NGOs Functions in Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh

NGOs Functions in Promoting Human Rights in Bangladesh

NGOs Programmes in Protecting HR in Bangladesh

For several years, many NGOs in Bangladesh have been actively working to protect and uphold human rights, particularly the rights of women and children. They are very active in creating awareness among the policy-makers and actors working among the general masses. They are trying to reform laws to eliminate social, legal and political discrimination based on gender, class, ethnicity, race and religion. Through awareness building, lobbying, and mass communication, they carry out advocacy at different levels, i.e., local, national and international. 

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Few NGOs also provide legal aid to the poor and victims, particularly women, workers and children, in counselling, mediation and litigation. Since awareness about rights and responsibility is necessary to protect rights and establish justice, many NGOs have awareness campaigns on human rights and constitutional laws, family laws, women's rights, and violence against women and children. As the protection of human rights is an integral part of democracy, human rights defenders play an essential role in promoting the rule of law by defending people's rights and continuing their efforts to set standards to ensure that no rights are violated by either state or non-state actors. Until the early 1990s, however, human rights activism in Bangladesh was confined, practically speaking, to only several legal professionals. Their human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were operated with an elitist and legalist outlook rather than a service-based approach. As a result, there was a type of client-patron relationship between victims of human rights violations and these organisations, which became active only when there were political or vested interests for the benefit of certain elites,

NGOs in Bangladesh work to promote awareness of human rights and identify the problem in protecting and enjoying human rights. NGOs, Govt. and international institutions are working together to establish a human rights-based consensus to redefine human rights related policy. Regularly engage in civil society debates in the media, their public campaigns and advocacy work for legal reform.


Documentation and Networking 

All NGOs have a documentation team that keeps the organisation updated with human rights abuses published in the major national dailies. The work of the documentation unit is to gather and document relevant information for investigation purposes from both the daily papers and personal and organisational sources/contacts, including human rights defenders. These are included in annual human rights reports and monthly reports of human rights violations, distributed to the media for publication and other NGOs.


Ngo's fact-finding activities cover torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and abuse of some specific laws leading to human rights violations, repression against innocent people and application of unnecessary force by law enforcement agencies. They identify human rights violations reported in the newspapers. Still, They need further enquiry and information to clearly establish the actual abuse faced by the victims, the causes behind the abuse, and the persons responsible. While the media focuses on human rights violations more from a journalistic perspective confined to reporting the incident only, the fact-finding goes deep into the happenings from a socio-legal perspective.


The Research Unit at NGO is responsible for the archival preservation and enhancement of the fact-finding reports. This involves including legal rights, available data and statistics from previous years and recommendations into the main text of the fact-finding reports and translation and editing work. The work also involves the preparation of human rights reports, collecting data regarding various human rights abuses throughout the year, and writing and publishing multiple articles on human rights abuses for public knowledge. Another activity of the Research Unit is to keep international and regional human rights organisations.

Election Monitoring and Observation

Encourage the electorate to vote freely and without fear to popularise the concept that the country needs every citizen's vote. It also aims at campaigning and monitoring for free and fair conduct of the electoral process to ensure voters' rights. NGOs maintain a close liaison with the Bangladesh Election Commission. Many NGOs have been monitoring national and local government elections in Bangladesh since 1996. The monitoring work is not only limited to Election Day but also covers pre and post-election periods.

Media Campaign

All NGOs regularly conduct media campaigns to protect and promote human rights. The data collected by the organisation are published in both Bangla and English language dailies on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Articles written by both staff and organisation members are published in particular edition pages and legal rights supplements of national dailies.

Human Rights Defenders Training

The training programme aimed to create a grassroots human rights network. Besides training on human rights issues, fact-finding and report-writing, Human rights defenders are also given training on election monitoring before every national election.


Through regular discussion meetings on various human rights issues and their abuse, NGOs bring together multiple groups of people, including policy-makers, politicians, lawyers, human rights activists and NGO activists, journalists from popular daily newspapers and victims of human rights abuse. The findings and recommendations are discussed, and the policy-makers are asked for comments and suggestions.

Urgent Appeals

To campaign against significant violations of human rights and put pressure on state actors for a swift remedy for victims, NGOs send urgent appeals across the globe through its network and website. NGOs also respond to urgent requests sent by other organisations.

Internships / Volunteers

NGOs provide an internship/volunteer programme for local and international students, researchers, and activists interested in field and desk research work as human rights defenders in Bangladesh. NGOs provide a safe working environment for interns/volunteers.

Good Governance

One of the main focuses of NGOs is the promotion of good governance. Without protecting human rights, ensuring good governance is impossible, and vice versa, seminars, workshops and discussion meetings, including round table meetings with dailies, to promote the issue of good governance.


NGOs publish their research, investigation findings and monthly and annual reports on the state of human rights in Bangladesh in bulletins, books and reports.


