It has been a great pleasure this week to officially launch the British Asian Trust in Bangladesh. The British Asian Trust was created 10 years ago by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, together with leading figures from the South Asian community. It was a huge honour for me when His Royal Highness invited me to start and lead a Bangladesh Advisory Council and I am delighted that we are now officially launching.
The launch reception in Dhaka was attended by the British High Commissioner, Robert Chatterton Dickson, and Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Adviser to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. I was delighted to host the occasion because I believe the British Asian Trust will make a telling and unique contribution to supporting initiatives in Bangladesh that address poverty and disadvantage, just as it has been doing elsewhere in South Asia for over ten years.
I am particularly excited to see the growth of social finance initiatives in Bangladesh. We have some brilliant NGOs doing fantastic work in this country, but the traditional development approach of external funders providing grants to pay for project activities needs reform. The British Asian Trust is pioneering new ways to finance development that ensures everyone focusses on results and impact. It is also forging new types of partnerships with banks and businesses to bring a refreshingly professional approach to its development programmes.
This focus on outcomes and effective philanthropy is showcased by the world’s largest education Development Impact Bond, which the British Asian Trust launched in New York last year during UN General Assembly week. The Development Impact Bond ensures that children in school are actually learning and funders only pay if this can be proved.
Following this week’s launch, we can now look forward to seeing more transformational initiatives like this in Bangladesh.
I am pleased to see that work is already well under way. Earlier this week, the Chief Executive, Richard Hawkes, and Executive Director for Social Finance, Abha Thorat-Shah, led a workshop for Dhaka-based development agencies to increase knowledge and understanding about impact bonds. The British Asian Trust is supported by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) in this work, and the Head of DFID in Bangladesh, Judith Herbertson, was there to talk about this partnership. Asif Saleh, the Executive Director of BRAC hosted the workshop and spoke about BRAC’s plans to work with the British Asian Trust in the coming months. I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome of these discussions and the new partnerships that are being formed – they are going to have a substantial impact in Bangladesh.
The British Asian Trust is also known across South Asia for its impactful programmes in mental health, livelihoods, and anti-trafficking, as well as education. Bangladesh can benefit from new and innovative approaches to some of our enduring challenges in these areas, and the programmes that will be developed in the coming years are going to make a substantial difference to people’s lives. As Chair of its Bangladesh Advisory Council, I am proud to support these programmes and I look forward to seeing the impact we will achieve in Bangladesh.
Shayan F Rahman, Bangladesh Advisory Council (Chair) - British Asian Trust