamed in 1983 as the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh with its acronym ADAB remaining unchanged. In order to strengthen the legal identity of the organization in 2013, it has been registered under the Societies Act 1860 as ADAB Society which will be known as ADAB. ADAB is also registered under the Foreign Donation Ordinance of 1978. Thirty-nine years have passed since ADAB was formed. In its long journey, in every stage, ADAB has duly acted as the time demanded to safeguard and greater interest of its member organizations. To meet the demand of time and soul searching endeavours ADAB’s objective and strategy have to be reassessed in different stages. ADAB acted as a coordinating body promoting friendly relationships and the commonality of purpose among various NGOs operating in Bangladesh, assisting small and nascent local NGOs, forming them into a national network of regional chapters, exchange of views and experiences, extending areas of cooperation, abolishing overlapping of working areas, developing institutional efficiency, maintaining liaison with Government and international donor agencies, mass media, grass-root people’s organizations and civil society are some of the areas in which ADAB is active from the very beginning.


Top 50 NGOs in Bangladesh (Google Search)

1. Action For Social Development

2. ActionAid Bangladesh


4. ADD International, Bangladesh

5. Ad-Din Welfare Centre

6. Advanced Life Organization (ALO).

7. Agape Social Concern

8. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)

9. Al-Falah Bangladesh

10. Ambala Foundation

11. Annesha Foundation (Af)

12. Aparajeyo Bangladesh

13. Bangladesh Association for Social Advancement BASA

14. Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs

15. Bangladesh Disabled Development Trust

16. Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS)

17. Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)

18. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

19. BASA Foundation

20. BNPS - Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha

21. BURO Bangladesh

22. CARE Bangladesh

23. Caritas Bangladesh

24. Children's Heaven

25. Concern Worldwide Bangladesh

26. Development Organisation of the Rural Poor-DORP

27. Dole International

28. Eminence Associates for Social Development

29. Footsteps Bangladesh- Changemakers' HQ

30. Heed Bangladesh

31. HOPE Worldwide

32. Integrated Development Foundation (IDF)

33. Islamic Relief Bangladesh

34. Muslim Hands International Bangladesh

35. NGO Forum for Public Health

36. Oxfam in Bangladesh

37. Padakhep Manabik Unnayan Kendra

38. PATHWAY-পাথওয়ে

39. Patrory International Foundation

40. Plan International Bangladesh

41. Prottyashi

42. Provat Social Welfare Organazitions

43. SAWAB (Social Agency for Welfare and Advancement in Bangladesh)

44. SERAC Bangladesh

45. Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women

46. Swisscontact

47. UK Bangladesh Education Trust (UKBET)


49. YPSA (Young Power in Social Action)

50. Centre for Disability and Disadvantaged-CDD


  1. This info is useful for us.
    Yash Samajik Sanstha.

  2. Thank you so much vaiya🥰
    for your useful information...
    It helps a lot..Thanks again..

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