Introduction of the organisation

BRAC, the largest NGO in the world at present, was established in 1972. With the vision of creating a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed laid the foundation of BRAC. It was declared the number one NGO in the world for the fifth consecutive year in 2020 by NGO Advisor. Over the decades since it was founded, BRAC worked to make a positive impact in the poorest Asian and African countries in the world, reaching more than 138 million people. BRAC is currently operating in 11 countries in the world.

Programmatic interventions

With active operations stretched all over Bangladesh, BRAC is uniquely positioned to make significant contributions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh. This characteristic of BRAC also enabled it to make remarkable contributions in achieving Millennium Development Goals during the MDG period (2000-2015). From the beginning of the MDG period, BRAC invested in a range of programmes with an aim of achieving these goals for the people of Bangladesh. BRAC provides people with an enabling environment to have the opportunity to take control of their lives and livelihoods. BRAC aims to equip people with the necessary tools to do so, by working in the areas such as community-based healthcare, micro loans, savings accounts, education for children, legal and human rights empowerment, social justice interventions, enterprises etc.

Being one of the success stories of MDGs, Bangladesh achieved remarkable progress in terms of increasing access to education, successful family planning, and a steady reduction in infant and maternal mortality. BRAC continues to be one of the major non-government forces working behind this progress. BRAC is well-positioned as its own strategic objectives fit well in the national and global context and agenda. BRAC’s Strategy 2016-2020 has identified strategic areas to have a focus along with a cross sectoral approach closely aligned with the SDGs and priorities of the 7th five-year plan of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB).

BRAC’s Contribution to SDGs:

BRAC interventions are associated with 72 indicators in 55 targets across 11 of the 17 SDGs. The five-year strategic plan launched in 2016 has aligned these interventions to SDG goals. Thirteen of BRAC’s development programmes and 3 social enterprises will directly contribute to these 11 SDGs. Over the span of five years (2016-2020), BRAC will be spending an estimated amount of around BDT 324,442.77 million ($3.862 billion) on addressing the SDGs.

The 11 SDGs on which BRAC will have direct impact are SDGs 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,10,11,13, and 16. The sixteen development programmes and social enterprises of BRAC contributing to these SDGs are:

Development Programmes:

  • Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG)
  • Integrated Development Programme (IDP)
  • Community Empowerment Programme (CEP)
  • Microfinance
  • Disaster Management and Climate Change Programme (DMCC)
  • Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP)
  • Agriculture and Food Security Programme (AFSP)
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
  • BRAC Education Programme (BEP)
  • Skills DevelopmentProgramme (SDP)
  • Gender, Justice, and Diversity Programme (GJD)
  • Migration Programme
  • Human Rights and Legal Services (HRLS)


Social Enterprises:

  • Aarong
  • BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise
  • BRAC Dairy & Food Project


SDG 1: No poverty

Despite significant reduction in the number of poor people, 12.9% of the people of Bangladesh are still living in extreme poverty. In the wetland areas (Haor), 3 out of every 10 people live below the lower poverty line. In the context of SDG1 (no poverty), BRAC’s works are in line with 7 of the 10 core indicators spread over 5 core targets of the goal. BRAC contributes to eradicating poverty through 5 programmes: UPGP, Microfinance, IDP, CEP and BHP. Aarong, the social enterprise is also instrumental in reducing poverty in Bangladesh.

BRAC’s work with the ultra-poor has drawn particular attention both nationally and globally. UPG programme focuses on improving the socioeconomic situation of those living in extreme poverty and struggling to meet minimal dietary requirements. These people in ultra-poverty face difficulties in accessing mainstream anti-poverty programmes. BRAC’s ultra-poor graduation approach blends together elements of livelihoods, social protection, financial inclusion and social integration. Multi-dimensional support addresses immediate needs of participants using grants, interest-free loans and asset transfers, as well as long term investments in life skills and technical skills training, enterprise development, positive behaviour change, savings and financial planning. The Graduation approach has been adopted in 45 countries by NGOs, governments and multilateral institutions, and it has been found that 75%-98% of the participants globally meet the country-specific graduation criteria within 18-36 months. In the year 2017 alone, 43,682households graduated from ultra-poverty in Bangladesh.

