The term 'NGO' encompasses a broad array of organizations, varying in their specific purpose, philosophy, sect oral expertise and scope of activities. In two important ways the NGOs in Bangladesh stand out from the traditional private voluntary organizations (PVOs). First, NGOs engage in activities, which had traditionally been in the domain of the government agencies, and it is the failure of the latter, which prompted donors to route funds through these organisations.1 Second, NGOs are largely participatory in their approach - at least, during the early phase of their development, which enables them to deliver the services to targeted groups of population better than the hierarchically structured government agencies. Normally, NGOs are required to register with the department of social welfare, for the purpose of claiming to be a non-profit organization. Beside some, NGOs have sought registration with the directorate of women's affairs, and yet others have registered as a cooperative society. In some exceptional cases, an NGO may register itself with the registrar of joint stock companies as a not- for-profit organization. Since the formation of the NGO Affairs Bureau (NAB) in 1990, the NGOs have to register with the bureau in order to avail of foreign funds.


the shares of money. Some also engage in providing social services . the NGOs were providing services in social sectors. training and skill development and awareness building. In spite of their induced interest in credit delivery. emerged during the late 1980s and early 1990s. culminating into the formation of Swanirvar Bangladesh. The formation of the Palli Karma Shahyak Foundation (PKSF) in It is estimated that the NGO sector disbursed around taka 23. their commonality is derived from the network of groups. Most NGOs also engage in providing financial services.8 The two together far surpassed the public sector agricultural credit of taka 16. while the NGOs may differ in their early engagements. Pilot experiments into the provision of micro credit to small groups were made only towards the end of the 1970s. as provider of wage employment. education. or.11 billion during 1998. During the early years. have exclusive focus on microcredit. which are also included in the domain of NGOs. With the success of the Grameen Bank. though many of the first generation NGOs continued to engage in the delivery of social services. business advances and other interest-bearing informal lending have increased due to the increased commercialization of rural economies. and all such organizations are commonly included under the umbrella of NGOs.Chapter-1 Background of NGOs Emergence or Intervention in Bangladesh: During most of the 1970s. family planning. which acts as credit whole seller to the MFIs. drastically changed the NGO activity space. education. who are alleged to have charged exorbitant interest rates and often tied lending to land grabbing. Most NGOs engage in group-formation and provide financial services to group members.43 billion during FY 1998 and an additional micro. health and sanitation. Broadly speaking.89 billion during the fiscal year 1997-98. There are others who may also engage as economic agents. e g. The currently observed mix of activities has a long history.lenders. of primarily women members. disbursement of taka 1. the 1980s experienced a gradual acceptance of micro credit activities by NGOs. New institutions. often with indigenous effort.46 billion through various government agencies. many of the newly emerging micro-finance institutions (MFIs). The operations of PKSF also encouraged many new MFIsto surface within smaller geographical territories. and the Grameen Bank (GB) disbursed another taka 19. 2 . which underlie most NGO activities. There were also some local movements for self. through providing marketing support to the beneficiaries. and the NGO sector in Bangladesh has been an ever-changing sector. water and sanitation. microcredit was perceived as replacing the moneylenders. The Bangladesh experience however shows that while interest rates on informal lending may have such as.

Ministry of Commerce  For any “literary. etc. education. The law sets out ways in which an organization should be set up.1 The Societies Registration Act. project approval and utilization of foreign funds by NGOs.” including literature. fine arts. are discussed briefly: 2. The legal framework has two major dimensions: one is laws for incorporation and providing legal entity to NGOs. 2. museums.  Environment. and maintains control of its accounts. managed. that is the real sources of NGO functioning. The Societies Registration Act. Cooperative Societies Act 1925. and Companies Act of 1913 (amended in 1994). In short. libraries.g. science. Trust Act 1882. and another is laws governing the relationship of NGOs with the Government. Societies Registration Act 1861. is characterized by a political and institutional environment that has the potential to foster an effective and smooth development process by NGOs who are politically and socially accepted as necessary partners. progressive concept of “charitable”  No provision made for social or sporting clubs. human rights. prior review. etc. Specially. The laws and ordinances under which NGOs are required to register with Government agencies have substantial implications on the GovernmentNGO relationship. 1861 is:  Registrar of Joint Stock Companies.0 LEGAL AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK OF NGOS IN BANGLADESH: The following laws provide a framework for a voluntary organization to exist under a legal identity with a recognized governance structure. 1861: This law was introduced by the administrators of the Indian Empire. a range of statutory and administrative regulations exists in Bangladesh for registration. self-help groups. contemplative societies. The Act is still valid in Bangladesh.Chapter-2 Different Laws and Ordinance Applicable for NGOs operations in Bangladesh: Bangladesh. The NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) was established in 1990 with the authority to register and regulate all NGOs operating with foreign funds in Bangladesh. Some of the oldest NGOs in Bangladesh reregistered under this Act by the Registrar of Societies within the Ministry of Commerce. A number of laws exist under which NGOs can secure a legal identity with a recognized Government structure e. and historic preservation qualify only under a modern. or charitable purpose. as a country.0. 3 . although many NGOs report that the Registrar has discontinued registering of NGOs under it.

