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Fazle Hasan Abed

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Fazle Hasan Abed
ফজলে হাসান আবেদ
Abed receiving the Thomas Francis Jr Medal from the University of Michigan (April 2016)
Born(1936-04-27)27 April 1936
Died20 December 2019(2019-12-20) (aged 83)[1]
EducationNaval Architecture
Alma materDhaka College
University of Glasgow
Known forFounder of BRAC
SpouseLady Syeda Sarwat Abed
ChildrenShameran Abed
Tamara Hasan Abed

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG (Bengali: ফজলে হাসান আবেদ; Syloti : ꠚꠎꠟꠦ ꠢꠣꠡꠣꠘ ꠀꠛꠦꠖ) 27 April 1936 – 20 December 2019) was the founder of BRAC, one of the world's largest non-governmental organizations.

Early life[edit]

Abed was born on 27 April 1936 in the village of Baniachong, located in what is present-day Habiganj District, Sylhet, Bangladesh. He belonged to a Bengali Muslim family of zamindars, known as the Hasan family, and was one of eight children of Siddiq Hasan and Syeda Sufia Khatun. Abed's maternal grandfather, Syed Moazzem Uddin Hossain, had served successively as ministers for agriculture and education for Bengal during the last years of British rule. His paternal great-uncle was Sir Syed Shamsul Huda, a member of the Imperial Legislative Council.[2][3][4]

After passing intermediate from Dhaka College, Bangladesh, in 1954, Abed left home at the age of 18 to attend University of Glasgow, UK where, to break away from tradition and do something radically different, he studied naval architecture. He realized there was little work in shipbuilding in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) 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 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 providing him with insight into corporate management, which would become invaluable to him later in life.

Fazle Hasan Abed in the mid-2000s

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 attract him. 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 Bangladesh Liberation War ended in December 1971, Abed sold his flat in London and returned to the newly independent Bangladesh. Hundreds of refugees who had sought shelter in India during the war had started to return home, and their relief and rehabilitation called for urgent efforts. Abed decided to use the funds he had generated from selling his flat to initiate an 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]

BRAC grew to become one of the largest development organisations in the world in terms of the scale and diversity of its interventions. The organization now operates in all 64 Bangladesh districts through development interventions ranging from education, healthcare, microfinance, skills, human rights, agriculture and enterprise development. In 2002, BRAC went international by taking its range of development interventions to Afghanistan. Since then, BRAC has expanded to 10 countries across Asia and Africa, successfully adapting its unique integrated development model across varying geographic and socioeconomic contexts. It is now considered the world's largest non-profit organization – both by employees and people served.

Professional positions[edit]

Abed held the following positions:[6]

  • 1972–2001 – Executive Director, BRAC
  • 1981–1982 – Visiting Scholar, Harvard Institute of International Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • 1982–1986 – Senior Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
  • 1982–1986 – Member, Board of Trustees, BIDS.
  • 1982–1986 – Chairperson, Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB).
  • 1986–1991 – Member, World Bank NGO Committee, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 1987–1990 – Chairperson, South Asia Partnership.
  • 1987–1990 – Member, International Commission on Health Research for Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1990–2009 – Chairperson, 'Campaign for Popular Education' (CAMPE), an NGO network on education.
  • 1992–1993 – Member, Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation
  • 1992–2009 – Chairperson, NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply & Sanitation
  • 1993–2011 – Chairperson, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights organisation
  • 1994–2019 – Member, Board of Trustees, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka
  • 1998–2004 – Member, Board of Governors, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex University, UK
  • 1998–2005 – Member, Policy Advisory Group, The Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP), The World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • 1999–2005 – Member, Board of Governors, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, Philippines.
  • 2000–2005 – Chair, Finance & Audit Committee, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Banos, Philippines.
  • 2000–2019 – Chairperson, Governing Body, BRAC.
  • 2001–2008 – Chairperson, Board of Directors, BRAC Bank Limited.
  • 2001–2019 – Chairperson, Board of Trustees, BRAC University.
  • 2002–2008 – Global Chairperson, International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions (INAFI) International.
  • 2005–2019 – Commissioner, UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (CLEP)
  • 2010–2011 – UN Secretary General's Group of Eminent Persons for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
  • 2012–2019 – Member, UN Secretary General's Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement
  • 2015–2015 – Chairperson, Board of Directors, BRAC Saajan Exchange Limited
  • 2015–2019 – Chairperson, Advisory Board, Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements.[7]


Honorary degrees[edit]


He was admitted to the hospital in late November 2019 on account of breathing problems and physical weakness. He died at the Apollo Hospital (now Evercare Hospital Dhaka) in the capital on Friday, 20 December 2019. He was undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor.[16] At the time of his death, he was 83 years old. He is survived by a wife, a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.[17][2]


  1. ^ "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed passes away". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b McVeigh, Karen (7 January 2020). "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed: A biographical sketch". Prothom Alo. 21 December 2019. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
  4. ^ Smillie, Ian (2009). Freedom from Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That's Winning the Fight Against Poverty. Sterling, Virginia: Kumarian Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-56549-294-3.
  5. ^ Fazle Hasan Abed Archived 11 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine. pbs.org
  6. ^ ":: People at BRAC – Founder and Chairperson ::". BRAC. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 8 June 2006.
  7. ^ "Fazle Hasan Abed (1936-2019)". Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Press Release: President Clinton Honors Four Extraordinary Individuals at Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Awards". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed honoured with Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal". BRAC. 2 June 2014. Archived from the original on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Brac's Sir Fazle Hasan Abed wins 2015 World Food prize for reducing poverty". The Guardian. 2 July 2015. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  11. ^ "President to award global health medal April 6 to BRAC founder". Archived from the original on 2 July 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Jose Edgardo Campos Collaborative Leadership Award 2016 (South Asian Region)". Archived from the original on 31 October 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Laudato Si' Award (Institution Category)". Archived from the original on 31 October 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  14. ^ "LEGO Prize". Archived from the original on 8 October 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Sir Fazle awarded Yidan Prize". The Daily Star. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  16. ^ "A Light Has Gone Out". The Daily Star. 20 December 2019. Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Brac founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed passes away". Dhaka Tribune. Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 21 December 2019.