The UPG programme in Bangladesh targets to lift 2 million poor above the international poverty line by 2020. In 2017, 43,682 households graduated from ultra-poverty bringing the total number of households BRAC reached to 1.8 million. The number of households that graduated in 2016 was 75,658. The UPG programme aims to increase household’s income by 5% per year. IDP also aims to lift 34,000 ultra-poor households from extreme poverty by 2020 through the Graduation method in the Haor region. IDP graduated 9100 extreme poor in 2016 and another 5000 in 2017. In addition, CEP facilitates services for marginalised people and training for Polli Shomaj/Nari Shakti Dal members on IGA/SME through linkages with GOs and NGOs.

BRAC’s Microfinance Programme has been instrumental in reducing the financial constraints and vulnerabilities associated with poverty. It had a powerful impact on promoting gender equality and empowering women, by supporting women led microenterprises, and providing platforms for women to gather and exchange information about social issues via the village organization. In the strategic plan 2016-2020, it aims for a diversified, and client-centric, risk-reduced package of financial and/or non-financial products/services adopted by 7 million families living in poverty. This is expected to lead these people to their enhanced participation in markets and bring positive changes in their household livelihood security.

The BRAC Humanitarian Programme (BHP), formerly known as Disaster Management and Climate Change (DMCC) Programme, will lead BRAC’s venture to address SDG 13 (climate action). It will also help achieve target 1.5 under SDG 1 which aims to build resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters. BHP provides support to district level governance bodies in selected climate vulnerable districts for planning and taking actions to respond to disasters towards disaster risk reduction. The programme sets a target of having more than 10% vulnerable households (amounting to around 543,000 vulnerable Households), as well as their communities and local governments in selected 14 districts adopt BRAC designed and locally compatible resilience packages  to mitigate and cope with climate change challenges. BRAC designed an integrated approach to address the needs of 83,146 affected HHs from 2016-2018. We adopted the standard operating procedure (SOP) aligned with the national and local government strategies. This is at work in the district level contingency plan and Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy as mentioned in SDG 1.5.3.

SDG 2: Zero hunger

Globally, the South Asian region has the highest rates of stunting and wasting. Despite the progress made by Bangladesh during the MDG period, the prevailing high levels of malnutrition and undernutrition pose significant challenges for the country. BRAC will contribute to SDG 2 (zero hunger) through 5 of its core programmes: Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP), Ultra-Poor Graduation Programme (UPGP), Agriculture and Food Security Programme (AFSP), Integrated Development Programme (IDP), and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (WASH).

HNPP aims to improve dietary practices of the target population which will eventually improve the overall nutrition of the community. It also aims to improve reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child health and nutritional status; reduce vulnerability to communicable diseases; combat non-communicable diseases, and enhance the quality of life. Through a combination of preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative health services, BRAC serves disadvantaged and hard-to-reach populations. The programme seeks to improve access, coverage and quality of health services in communities across the country. The integrated service delivery model utilizes around 1 lac frontline Community Health Workers (CHWs), creating an effective bridge between underserved communities and formal healthcare systems, including BRAC-run health facilities.

Moreover, UPGP gives support to households to increase food and nutrition security with resilient livelihoods and enterprises which directly impacts SDG target 2.1. The AFSP supported establishment of 4,309 nutri-gardens to achieve food security and improved nutritional status of 2 million marginalised people with climate adaptive technologies. IDP set a target of reaching 1.1 million people by 2020 through providing various socio-economic services. IDP’s contribution in SDG 2.3.2 is the accumulation of all its work in all the areas it covers.

SDG 3: Good health and well-being

In the context of SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), BRAC’s works align with 9 of the 21 core indicators, spread over the 7 core targets under this goal. Three of BRAC’s programmes are directly associated with these targets – HNPP, IDP, and WASH – while Aarong, a BRAC social enterprise, also has contributions.

