Fazle Hasan Abed

Chairperson,
BRAC

Born in Bangladesh in 1936, Fazle Hasan Abed was educated in Dhaka and Glasgow Universities. The 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh had a profound effect on Mr. Abed, then a senior Corporate Executive at Shell Oil. He left his job and went to London to devote himself to Bangladesh’s War of Independence. There, Mr. Abed helped initiate a campaign called “Help Bangladesh” to organize funds to raise awareness about Bangladesh. The war over, Mr. Abed returned to the newly independent Bangladesh to find the economy of his country in ruins. Millions of refugees, who had sought shelter in India during the war, started trekking back into the country. Mr. Abed decided to set up BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) to rehabilitate returning refugees in a remote area in northeastern Bangladesh. This work led him and BRAC to deal with the long-term task of improving living conditions of the rural poor. He directed his policy toward helping the poor develop their capacity to manage and control their own destiny. Thus, BRAC’s primary objectives emerged as alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor. In the span of only three decades, BRAC grew to become the largest Development NGO in the world in terms of the scale and diversity of its interventions. Mr. Abed has been recognized through a number of awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, the UNICEF Maurice Pate Award, the Olof Palme Prize, Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Award, UNDP’s Mahbub-ul-Haq Award, the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership and the first Clinton Global Citizenship Award. He is also a founding member of Ashoka’s Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship and has received several honorary degrees including Doctor of Humane Letters from Yale University.