United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Awards for Human
Development, will be presented on December 15th at the New York
Historical Society. Every two years, UNDP holds a ceremony to recognize
excellence in the efforts of groups who are working on human
development issues around the world.
Among the honorees this year is the Human Development Report team from West Bengal, India (others are Colombia, Latvia, the Roma, and Zambia).
Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC (formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), has been named as the winner of the 2004 Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development. Mr. Abed was selected by an esteemed panel of judges for this award for his achievements in offering the rural poor tools to combat hunger, disease and illiteracy on a massive scale. BRAC’s work in health care has made a a significant contribution to Bangladesh’s achievement of the fastest decline in infant mortality rates in Asia. It’s work in education is an important factor in Bangladesh’s success in increasing primary education from 55% of the population two decades ago to 85% now.
This award is named in honor of Mahbub ul Haq (1934-1998), the leading development thinker who pioneered the human development approach and founded the global Human Development Report. Dr. Haq’s distinguished career included serving as Chief Economist of the Pakistan Planning Commission, Director of the World Bank’s Department of Policy Planning, and Planning and Finance Minister of Pakistan and Special Adviser to the Administrator of UNDP.
The award is presented biennially to the world leader who has most successfully put human development at the heart of the political agenda. In 2002, the award was presented to President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil
Fazle Hasan Abed, a former Shell Oil executive, founded BRAC (formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) in 1972 to provide relief assistance to refugees returning from India after Bangladesh's Liberation War. The relief and rehabilitation work was soon finished, but the poverty and vulnerability remained. He then led the organisation’s expansion to provide a broad range of services to people whose lives are dominated by extreme poverty, discrimination and exploitation. BRAC, now the world's largest non-governmental organization, is recognized internationally for its pioneering efforts to promote health, alleviate poverty, and educate and empower the poor.
In the area of health, BRAC serves more than 30 million people – almost a quarter of Bangladesh's population. Care is provided at 90 health clinics and 2,200 prenatal clinics, as well as through the 52,000 volunteers mobilized to provide home health care assistance. A central feature of BRAC’s health programs is the Shastho Shebika – the community health volunteer – who is chosen by the community, provided with training in essential health care, and is responsible for making health services and commodities easily accessible to all community members.
In the area of micro credit, BRAC works with destitute rural Bangladeshi women with little or no income earning opportunities. The programme has disbursed over $2 billion with a 98% repayment rate. One BRAC program that has attracted considerable attention is an income generation programme for those living in absolute poverty. Jointly with the government of Bangladesh, the World Food Program, BRAC has provided food assistance and savings and credit services to nearly a million participants over a ten-year period. Two-thirds of these women have “graduated” from absolute poverty to becoming microfinance clients, and have not slipped back into requiring government handouts.
In education, BRAC has established over 42,000 primary schools, working increasingly in collaboration with the government of Bangladesh, with a special emphasis on girls’ education and involving families in their children’s school life.
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