BRAC’s HNPP aims for improved utilisation of maternal health services including safe delivery care at community level and urban slums. The community-based approach employs a wide network of frontline community health workers to ensure that people living in poverty can access quality, affordable health and nutrition services. It incorporates modern tools and technologies for case identification, with the eventual goal of zero TB and malaria by 2030. From 2016 until 2019, 44,746 Malaria cases were diagnosed and treated in climate affected areas, and a total of 504,608 TB cases were diagnosed and enrolled for treatment.

IDP also contributes to a couple of targets under SDG 3 through the health centres, delivery centres and health workers in hard-to-reach areas. WASH’s work in reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination from SDG 6 will have an impact on SDG target 3.9.

SDG 4: Quality education

In alignment with SDG 4 (Quality Education), BRAC’s Education Programme (BEP) has set its strategic plan for 2016-2020. As many as 7 of the 8 core indicators across 8 targets under SDG 4 are directly linked with BRAC’s work. BEP, SDP, and IDP will be implementing BRAC’s agenda for achieving quality education.

BEP’s target is to ensure attendance and graduation of more than 3 million children and adolescents through high quality, pedagogically cutting-edge, climate-sensitive and sustainable learning and development institutes. The target number is aggregated by equal proportion of boys and girls, with at least 3% PWDs, and at least .05% students from ethnic minorities. Moreover, BEP’s methods are designed targeting age-appropriate learnings aligned with ECD, pre-primary, primary and secondary education. The targeted outcome is students developing the ability to think critically and adopt the mindset of pursuing higher education. The programme’s operations will also include supporting men and women in receiving equal access to technical, vocational formal or non-formal education and training. The ADP clubs under this programme provide training to adolescents on ICT (EITA: English and ICT training to Adolescents), while the Gonokendros also provide training on ICT.

IDP’s education segment, which operates through an innovative approach – ‘Boat School’, a mobile education facility, follows the base BEP formula in providing education services in Haor regions to contribute to SDG target 4.1. To lift future generations from the hardship of these hard-to-reach areas, IDP work towards ensuring that 95% of enrolled children successfully completed/graduated from BRAC primary & pre-primary school & demonstrate at least 85% excellent learning. On the other hand, the Skills Development Programme (SDP) provides vocational training for boys, girls, PWDs, and other disadvantaged groups. The programme also offers professional training courses for trainers/instructors/managers/teachers.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

BRAC provides a platform for 1.6 million women and girls to raise their voices through – grassroots institutions and platforms which aim to close the gap between communities and local governments, take collective actions against any forms of violence and child marriage. BRAC aims to reduce the proportion of women experiencing intimate partner violence by 10% by 2020 over baseline in the 2015 BSS survey. This includes educating and supporting women to exercise their rights, developing leadership for preventing and protecting all forms of gender-based violence and injustice. In parallel, BRAC works with local governments to improve governance through institutional strengthening and gender sensitization. BRAC has recently accelerated gender mainstreaming into programmes and enterprises to work in a more collaborative and integrated approach for achieving gender equality and women empowerment – aligned with SDG 5 in realizing the rights and resilience of women and girls.

The gender mainstreaming approach of the Gender Justice and Diversity programme is to amplify the results of its work by integrating gender equality perspectives in the work of all of BRAC’s programmes/enterprises/departments. During the period BRAC reached 1.8 million people (female: 1,654,611 and male: 191,021) through gender integration effort for prevention and protection of VAWC among community level participants. GJD also successfully sensitized and created awareness among 3,94,000people in 2016, 12,58,560 in 2017, and over 18,40,000 in 2018, on prevention of and protection against VAWC and child marriage through various initiatives.  CEP promotes community initiatives against gender-based violence. UDP also runs awareness campaigns to prevent VAWC and child marriage. It provides support to women and children for access to appropriate services after domestic violence incidents. Till 2018 USD 3.9 million have been recovered on behalf of female clients through 19,184 alternative dispute resolutions and court cases related to VAWC; 90,025 women graduated from human rights and legal education courses; 19,367 survivors of domestic violence, most of whom were women, received emergency medical support; 48,766 leaders from our women led grassroots institutions participated in the local power structure; GJD is also a member of the UN GBV Cluster, Social Action Committee, Citizen’s Initiative on CEDAW, Citizen’s Initiative on Domestic Violence, We Can Alliance and National Girl Child Advocacy Forum. BRAC took a leadership role in Girls Not Brides Bangladesh partnership, a 26 members’ organisation in the country and played an important role to raise joint voice against CM. The GNB partnership contributed in policy advocacy with MoWCA to raise strong voice and review the special provision of CM. BRAC also lead Engaging Men and Boys Network in Bangladesh with 30 members’ organisations to collectively mobilize men and boys’ network in Bangladesh for gender justice.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

