The social development scene in Bangladesh is characterized by a strong presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The NGOs emerged following the war of liberation to help the communities in distress as part of post-war rehabilitation. Afterward, with assistance from foreign donor agencies, they expanded their activities to deliver a variety of services including microcredit, essential healthcare, informal education, women empowerment, and rights advocacy. This paper traces the evolution of the NGO sector in Bangladesh and evaluates its role in social development.

The image of Bangladesh has undergone a major transfor- In Bangladesh, such organizations first emerged soon after the
mation from a famine-stricken ‘basket case’ during the war of liberation in 1971. For example, Gone Shasthya has its
early 1970s, to a flooded plain land in persistent need of root in a mobile medical unit that provided support to the freedom
food relief till the late 1980s, to an innovator in the delivery of fighters in 1971; RDRS started its activities by providing post-
services to the poor thereafter. The decade of 1990s experienced war rehabilitation services and supporting infrastructure devel-
significant changes in the political structure, as well as noticeable opment in the north-west region; and BRAC2. commenced its
improvements in human development and empowerment of women activities by providing relief and rehabilitation assistance to the
among the rural population. While nature continues to play havoc community of fishermen in the north-east, who were displaced
and governments often falter, the annual meeting of donors under due to the atrocities during 1971.
the umbrella of the Bangladesh Development Forum during May In. contrast with NGOs that sprang up to respond to the chal-
2004 was unanimous in noting that the economy and society of lenge of devastation after the war of independence, Swanirvar
Bangladesh have attained a high degree of resilience to shocks. Bangladesh (SB) surfaced in 1975 as an outcome of a national
Much of the successes are commonly attributed to the activities workshop with representatives of numerous local initiatives to
undertaken by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in increase agricultural production and attain self-sufficiency. Led
the country. However, the government’s relations with the non- by a senior government official, SB played an effective role in
governmental organisations (often referred to as GO-NGO re- mobilising youth in rural areas and small towns to reduce pil-
lations) are yet to stabilise. ferage in the delivery of relief and development services through. The term ‘NGO’ encompasses a broad array of organisations, government channels