g. In short. The Trust Act 1882 is:       Trust can be “for any lawful purpose.0. charity. This Act also remains valid in Bangladesh and is occasionally used by development NGOs. 1925: This law was created specifically for this specialized form of commercial entity.4 The Companies Act of 1913 (amended in 1994): This legislation was enacted to make a legal form and status available to private trading companies. It is not used by development NGOs although some voluntary associations consider their operations as falling within this category. There are clear directives for annual reports and annual accounts to be produced..” S/he is personally liable for breach of trust  Some NGOs are formed as trusts (e. religion. 2.0. PRIP Trust)  No special provisions for charitable trusts 2. A society is not a true legal person. In short. It allowed for the creation of an organization where a person or persons had some property that they wanted to entrust to a second party to be used on behalf of a third party. This Act provides a very strong legal identity. but judgments lie only against property of society  7 or more individuals or legal persons  Most NGOs are formed under this Act 2. it must sue or be sued in name of officers. The registration authority is the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies under the Ministry of Commerce.” private or public Can be created by any person competent to form a contract. science. nonprofit companies (sections 26& 27). No government registration required Trustee is legal owner of property Trust is not a legal person Trustee must deal with the trust property “as carefully as a man of ordinary prudence would if it were his own. or any other useful object”  7 or more persons.3 Cooperative Societies Act.2 The Trust Act 1882: This law was created to accommodate private trusts without disturbing or modifying the already existing Muslim and Hindu laws for religious trusts.0. or 2 or more if a private company  Registrar of Joint Stock Companies. Ministry of Companies  Full legal personality plus limited liability  Increasingly popular for NGOs and other not-for-profits 4 . Companies Act of 1913 (amended 1994)  Permits joint stock companies. art. companies limited by guaranty. and unlimited companies  Nonprofit company must be “formed for promoting commerce.

5 Other laws concerned with legal and regulatory framework of NGOs:  Waqf Ordinance of 1962  Hindu Religious Welfare Trust Ordinance of 1983  Christian Religious Welfare Trust Ordinance of 1983  Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust Ordinance of 1983 5 .0.2.

culture. the aged or infirm. juvenile delinquents. On contrary. released prisoners. the governing body of an NGO cannot dissolve the NGO without the approval of the DSW. or available for. art. apparently also supported by foreign donors. cultural. physically or mentally handicapped.  Not applicable to. etc. a sizable number of political parties were reported to have received foreign funding. Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance of 1978 (amended 1982) (known as FDR):  “Voluntary activity” means agricultural. science. A large number of NGOs are registered under this ordinance. 1961: This ordinance was promulgated by Pakistan’s martial law regime to control the rapid growth of voluntary associations through mandatory registration. youth. relief. including those which receive foreign funds.Chapter-3 Legal and Regulatory Institutions for NGOs Intervention in Bangladesh: The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Regulation and Control) (VSW) Ordinance. beggars and the destitute. civic responsibility. In short. missionary. vocational. recreation. The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control Ordinance). environment.  Administered by Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Human Development  Broad discretion and control  Right to suspend or dissolve  judicial appeal stated permitted under the Act  Most NGOs are registered under this Ordinance. It is applicable to all NGOs. family. patients. socially handicapped. social work. or co-ordination of social welfare agencies. During the same period a large number of voluntary organizations emerged to offer relief and reconstruction assistance. development. The Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation (FDR) Ordinance 1978 (amended in 1982): During the period of following Bangladesh’s independence. The 1961 Ordinance allows the Government to interfere with the governance structure of the NGO in the following two ways. The martial law Government of the time passed this Ordinance possibly to control the flow of foreign funds to the voluntary organizations. 1961 (SWO):  Mandatory registration for any formal or informal organization formed to render welfare services for children. and any other activity specified by the Government 6 . In short. educational. women. The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) as the registering body is authorized to suspend the governing body of an NGO without any right of appeal. social welfare. family planning.