In SDG 6, BRAC’s work connects to 3 indicators in 2 targets. Three BRAC programmes are directly tied to SDG 6 – WASH, BEP and IDP. WASH addresses this goal directly by improving access to safe water with facility support and providing support for access to hygienic sanitation.43,714 people accessed safe drinking water, 207,404 people gained access to hygienic toilets till 2018. BEP adopted a module involving WASH procedures for BRAC school curriculum and trains staffs and BRAC school teachers on equitable access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation & hygiene.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

BRAC’s works are associated with 6 indicators under 5 targets of this goal. BRAC has a number of programmes and social enterprises involved in this SDG. Seven programmes (UPG, SDP, IDP, MF, Migration, UDP, and WASH) contribute to the targets along with two social enterprises (Aarong, BRAC Dairy and Food Project) linked with this goal. 33,980 people across 46 districts supported with skills training, jobs and decent work interventions. BRAC Institute of Skills Development established, offering government affiliated training and certification, and City and Guilds Certification. Currently offering 10 courses. 1,425 people trained under the skills for employment investment programme and empowering ready-made garments worker projects.438 learners placed in jobs in coordination with 350 industries.

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Seven of BRAC’s programmes (BEP, UPG, UDP, IDP, HNPP, HRLS, and Migration) are connected to two targets under this goal. BRAC’s integrated organisational agenda of Gender Equality, VAWC and child marriage prevention all relate to this goal. The urban development programme (UDP) addresses social and economic exclusion of the urban population through its services. UDP reaches out to discriminated and harassed population through awareness efforts on violence against women and children, and prevention of child marriage. The current target is to reach 250,000 people through awareness campaign. BRAC Migration programme works towards this end by enhancing knowledge, attitude & practices of the potential migrant workers on safe migration process, and by providing support for job placement overseas through BRAC Probash Bandhu which works to ensure quality and low-cost recruitment of migrants from Bangladesh.

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

BRAC’s UDP will lead its agenda to achieve 4 targets under SDG. Pro-poor urban development has been set as one of the key strategic objectives of BRAC for the 2016-2020 period. BRAC has Community Development Organisations actively improving 4 critical services (education, health, financial & crisis management services) in the slums. UDP works on comprehensive fire protection, prevention and response management system in its targeted slum dweller sites. It currently targets 100,000 people as well as local governments in 17 selected cities that adopt fire management practices.

SDG 13: Climate action

BRAC adopted a climate change strategy, an environment and social safeguard framework and an environment policy. Addressing climate change impacts and humanitarian emergency response holds a major position in the five-year strategic plan of BRAC. Seven of BRAC’s core programmes would be contributing to achieve five targets under the goal of climate action (SDG 13). The Disaster Management and Climate Change (DMCC) programme has worked in emergency response and also provided recovery support for households that were affected by nationally declared disasters.  The programme has also undertaken activities of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to combat adverse climatic risks and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities. 170,875 people were reached through a holistic approach during periods of humanitarian crisis response  and climate change adaptation interventions; 110,267 women supported through post-disaster recovery initiatives towards building resilience; 7,279 children supported through rights-based emergency education ; 443,066 people had access to agricultural services; 160,000 farmers were trained in climate-adaptive crop production technologies; 06 crop production technologies and 02 cropping patterns were identified and 180 indigenous rice accessions conserved in farm conditions for broader genetic gain.

