Today [27 February] is World NGO Day, when we recognise the significant contribution non-government organisations (NGOs) make to civil society and to development. The Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) is the Australian Government's longest-running and largest NGO programme, which has been providing support to improve access to services for the most vulnerable people in our communities for over 45 years. Currently, 57 accredited Australian NGO partners are delivering locally-led development projects in 50 countries, including Bangladesh.
Over the last two financial years, Bangladesh was the largest recipient of ANCP funding globally, receiving AUD $9.5 million in 2019-20 and AUD $9.8 million in 2020-21. This year the Australian Government has provided 15 Australian NGOs with AUD $9.3 million to deliver 35 projects in Bangladesh.
They have partnered with 40 local and eight international NGOs to deliver ANCP projects across a range of sectors, including economic development, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, and food security.
On 31 January, Australia and Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations. Australia is proud of its friendship with Bangladesh. Australians applaud Bangladesh's extraordinary achievements since independence to increase economic growth and improve the lives of its citizens. Since my arrival in Bangladesh, I have been greatly impressed by the positive contribution NGOs have made to Bangladesh's development.
In the last ten years, more than 350,000 people across Bangladesh have benefited from activities such as training in improved farming techniques, developing market linkages, increasing food security and boosting financial inclusion. Over one million people in agricultural communities such as Satkhira and Khulna have received support to adapt to the impact of climate change. Two of our long-time ANCP partners, World Vision Australia and The Fred Hollows Foundation, have helped provide economic opportunities and improve eye health, particularly for women in rural areas. Gender and disability inclusion have been mainstreamed across all our ANCP projects and as a result about 180,000 people with a disability have improved access to health and education facilities.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, our ANCP partners responded flexibly by adapting their activities to support communities through the crisis. Activities included the installation of hand-washing stations, distribution of hygiene materials, provision of food support and helping families meet the increased cost of transportation to access services.
In addition to ANCP, we are proud to have supported BRAC since 2012 to implement programmes in education, skills development, gender equality and disability through our Strategic Partnership.
ANCP projects make a real difference in people's lives across Bangladesh. A mother, whose nine-month-old child receives treatment for clubfoot under Glencoe Foundation's Walk for Life project, told high commission staff, "I am grateful and thankful for the services my child has been receiving from the project. It has been four months since I came to the clubfoot rehabilitation clinic and his legs are already improving. I am very happy." During a project monitoring visit, a group of women in Cox's Bazar said cash they received from World Vision Bangladesh during the pandemic helped them to continue to access health services and provide food for their families.
NGO programmes work because they have strong links with local communities, and they are well placed to understand how to implement positive change. Australia is proud to support the vibrant NGO sector in Bangladesh. I take this opportunity to express thanks to our Australian NGO and local partners for their continued contribution to the development of Bangladesh and its people.
Jeremy Bruer is Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.