The Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, met with the Rt Hon Minister Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Development, at Whitehall on Monday 18th June 2018, to discuss the unique relationship between BRAC and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). He was accompanied by Lewis Temple, Chief Executive of BRAC UK and Simone Sultana, Chair of the Board of Trustees of BRAC UK.
It was the first time that Sir Abed had been given the opportunity to meet with the most senior politician responsible for the UK’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).
Sir Abed gave an update on the development of Bangladesh, saying he is “proud and optimistic about the future potential of Bangladesh. The war-torn country I came back to and started BRAC in 1972, is now setting benchmark for our neighboring countries in several indicators of the human development index.”
These indicators include Life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production which have all increased significantly. Progress was underpinned by 6 percent plus growth over the last 10 years and reaching to 7.3 percent in 2016/2017, according to official estimates. There has also been a substantial drop in both child and maternal mortality, whilst 97 % children now get enrolled in primary education. Life expectancy has risen to the age of 70 and women now live longer than men having previously had a considerably shorter life expectancy.
He also outlined how BRAC has made significant contributions to Bangladesh’s development by actively partnering with the Government and taking a leadership role in the nation’s socio-economic progress.
Both parties, BRAC and DFID, commended the achievements of the Strategic Partnership Arrangement (SPA) between DFID, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and BRAC. The International Development Committee, the UK body responsible for overseeing DFID on behalf of UK Parliament, referred to BRAC extremely favourably in its report into UK Development work in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The report stated that “whatever BRAC is doing, or not doing, in the background to reach and surpass its objectives, while seeming to steer clear of political interference and the other challenges we have identified above, DFID should take note of and put in place a process to capture, and consider, the lessons that can be learned.”
Sir Abed praised the long-term nature of the partnership and how the Strategic Partnership Arrangement has facilitated an innovation culture in BRAC and enabled the launch of several new sustainable interventions resulting in positive outcomes for development in Bangladesh. Examples of this include the Skills Development Programme, Urban Development Programme and the Social Innovation Lab.
Lewis Temple also outlined how the SPA has achieved remarkable scale. During the first phase of the agreement (2011 to 2015), BRAC was responsible for 17% of DFID’s global food security results, 15% of DFID’s global sanitation results and 13% of the global total of children attending primary school education. All this was achieved with an allocation of approximately 0.5% of the UK’s Global Overseas Development Assistance budget (this statistic is from 2013/14 which was the largest single disbursement in the SPA first phase). That is outstanding value for money for the UK taxpayer.
Looking ahead, both DFID and BRAC discussed the need to explore how to leverage the Strategic Partnership Arrangement success story, to capture the learning and continue the large scale socio-economic transformation in Bangladesh beyond 2021.