SDG 16: Peace, justice, and strong Institutions

A combined effort of six programmes (GJD, UDP, HRLS, CEP, UPG, and IDP) will contribute to achieving five targets under SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). CEP has reached out to almost one million rural women across Bangladesh through Polli Shomaj’s development interventions. Through this effort, BRAC aims to address SDG target 16.1 and 16.2. Interventions in reducing VAWC, child marriage and improving women’s decision-making capabilities by GJD, and HRLS will have impact on target 16.1 as well. UDP and GJD run awareness raising campaigns to prevent such violence as well. Moreover, target 16.3 will be met through counselling services provided to VAW survivors, complaints and reports received at Legal Aid Clinics and the process of addressing their legal rights & claims in both civil and criminal matters.

Future outlook and recommendations

[What are the lessons learnt from the activities and engagements? What are the anticipated future challenges?]

Lessons learnt:

  • Small is beautiful but scale is necessary- In responding to the complex development challenges like Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis or providing education, WASH, Health services for the millions of people under poverty we need effective solutions which are practical and quick. Such interventions needed to be scaled-up to reach the millions of people in need. Therefore, any solution that we design needs to be scalable.
  • Innovation- To effectively solve the challenges we are continuously innovating. Innovative programme design and delivery yields better result. BRAC’s solutions are innovative that are most cases come from the front-line workers and form tacit knowledge.
  • Technology- Use of technology can solve many of the problems which were difficult and expensive otherwise. BRAC is introducing new technologies in all its work from programme delivery, monitoring and solution design.
  • Sustainability through social enterprise- We are focusing on sustainable solutions for essential service delivery through social enterprise models. We are testing various modes of service delivery even for the services were thought to be public goods such as legal aid services.
  • Complex world-The nature of the crisis in the current world is unprecedented due to climate change and manmade disasters that we most cases beyond our control. We need to be agile in responding to those crises through robust monitoring and response mechanism.
  • Collaboration and advocacy- we are focusing more on scaling up our solutions through effective collaboration and advocacy. Without effective advocacy we will never going to reach our vision.

Way forward:
Bangladesh is one of the key proponents of the SDGs based on its success in the MDGs. Our development trajectory is considered as a unique success story globally, in terms of increasing access to education, successful family planning, and a steady reduction in infant and maternal mortality. BRAC continues to be one of the driving forces behind this progress. Our five-year strategy of 2016-20 is closely aligned with the SDGs and priorities of the Government of Bangladesh. We continued to achieve large-scale impact through our programmes and enterprises.

Bangladesh has focused its attention and investment in children and this has resulted in a substantial drop in child and maternal mortality rates and other notable achievements such as 97% enrolment in primary schools. We now need to shift our focus to the second decade of children’s lives so that they can fulfil their potential and drive economic development. We need to work more on the policy side to create opportunities for the young people who now constitutes 60% of our labor force.

Challenges persist in both the education and skills sectors. Approximately 20% of primary school students in Bangladesh drop out before completing class 5. We need to ensure that all children complete their primary schooling and go on to secondary school. Additional efforts are required to empower girls to believe that they are capable of doing everything boys can. The lack of improvement in the quality and outcomes of education is another concern. Around 2.2 million young people enter Bangladesh’s workforce every year, but two out of every five young people are not in employment, education or training. They face a precarious future despite living in some of the fastest-growing economies in history.

Globalisation and technology are reshaping the lives of young people worldwide. 85% of jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 do not exist now. There is an urgent need to redesign curricula for secondary, vocational and higher education to develop skills and competences that will meet the needs of the future. Our goal should be to create adaptable learners who are capable of reengineering their own skills and capacities in disrupted economies. Attention must also be paid to developing children and young people’s human qualities and values, such as empathy, cooperation and integrity.

Political instability and conflict are leaving young people vulnerable to violence, disrupting their schooling and access to basic health services and, in many cases, inflicting psychological trauma. We must accelerate efforts to protect children and young people from violence, drug abuse, conflict and poverty, to enable them to lead more productive lives and contribute to society.

One of the major challenges for BRAC to contribute in SDGs as effectively as it did in MDGs is scarcity of funding. Bangladesh’s eventual graduation out of the LDC league in 2024 will have all the familiar side-effects. ODA will shrink, trade quota will reduce and most of the development financing will come from the government and/or local sources. Therefore, the present relationship between the local NGOs and the Government needs to transform and these agencies need to graduate alongside the country too.

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