NGOs and INGOs in Bangladesh in promoting Human Rights

Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)

Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a national legal aid and human rights organisation, provides legal and social support to the disempowered, particularly women, working children and workers. Its goal is to create a society based on equality, social and gender justice and the rule of law. It seeks to create an environment for accountability and transparency of governance institutions.

ASK was registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, Bangladesh under the Societies Registration Act, XXI in 1986 and with the NGO Affairs Bureau under Foreign Donation Regulation Ordinance, 1978 in 1993. It was accorded special consultative status with UN ECOSOC in 1998.

Programmes and Activities of ASK
o   Investigation
o   Legal Advocacy & Policy Reform
o   Mediation & Rapid Response
o   Child Rights
o   Gender and Social Justice
o   Human Rights Awareness
o   Litigation
o   Outreach
o   Halfway Home

Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF)

Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) is a national network of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) actively engaged in child rights work. It was formed and launched in 1990, following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ratification by Bangladesh in the same year. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection, Development and Participation and the Plan of Action for its implementation as adopted by the World Summit on Children in September 1990 and subsequent Declarations provided the framework for its operational objectives, which seek to ensure services and rights to children as provided in the CRC. BSAF started its journey in 1990 with eighteen member NGOs increased to 260 member NGOs.  BSAF advocates for a Child-Friendly world. It works as a networking entity and brings together and assists child rights organisations in pursuing common goals. It helps synthesise the viewpoints of member organisations and works to mobilise material and human resources for promoting child rights programs. It provides collective leadership in program matters to member organisations. It works with law and policy-makers to bring positive changes in national laws and policies relating to children. It runs a vigorous campaign at the macro level to make civil society and policy-makers aware of the provisions of CRC. It plays a proactive role in promoting and upholding these rights. It also provides guidelines and assistance to member organisations to advocate for promoting child rights and influencing the government's policies.

Programmes and Activities of BSAF
o   Rights of The Child Domestic Workers
o   Child Trafficking
o   Protecting Children from Sale, Prostitution and Pornography
o   Action Against Child Abuse and Exploitation
o   Rescue, Rehabilitate/Reintegrate Abused & Exploited Children
o   Alternative Report To UNCRC
o   Strengthen Capacity of BSAF Network to Influence Policy
o   Strengthen Children's Voice to Influence Policy


Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)

BLAST, a prominent legal aid service provider in Bangladesh, was established in 1993 as a free and voluntary legal services organisation. After beginning operation in five offices, BLAST has grown steadily. It now has 19 unit offices in Barishal, Bogura, Chittagong, Comilla, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna, Kustia, Mymensingh, Noakhali, Pabna, Patuakhali, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet and Tangail in addition to its head office in Dhaka. BLAST’s primary concern is improving access to justice in Bangladesh for the poor and disadvantaged, particularly for marginalised communities.

BLAST works through its staff lawyers, paralegals and other staff at headquarters and in each district unit, in collaboration with its enlisted panel of about 2300 lawyers across the country who provide legal redress to clients either on a pro bono basis or with a nominal honorarium. BLAST is a legal aid providing NGO that offers legal support to the client at all courts. BLAST provides legal assistance in the form of advice and legal Chapter-VI Page 37 of 61 representation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It conducts training and workshops with a wide range of actors within the justice system and the public to spread knowledge of constitutional and legal rights. BLAST also works on public interest litigation and advocacy campaigns to help shape and implement laws and enable the provision of remedies that ensure access to justice.

Programs and Activities of BLAST
o   Legal Aid
o   Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
o   Capacity Building
o   Advocacy and Networking
o   Research

Bangladesh Manabadhikar Bastabayan Sangstha (Manabadhikar)

‘Bangladesh  Manabadhikar Bastobayan Sangstha’ (in English – Bangladesh Society for the Enforcement of Human Rights - BSEHR) is the pioneer and leading organisation in Bangladesh, established on 10 December 1977, to work on establishing and protecting the Human Rights of the poor and vulnerable women, men and children in Bangladesh. This organisation believes that human rights are the essential elements of human development and a country's social and economic development. Manabadhikar recognises that these rights have been incorporated into the constitution as fundamental principles of state policy and fundamental rights of all persons. Most codified laws are also in force to protect the rights of the citizens and the persons living in Bangladesh, but at the same time, it is convinced that due to the lack of proper enforcement, these laws have been rendered ineffectual. The root causes of the violation of human rights are the lack of knowledge and the people's lack of voice and poor governance in the government agencies. For the country's total development, endeavours must be taken to instil respect and knowledge of the laws, rights, and obligations. This is possible through the enforcement and promotion of Human Rights. As such, Manabadhikar sees itself as a force and partner of choice in this movement and dedicates itself to promoting the administration of justice, the Rule of Law and securing legal guarantees to protect the basic Human Rights of persons in Bangladesh.


