What are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and what have NGOs done in Bangladesh?

NGO plays a vital role in the country of Bangladesh. Let’s know detail about what are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and what have NGOs done in Bangladesh?

Introduction: what is the service sector?

The tertiary or service of an economy includes and a wide range of service activities in developing countries.

It includes very low-value-added activities in the informal sector, such as rickshaw pulling, barbershops on pavements, domestic service, and street traders. The informal sector describes all those activities that are no formally regulated by the government because they do not come under any legal regulatory frameworks.

Very low value-added service sector activities are likely to be unregulated in this way, and these reactivate therefore belong to the informal sector.

But the service sector also includes the formal sector (regulated) activates that have higher value-added. And which can, therefore, provide high wages to those employed in these activities.

These activities included the retail and wholesale trades, formal sector transportation like the operation of trucks, buses and trains, banking and finance, communication in all its forms including the media trucks, buses and trains, banking and finance, communication in all its forms including the media and telecommunications, and the entertainment industry in its various forms.

What are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)?

In Bangladesh, the term ‘NGO’-non-governmental organization refers primarily to those organizations that are registered under the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance of 1978. IN 1991, 138 organizations were registered under the 1978 ordinance.

The NGO sector is different from the public sector because, by definition, it is not the government, but it is also different from the private sector proper because NGOs are run on a non-profit basis.

This means that although NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) have to pay for their costs, they do not have to maximize profits by providing the lowest cost service at the highest price. It also means that although it can pay its employees well if it makes profits, this is re-invested in the NGO rather than being paid to directors or shareholders.

What have NGOs done in Bangladesh?

There were a very limited number of NGOs prior to 1971. But after the independence of Bangladesh. NGOs emerged on a large scale. The initial focus of these organizations was on charity and welfare work related to relief and rehabilitation activities revolved around the distribution of food and medicine, construction of houses for the homeless, and the development of physical infrastructure.

In the ears after Bangladesh became independent, there was a lot of development and reconstruction work to do, and NGOs began to fill the gaps that were left after the state had done what it could.

After 1947, they began to develop a new orientation that began to reflect an alternative development strategy to that of the public and private sector. At that time, the global debates and the role of the state in economic development were also beginning to change.

While earlier the state was seen as critical for economic development, for providing vital services in health and education, and for developing policies to encourage industry, this perception began to change in the late seventies and eighties.

Economists in the western countries and in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund began to argue that stats in developing countries were frequently corrupt and inefficient and that it would be better to get NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to deliver key services and let the free market dictate the direction of would be better to get NGOs to deliver key services and let the free market dictated the direction of economic development.

In this context, the Bangladeshi NGO sector began to enjoy new sources of funding and growth in the 1980s and 1990s and began to take over important areas of health and education from the government.

As NGOs began to play a bigger role in the economy, they also began to develop new philosophies and strategies of development. A central element. A central element of the “new” development strategy that many NGOs began to identify with was a concept of development where the rural and urban poor would take the lead in organizing development through their own organizations and institutions.

This was the “big idea” of the NGO movement and led to their emphasis on the empowerment of the poor through participatory democracy.

Non-Governmental Organizations
Non-Governmental Organizations

In order to implement this type of strategy and vision the NGOs in Bangladesh have intervened in a number of key areas:

  • Development of grassroots democratic processes
  • An emphasis on poverty reduction
  • Extension of women’s rights
  • Education with an emphasis in the primary sector
  • Family planning and delivery of rural primary health care service
  • Micro-credit that gives the poor direct access to credit
  • Environmental protection to improve the sustainability of the livelihoods of the poor.

Underlying much of the activities of most NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) is the notion of “empowering the poor”. The idea that the process of empowerment will ensure that individuals from the “poorest of the poor” can take direct control of their lives. Once that happens, they will become agents of their own development.


While NGOs have made much progress in taking on many service delivery tasks from a government, there is less agreement about whether they have really made a difference in empowering the poor to make a difference to their own conditions.

Service delivery

Let us consider these issues in turn. First, on the efficiency of service delivery, there is no doubt that many NGOs like BRAC (the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), Proshika, Nijera Kori, and many others have managed to deliver health or education services in areas where the state was no delivering.

On the other hand, NGOs have access to funds from foreign donors that enable them to pay their workers (in most but not all cases) much higher salaries than the state sector.

As a result, it is not clear whether sufficient foreign funding will ever be available to extend NGO-led service delivery to cover the entire country. Indeed, NGO funding remains very vulnerable to changing fashions and aid priorities of donors.

This suggests that the only long-term solution is for the state to be able to raise more money through domestic taxation. If this is the source of funding, it is very likely that taxpayers will want to think of domestic taxation.

If this is the source of funding, it is very likely that taxpayers will want to hold the state accountable for the use of this money, and so the only way to ensure service delivery of key requirements in health and education will be to make the state more efficient in service delivery in the future. In the meantime, NGOs can continue to serve a critical function by improving service delivery in some parts of the country.


It is difficult to measure whether the poor have been empowered by NGO activities over the last three decades and whether this has helped the poor to drive development in new ways. On the one hand, poverty had been slowly coming down in Bangladesh, due to rising per capita incomes.

But is this because the poor have been empowered, or has economic growth been driven by the spread of the Green Revolution In agriculture and the creation of new export sectors in manufacturing?

If the reduction in poverty has been due to economic growth was driven investments in industry and agriculture, this may have had very little to do with the greater power of the poor, even if we could agree that NGOs really have made the poor more powerful.

These questions are not easy to resolve, but we need to question the claims made by NGOs about the importance of empowerment in reducing poverty.

This does not mean that the activities of NGOs in trying to empower the poor have had no effect at all. It is quite possible that activities that try to organize the poor and engage them in collective action have very positive effects in ensuring that the benefits of growth are more equally distributed than would have been the case otherwise.

Nevertheless, this is very different from the claim that the poor are directly generating growth through their own activities as a result of being empowered by NGOs.

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