NGO in Bangladesh: From the view of development theories

22 Nov 2017, 14:31

Marzia Hassan Prova

It is 2017! Almost 46 years have been passed since we earn our victory after a decisive struggle against Pakistani rulers. After independence, Bangladesh was among the poorest nations in the world and on the verge of becoming a failed state.  Forty six years later, Bangladesh enjoys impressive economic growth and has emerged as a young, but fragile, democracy. Yeah, we have decreased the rate of mortality of children and mother! We decreased the dropped out rate from primary education. We have eradicated ‘Monga’, the yearly cyclical phenomenon of poverty and hunger in the northern part of Bangladesh.

After all these, Bangladesh is still limping along in countless drawbacks. Gender inequality, ethnic and minority rights, unemployment are the matter of contention  right now. Alongside with government and other actors of development, NGO begun their work aftermath the independence in Bangladesh to flourish the dreadful state. So in the story of attainment, no doubt, NGO played a vital role. And undeniably in the story of deficit, NGOs have to receive critiques also.

NGO- this term has been popular for the last two decades in local, and international levels. Millions of NGO are now established throughout the world. Basically, NGO refers those companies, professional, trade, and voluntary organization or charities- are not run by government and not driven by profit making activities. But many of them are seemed highly professionalized organization with strong corporate identity.

NGO emphasis on practical works more than development theories. Development is always a complex and contested term. Briefly, it is a process to reduce the material want and enhance the people’s ability to live a life they consider good across the broadest range of populations.

But the Truman doctrine struck the concept of development after the Second World War. In 1947, He stated, “I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes”. This doctrine introduced the world with dependency theory by ECLA (Economic Commission of Latin America). This concept referred that south are poorer by the exploitation of the west. That means Underdevelopment is a continuing condition of third world country and state was the only actor in developing landscape. Poor countries can never be developed—“dependency theory” suggested that.

Since 1980 many researchers and activists tried to establish a new development idea. The activists of the NGO and development agencies feeling frustrated that those theories actual aren't helping poor people in real life. Neoliberalism doctrine raises the thought of globalization work for the poor. It finds the market mechanism as the key of development country. This Neoliberal era enabled the organization like as the World Bank and IMF to impose SAPs (Structural Adjustment Policy) over underdeveloped nations which were criticized as Neo-colonial aggression. This clampdown develops the new idea of ‘Alternative Development theory’ for Grassroots perspectives, gender equality, empowerment and bottom up participation for sustainable and equitable development processes. Alternative Development theory influenced how NGO should work for sustainable development goals for material and non- material issues. Now UNDP, UNICEF works according to this theory. 

Social exclusion, social capital and civil society are the new applied development theories on which our NGOs work in Bangladesh. We can observe JAAGO school, Prochesta Foundation school educate the underprivileged children with giving educational materials. This development foundation also gives them vocational training to make them economically stable. Many cooperative societies and micro-credit project are run through the social capital like norms, belief, bonding with each other, team spirit, etc. Our civil society is always active against the barbarism of ethnic group, gender violence which strongly impacts on NGO work.

Social movements are always working as ignition behind NGO’s working. Now, online activists and movements play as a regulator in our development works. Ten years ago, we had no knowledge against cyber crime. Online movement prejudices the development agencies to work on it.

It is a good news that our government is working together with an NGO. Ekti Bari Ekti khamar with BRDB, IFFD (Integrated food for Development) with Care Bangladesh, Rio with UNDP are the examples of Government and NGO collaboration. Not only government, many CSR departments of corporate affairs inaugurate projects by making partnership with the NGO, surely they are non-profit making.

But our NGOs are mostly dependent on donor agency. For that reason, colonial aggregation of donor countries introduced a cultural hegemony around us. Many NGO transformed its view to social business, still bearing their prior identity. corruption, bureaucracy are also emerging in NGOs.

Even then, we cannot deny the impact of NGO in Bangladesh in the development sector. Partnering with government and corporate change the view of preliminary development theories. Who knows, this partnership can make a new development theory in near future.

*Marzia Hassan Prova, student of Masters in Development Studies, Dhaka University