The rules pertaining to this ordinance required NGOs to seek prior government approval each time they received a foreign contribution.” NGOAB can inspect or. is the basis for the registration. Forbids any voluntary activity using foreign donations unless the organization is registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB). grant assistance. amended in 1982. All sources refer to NGOAB as being set up to be a “one-stop shop” for NGOs seeking and administering foreign funds. This ordinance redefined the meaning of foreign contributions as “any donation. And NGOs engaged 7 . Regulatory Agencies related with Legal and Regulatory framework of NGOs in Bangladesh: The Non-Government Affairs Bureau (NGOAB): The Non-Government Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) was established in 1990 with the authority to register and regulate all NGOs that seek or receive foreign funds. of course. The 1978 Ordinance. which required multiple levels of government review. acting under the Code of Criminal Procedure. NGOAB can cancel registration of an organization or stop any activities for a failure to submit required declarations. NGOAB was set up in the Prime Minister’s Office in 1990. willful submission of false declarations. All NGOs seeking to be legal entities would also have to establish themselves under the Societies Act or the Companies Act. whether in cash or in kind. The Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance 1982: The FDR Ordinance 1978 was amended by the military government in 1982 to become the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance. seize accounts and other documents  After providing a reasonable opportunity to be heard. or any other contravention of the Ordinance  Anyone who receives or uses a foreign donation in contravention of the Ordinance or any rules there under is liable for a fine of double the amount of the donation or imprisonment for up to three years. including a ticket for a journey abroad” and imposed greater restrictions on NGOs. The Government assigned NGOAB all responsibilities under the FDR and the FCR. never the only “stop” an NGO would need to make on its way to carrying out its activities in Bangladesh. Role of NGOAB: This agency was established in 1990 to oversee the FDR and FCR Ordinances. the rationale for setting up NGOAB was the “huge backlog of projects pending Government approval” under the then-existing system. According to the World Bank’s 1996 study. which is established within the Prime Minister’s Office  Each foreign grant must be approved and monitored by the NGOAB  Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance of 1982 (known as FCR)  Amendment to 1977 law to expand scope to cover every kind of contribution from abroad The following penalties are provided for in this legislation:  For a “reason to be recorded in writing. but it was.

NGOs must submit annual audits done by auditors who are approved by NGOAB. The DSW also works with NGOs to develop their constitutions. give the applicant both oral and written guidelines. For each grant. including rent-seeking by DSW officials. the securities. All registered NGOs must file annual reports and audited accounts at the end of every year. Its functions include the following:        NGO registration. 8 . who are the best-informed people with respect to the process. Department of Women and children Affairs: In addition to the NGOAB and the Department of Social Welfare. especially those affecting women. Monitoring and evaluating NGO projects. and All other matters relating to NGOs receiving foreign funds. the inspector and the field officer of DSW process the application and inspect the NGO’s offices. Approval of expatriate consultants. it must submit a 5-year plan along with its application. When an applicant applies for registration to the DSW for registration. which reports to NGOAB. NGOAB became a focus of oversight for many NGOs because many of them were at the time largely supported by foreign funds. To register with NGOAB. Nevertheless. Approval of project proposals and releasing funds for them. cash and other properties held by the agency and all related documents. On the basis of their report and site inspection. the DSW says that it works with the NGO to correct and or amend its application. If there is some problem or objection to registration or in the application form. If the application form meets the guidelines. The DSW was the power to inspect the books of accounts and other records of the agency. the Department of Women and Children Affairs takes an active interest in NGO activities in Bangladesh. an NGO must be approved by Home Ministry and at least one line ministry. The department maintains a register of NGOs and provides assistance in coordination and providing resources and skills. an NGO must submit project proposal and letter of intent from donor. It also channels Bank project funds to NGOs for operating micro-credit to the rural poor. Department of Social Welfare (DSW): The principal work of the Directorate of this Department is to register and to deal with those NGOs whose purpose in to render welfare service in the fields listed above. the decision on registration is taken. Receiving information on foreign travel by NGO personnel. departmental clerks. All foreign funds must go through specific bank account. the activities defined by the Social Welfare Ordinance would still have to register with the Social Welfare Department. the bank in which the NGO has its account must provide full reports to central bank. Scrutiny and evaluation of statements and reports on projects. though there is no indication that any formal recommendations are made with respect to internal governance standards. the DSW also dispenses public funds under a program of government assistance to social welfare NGOs. NGOs cite frequent delays and problems with registration. NGOs and others report that the DSW has only infrequently conducted audits of registered NGOs and that it does not have adequate capacity to do its work properly.