To achieve the objectives, the Bangladesh Manabadhikar Bastabayan Sangstha (Manabadhikar)has a membership of 7,682 voluntary activists in its 358 Chapters located at City Corporations, districts and sub-district levels. This makes  Manabadhikar an effective tool in guaranteeing access to justice for all irrespective of gender, class, ethnicity etc.

Programs and Activities of (BSEHR)
o   Parallel Investigation /fact-findings 
o   Mediation
o   Legal Aid support
o   On-spot monitoring (Thana, court hajat, hospital) 
o   Policy advocacy and Research Initiatives 
o   Young Leadership Development
o   Lifesaving & livelihood support 
o   Combat Human Trafficking
o   Public Interest Writ
o   Local Platform / Chapters strengthening 

Amnesty International Bangladesh

Amnesty International is a voluntary movement for the release of prisoners of conscience. It was started by British lawyer Peter Benenson on 28 May 1961. Over time, this movement emerged as a vocal organisation to protect human rights worldwide.

But the movement did not get any response from Bangladesh until Justice Syed Mohammad Hossain started activities supporting the action in the early seventies of the twentieth century. But before it could take roots in the country, the movement's activities were stranded, possibly due to his elevation as a judge of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. In the early 1980s, activities of Amnesty International were resumed by a group of enthusiastic social workers in Dhaka, and this Dhaka Group was recognised on 28 June 1985 by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.

Subsequently, some other groups were formed, and in January 1989, Madaripur Group, in January 1990, Rajair Group and in August 1991, Kalkini Group were recognised. After that, some local and professional groups were formed, such as Lawyers' group, Women's group, Doctors' group etc. There are as many as forty local and professional groups having more than one thousand members of the Bangladesh section of Amnesty International. The first biennial conference of the Bangladesh section was held on 28 August 1992 in Dhaka, wherein its first executive committee was formed. The executive committee consists of a president, vice-president, treasurer and seven members. The office of the Bangladesh section is run by a full-time director. The office is situated at 28 Kabi Jasimuddin Road, Kamalapur, Dhaka.

Bangladesh section of Amnesty International arranges workshops to train its members on human rights and the techniques for preventing violation of such rights. It also organises meetings, seminars, rallies, etc., to propagate human rights and prevent their violation. It regularly observes International Women's Day on 8 March, Mayday on 1 May, International Human Rights Day on 10 December. It works for the immediate, unconditional release of prisoners of conscience, a fair and speedy trial of political prisoners, elimination of oppression and torture, and abrogation of the death penalty. The organisation publishes its annual report on human rights violations in the news media, highlighting such breaches to the people and authorities' notice for prevention and remedy. It publishes regular bulletins, leaflets and posters for achieving such goals.

15-Point Program For Implementing Human Rights:
a)     The political role of the international community.
b)     No international `silent witnesses'.
c)      Human rights chapters in peace agreements.
d)    Effective and independent human rights verification.
e)     Ensuring peace with justice.
f)       On-site human rights monitoring.
g)     Frequent and public reporting.
h)     International civilian police monitors.
i)       Long-term measures for human rights protection.
j)       Human rights education and advisory assistance programs.
k)     The protection of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees.
l)       The gender dimensions.
m)  Adherence of international peacekeeping forces to human rights and humanitarian law standards.
n)  Prosecution of war crimes and attacks on international peacekeeping personnel
o)   Continued promotion and protection of human rights in the post-settlement phase

Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association-BNWLA

Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association is a lawyer’s association based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was established in 1979. Its main goal is “to create equal opportunities and rights for every woman and child in the country.” BNWLA promotes the rights and status of women lawyers alongside fighting for access to justice for all women & children, particularly for the most disadvantaged women and children in Bangladesh.

BNWLA, as a Human Rights organisation with a particular focus on the establishment of women & children's rights, is always appeared as a pressure group on the government & international bodies & tried to keep the realities for women & children in the public eye. It has been found that without proper policy formulation and action, it is not possible to ensure any positive changes in the overall development of women and children. Following that, BNWLA is trying to bring societal changes and provide access to justice from the grassroots level through partnership, networking, and policy level advocacy.

The organisation followed three thematic approaches (prevention, protection & rehabilitation and reintegration) and specific strategies [1) advocacy for the introduction and reform of law/policies (including research, dialogues, seminars/workshops, PIL, media, Networking, Partnership); 2) right-based prevention, protection & integration supports (including comprehensive women and child-friendly packages like legal, shelter, development, psychosocial counselling & others); 3) enhancing member women lawyers’ professional capacity to act as “ Change Agents”] to resist countrywide violence against women and children & fulfil its vision “ to establish the rule of law with gender equality”.


