Fazle Hasan Abed

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Fazle Hasan Abed
Fazle Hasan Abed.jpg
Native name ফজলে হাসান আবেদ
Born (1936-04-27) 27 April 1936 (age 79)
Baniachong, British India
(now Habiganj, Bangladesh)
Residence Bangladesh
Nationality Bangladeshi
Ethnicity Bengali
Citizenship Bangladeshi/British
Education Naval Architecture
Alma mater Dhaka College
University of Glasgow
Occupation Social worker
Known for Founder and chairman of BRAC
Parent(s) Siddiq Hasan (father)
Syeda Sufya Khatun (mother)
Awards World Food Prize (2015)

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG (born 27 April 1936) is a Bangladeshi social worker, the founder and chairman of BRAC, the world's largest non-governmental organization with over 120,000 employees. For his contributions to social improvement, he has received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the UNDP Mahbub Ul Haq Award, the inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award and the inaugural WISE Prize for Education. In 2015, he received World Food Prize for his “unparalleled” work on reducing poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries. [1]

He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in the 2010 New Year Honours for services in tackling poverty and empowering the poor in Bangladesh and globally.[2] In 2014, Abed was ranked 32 in the list of The World's 50 Greatest Leaders prepared by Fortune.[3] He was also recently featured in the Creating Emerging Markets project at the Harvard Business School, which includes interviews with long-time leaders of firms and NGOs in Latin America, South Asia, Turkey and Africa.[4]

Early life[edit]

Abed was born into the esteemed Hasan family in Baniachong, British India (now Habiganj, Sylhet, Bangladesh). He passed the matriculation exam from Pabna Zilla School and went on to complete his higher secondary education from Dhaka College.

In 1954, he left home at the age of 18 to attend University of Glasgow, where, in an effort to break away from tradition and do something radically different, he studied naval architecture. He realized there was little work in ship building in East Pakistan and a career in Naval Architecture would make returning home difficult. With that in mind, Abed joined the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in London, completing his professional education in 1962.

Abed returned to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to join Shell Oil Company and quickly rose to head its finance division. His time at Shell exposed Abed to the inner workings of a large conglomerate and provided him with insight into corporate management, which would become invaluable to him later in life.

It was during his time at Shell that the devastating cyclone of 1970 hit the south and south-eastern coastal regions of the country, killing 300,000 people. The cyclone had a profound effect on Abed. In the face of such devastation, he said the comforts and perks of a corporate executive's life ceased to have any attraction for him. Together with friends, Abed created HELP, an organisation that provided relief and rehabilitation to the worst affected in the island of Manpura, which had lost three-quarters of its population in the disaster.

Soon after, Bangladesh's own struggle for independence from Pakistan began and circumstances forced Abed to leave the country. He found refuge in the United Kingdom, where he set up Action Bangladesh to lobby the governments of Europe for his country's independence.

Formation of BRAC[edit]

When the war ended in December 1971, Abed sold his flat in London and returned to the newly independent Bangladesh to find his country in ruins. In addition, hundreds of refugees who had sought shelter in India during the war had started to return home. Their relief and rehabilitation called for urgent efforts, and Abed decided to use the funds he had generated from selling his flat to initiate his own such organisation to deal with the long-term task of improving the living conditions of the rural poor. He selected the remote region of Sulla in northeastern Bangladesh to start his work, and this work led to the non-governmental organisation known as BRAC in 1972.[5]

Although the name "BRAC" currently does not represent an acronym, the organisation was formerly known the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and then as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. In a span of only three decades, BRAC has grown to become the largest development organisation in the world in terms of the scale and diversity of its interventions. As BRAC grew, Abed ensured that it continued to target the landless poor, particularly women, a large percentage of whom live below the poverty line with little or no access to resources or conventional development efforts.

BRAC now operates in more than 69,000 villages of Bangladesh and covers an estimated 110 million people through its development interventions that range from primary education, essential healthcare, agricultural support and human rights and legal services to microfinance and enterprise development. It is now considered the largest non-profit in the world – both by employees and people served.

In 2002, BRAC went international by taking its range of development interventions to Afghanistan. Since then, BRAC has expanded to a total of 10 countries across Asia and Africa, successfully adapting its unique integrated development model across varying geographic and socioeconomic contexts and covering an additional 16 million people.

Professional positions[edit]

Abed has held the following positions:[6]

  • 2013 – present – Chairman, board of directors, BRAC Bank Limited.
  • 2012–present – Member, UN Secretary General's Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement
  • 2010–2011 – UN Secretary General's Group of Eminent Persons for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
  • 2005–present – Commissioner, UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (CLEP)
  • 2002–08 – Global Chairperson, International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions (INAFI) International.
  • 2001–08 – Chairman, board of directors, BRAC Bank Limited.
  • 2001–present – Chairperson, Board of Trustees, BRAC University.
  • 2000–present – Chairman, Governing Body, BRAC.
  • 2000–2005 – Chair, Finance & Audit Committee, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, Philippines.
  • 1999–2005 – Member, Board of Governors, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, Philippines.
  • 1998–2005 – Member, Policy Advisory Group, The Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP), The World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • 1994–present – Member, Board of Trustees, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka
  • 1993–2011 – Chairperson, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights organisation
  • 1992–2009 – Chairman, NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply & Sanitation
  • 1990–2009 – Chairman, 'Campaign for Popular Education' (CAMPE), an NGO network on education.
  • 1981–82 Visiting Scholar, Harvard Institute of International Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • 1982–86 Senior Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
  • 1982–86 Member, Board of Trustees, BIDS.
  • 1982–86 chairman, Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB).
  • 1986–91 Member, World Bank NGO Committee, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 1987–90 chairman, South Asia Partnership.
  • 1987–90 Member, International Commission on Health Research for Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1992–93 Member, Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation
  • 1998–2004 Member, Board of Governors, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex University, UK


  • The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, 1980
  • The Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award, 1990
  • The Maurice Pate Award by UNICEF, 1992
  • The Olof Palme Prize, 2001
  • The Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Schwab Foundation, 2002
  • The International Activist Award by the Gleitsman Foundation, 2003
  • The UNDP Mahbub ul Haq Award, 2004
  • The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership, 2007
  • The inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award, 2007
  • Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation (PKSF) Lifetime Achievement in Social Development and Poverty Alleviation, 2007
  • The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, 2008
  • Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG), 2010
  • The WISE Prize for Education, 2011
  • Open Society Prize, 2013
  • Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal by The Russian Children Foundation (RDF), 2014 [7]
  • World Food Prize, 2015 [1]

Honorary degrees[edit]

See also[edit]