initially providing relief services and rehabilitation assistance to war. They are also needed to be updated to reflect the development activities of contemporary NGOs. etc). among others. complementing the national development systems and involving various organizations and institutions (1976-to date). Changing of laws and regulations:  All existing laws and regulations are needed to be harmonized to remove inconsistencies. Third generation: also known as "sustainable systems development" where the NGOs extend the breadth of their programs.. agrarian reform. the non-government organizations (NGOs) started shortly after the 1971 war of liberation. and. Fourth generation: which entirely depends on the development phase of NGOs in realizing their vision of society characterized by strong People’s Movements? Over the past two decades. Both large and small NGOs need to be consulted on areas needing revisions during the process of harmonization. cooperatives. Despite the government's ambivalent attitude towards NGOs.Chapter. these NGOs have served as catalysts. irrigation. Dr.ravaged victims. 9 . since 1971. agrarian reform. credit assistance. The government should set up a legal taskforce. David Korten analyzes the evolution of the NGO sector in Bangladesh within the framework of the Four Generations of NGOs. Second generation: developmental efforts of NGOs are aimed towards community development (1973-75) with a number of sectoral activities (e. agriculture. health. Through their various development programs and projects such as health. there is still "windows of opportunity" for building meaningful dialogue and mutual collaboration between the government and the NGOs in the promotion of sustainable agriculture and rural development. the NGOs have made significant progress and contributions to a country which is still struggling to survive and to rise as a truly independent nation. for this purpose. These NGOs then shifted their development programs and strategies towards community development. to wit:     First generation: NGOs put emphasis on relief and rehabilitation work (1971-72).4 Evolution and Department of Legal Frame for NGOs in Bangladesh: The Evolution of NGOs in Bangladesh: Historically. including representatives of ADAB. giving special preference to the poor and to the powerless segments of Bangladeshi society. ensuring sustainability through undertaking largescale programs.g. making their development interventions strongly felt in the urban and rural areas.

The Home Ministry should be required to state clearly and publicly the grounds for refusing clearance or imposing sanctions. confusing.  By submitting the supervisory report to social welfare department after registration to prevent cheating. 10 . etc. the taxability of income-generating activities needs clarification. the current regulatory system seems improperly focused.  By introducing code of conduct and the system of legal action should be taken through independent court and Apex body. On the other hand. This needs to be remedied by adopting rules that clearly forbid public benefit NGOs (PBOs) from engaging in partisan political activities.  By making a networking body of the NGO’s  By stopping the influence of politics  Role of NGO’s should be supportive.  As a part of the legal and fiscal reform efforts. While income tax exemption is available. such as voter registration. A clearer definition of circumstances in which the government has the authority to intervene in the internal affairs of an NGO should be put in the place. National plan. With the apparent shift toward more domestic funding for Bangladeshi NGOs. if necessary initiatives are taken by the government and legal and regulatory framework of NGOs will be more strengthen. are discussed below:  By stopping the tradition of advice and opinion about the activities of NGOs  By enacting rules and regulations by the leading representative of the NGO’s (ADAB.  The current legal framework for NGOs in Bangladesh is outdated. and in need of complete revision.  Functioning of NGOs could be more flexible and smooth.  The fiscal framework for NGOs in Bangladesh is not supportive enough of the sector. Not only does it tend to focus attention and money on issues that are relatively unimportant – the foreign funding of a few NGOs by legitimate multilaterals and bilateral donors – it also does not impose high enough standards of accountability and transparency on the vast majority of NGOs that receive no foreign funds but that do affect the public interest.  Activities should be implemented per Govt. there are virtually no provisions for deduction of corporate or individual contributions to NGOs. and the affected NGO should be allowed a proper hearing as well as the right of appeal.  The public representative of Govt. issue advocacy. FNB) and Govt. should be elected from experienced person of NGO’s  Every NGO has self regulating body who will monitor the activities of NGO’s regularity  By introducing one stop service system. This is inconsistent with good international practice. and the law should then be consistently applied to all NGOs. In addition. the rules on political activities should also clearly permit PBOs to engage in a wide range of democratic development activities. Change some laws and regulation effecting NGO and to make the way of function more smooth and flexible: The funds of NGO’s and all contribution of NGO’s should be exempted from tax. the information technology (IT) capacity of government agencies charged with NGO oversight (including the proposed PBO Commission) should be strengthened and modernized.  There are currently no provisions in law clearly dealing with the issue of political activities by NGOs. controlling mechanics of monitoring should be reviewed so that NGO’s can work with their own value and identity. The legal framework should stipulate the right of legal appeal by NGOs against sanctions imposed by the government.