Programs and Activities of BNWLA

A.    Individual (households) level
a)   Media messages to provide information to girls and young women on gender equality, women's rights and protection against violence (radio, TV, etc.);
b)   Girls and young women reached through sports programs;
c)   Girls and young women reached through (socio-legal) protective services;
d)   Girls and young women reached through awareness, knowledge and skills-building initiatives.
e)   Media messages to provide information to communities on gender equality, women's rights and protection against violence (radio, TV, etc.)
f)    Communities reached through sports programs
g)  Communities reached through sensitisation measures on gender equality and protection against violence
h) Communities reached through capacity building measures (training, workshops) on gender equality and protection against gender-based violence.

B.     Institutional (government) level
a)  Lobby and advocacy related to girls' empowerment, girls' rights to be protected against violence and gender equality
b)   Capacity building of governmental professionals on the rights of girls and young women (in particular their right to be protected against violence)
c)    Dialogue between civil society and government informal dialogue meetings
d)   Multi-level coalitions and networks developed to advocate for girls' rights (particularly their right to be protected against violence).

C.    Civil society level
a) Organisational support provided to community-based organisations (to strengthen their capacity to involve girls and young women and promote their rights).
b) Organisational support provided to civil society organisations (to strengthen their capacity to involve girls and young women and promote their rights).
c)   Support provided to the self-organising initiatives of girls and young women.
d) Organisational and institutional support provided to the formation and strengthening of civil society organisations' networks promoting the rights of girls and young women (in particular, their rights to protection, education, socio-political participation, and economic participation).
e)  Monitoring of government's responsiveness to girls' and young women's rights and needs.


National Human Rights Commission (NHRCB)

Bangladesh's National Human Rights Commission was reconstituted in 2009 as a national advocacy institution for human rights promotion and protection. It is committed to accomplishing human rights in a broader sense, including dignity, worth and freedom of every human being, as enshrined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and different international human rights conventions and treaties to which Bangladesh is a signatory.

Establishing such a splendid institution is to contribute to the embodiment of human dignity and integrity and safeguard the basic order of democracy so that all individuals' inalienable fundamental human rights are protected. The standards of human rights are improved in the country.

Established by the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009, in consonance with Bangladesh’s commitment to international human rights law, the Commission serves as a mechanism to enrich the realisation of human rights. Its journey aims to create a culture of human rights through public enlightenment on diverse human rights issues so that the country's people can contribute to more considerable peace and security, keeping in pace with the ‘progressive aspirations of humankind.’

A.    Functions of NHRC

Apart from entertaining complaints, the NHRC can exercise the power of 'Suo-Motu.

a)  The NHRC can ask for a report from the Disciplinary Forces, the Law Enforcing Agencies or any of its members on the allegation of human rights violation.
b)   The NHRC can visit any jail or correctional centres, custody and other places and make recommendations to the government to develop those places and conditions.
c)  The Commission can inquire and report a matter referenced by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on a writ petition.
d)  The Commission enjoys the power of a civil court in case of any inquiry or investigation.
e) The Commission is empowered to appoint mediators according to established rules to dispose of a dispute relating to a violation of human rights.
f)  In case of non-compliance with the reports and recommendations, the Commission can bring the matter to the notice of the President, who shall cause it to be laid before parliament.
g)  The Commission can ask for information from governmental authorities on any alleged violation of human rights, and the government is required to give the information. In case of failure to provide information, the Commission can start to work at its own initiative.
h) Even the Commission can lodge the application to the High Court Division if the case fits with the conditions of filing writ petitions under the constitution.
i)  Apart from suggesting a legal remedy, the Commission is endowed with the power to recommend the government provide a temporary grant to the aggrieved person or his family.
j)   The Commission can fully publish the inquiry report to its own satisfaction.
k)   The witnesses before the Commission are protected for their deposition.

B.     Responsibilities of NHRC

The NHRC follows the comprehensive mandate outlined in the National Human Rights Commission Act, 2009. The cruxes of the Commission's functions are investigation and inquiry, recommendation, legal aid and human rights advocacy, research and training on human rights laws, norms and practices. To elaborate, to promote and protect human rights, the Commission performs the following functions:

a)  Developing human rights policies through conducting human rights research and issuing legal and administrative policy recommendations;
b) Analysing laws, policies and practices from a human rights perspective;
c)     Investigating human rights violation cases and providing access to justice;
d)    Promoting human rights education and raising public awareness about the perception of human rights;
e) Promoting, monitoring and comparing the national standard and implementation of international human rights treaties;
f)  Co-operating with government agencies, civil society organisations, UN human rights bodies and national human rights institutions;
g)  Settlement of complaints having the tendency of violation of human rights through mediation, providing legal aid if possible to the aggrieved party;
h)   Lodging or help to lodge petitions in the apex court;
i) Sensitising law enforcement agencies through human rights training;
Other matters deemed necessary to protect and promote human rights.

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