such as Social Welfare Society. consultation Council) should be activated as a legal Entity and NGOAB should be abolished.S.. The registration fees should be less. The District administration can complain about the NGOs involvement in malpractice as per law of the Land. The rules and regulation of NGO. The registration process of NGO should be more relaxed and it must be free from political influence. K. The ending the prior permission to implement the project. instead of different authorities. It should be 21 days instead of 45 days. S. and media should be increased.K. NGO’s participation in policy development should be changed. By stopping the tradition of renew of the registration of NGOs. and MFI should be unique. The condition of giving loan by P. Mohila/Women Department etc.F. should give 01 year salary for the field worker of small NGO. Yubo Unnayan Department.                 By stopping the excess controlling power and supervision of the administration. NGO. should be more relaxed and P. There should some rules for the accountability and transparency of the NGO’s. through NGOs and if there is happened any corruption in that case it can be implemented through the NGOs directly and not by the Govt. The rules and regulations should be enacted with the consultation of NGOs and give priority to the opinions of the NGOs. NGOs can inform the Govt. GNCC (Govt. The time for receive money from the NGOAB after submitting the commitment paper of the Donor should be less lengthy. The authority for registration and oversight should be one. 11 . F. NGOs should submit the financial and activity report to the Local administration and to the NGOAB. The coordination between NGO’s Govt. PVDO. Fund/project of Donors which has implemented by Govt. about the plan of actions. CBO. The investigation proceeding of NSI & DSB before registration should be stopped. PBO.

by reducing bureaucracy. While women's independence and empowerment programmes are against the beliefs of many strict Muslims." Nearly 90% of the laws in Bangladesh are secular. This would be an unethical as well as undesirable result.Recommendation: The following recommendations would improve the existing legal status of NGOs in Bangladesh. An application for the appointment of expatriates or extension of tenure should be decided within twenty-five days. Some of the Foreign Donation (FD) forms and procedures followed by the NAB are complex and cumbersome. Because the state has the authority to cancel the registration of any NGO or stop its activities and inform the donor. in any event are not thoroughly scrutinized. renewal procedures should be simplified. in any case of serious allegations. "gender development" is now a leading concern of western donors. Approximately 87% of the population is Muslim (BBS. once a NGO is registered. Therefore. So. Improving the Law: According to a Circular "'No such project would be approved if it offends the feelings of the people of any religion. 12 . With regard to registration. there are legal problems in Bangladesh arising from unresolved conflicts in the law. 1998) and Islam is the state religion in Bangladesh. removing legal contradictions and making NGOs more accountable. which. Improving NGO Efficiency: It takes more than two months to prepare renewal papers for an NGO registration. The application forms and procedures should be simplified through discussion between the GOB and NGOs. the Home Ministry should grant approval or disapproval within sixty days of receiving the application from the NAB. a specific political party could firmly resist women's development and NGOs would have to end women's development programmes. has adverse effects on the culture and values of the country or if the project is based on a political programme. The NAB should send reminders to the National Security Intelligence (NSI).

Thus. NGOs play a pivotal and pragmatic role when the state does not reach the poor and meet their needs. state and donors in Bangladesh. alleviation of poverty of the masses should be at the top of the agenda of the NGOs. the NGOs trespassed into many other territories. The NGOs have engaged in several areas and in most of these areas. giving priority to economic efficiency. yet. a new form of partnership between the old agents (both government agencies and private sector) and the NGOs may be envisaged. there are other actors in the field with whom performances of the NGOs may be compared. which may enhance the scope of NGO contribution to the economic and social development of Bangladesh. The expansion path has not always been devoid of sins. and yet continues to subsidise programmes with social objectives. NGOs have brought little change in levels of poverty. the pressures of donors and the domestic government. which continues to table new challenges for the intellect as well as for the polity in the country. So. policies are important instruments. It is also true that the dynamics within the NGOs. all shape the scope and character of NGO activities in Bangladesh. Even the largest NGOs in Bangladesh when taken together cover only a fraction of the population. NGOs in Bangladesh constitute a dynamic entity. Despite their numbers. the internal incentives. the society may gain by providing a larger space to the NGOs substituting for the old agents. 17 Our analysis takes into cognisance the possibility of a 'non-for-profit' Organisation transcending into one which undertakes commercial ventures. 13 . As a body of institutional arrangements. the society has come to terms with their existence.Conclusion: In Bangladesh. while in others.perhaps only 10-20 percent of landless households. Eventually however the institutional dynamics and compulsions arising out of a participatory approach to grass roots development. In some such activities. it surfaced as a result of failures in government delivery of certain social services. This highlights the NGO need for reaching more poor and provision of services given the limitations of the state and the laws.

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