Fazle Hasan Abed Biography

Fazle Abed, a renowned humanitarian, was drawn into philanthropic activities after witnessing the devastating effects of a cyclone in Bangladesh in 1970. Motivated by the poverty-stricken state of his homeland after the Bangladesh-Pakistan partition, Abed founded the organization ‘BRAC’ to uplift the country’s economy and provide education, better living conditions, and job opportunities to the less privileged. As BRAC grew, Abed extended his reach to other countries, benefiting nearly 130 million people worldwide. In addition to poverty alleviation, BRAC also supports human rights, legal advice, and development education. Abed’s exceptional efforts earned him numerous national and international awards, including the prestigious ‘Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George’ in 2010.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
  • Died At Age: 83
  • Family: father: Siddiq Hasan, mother: Syeda Sufya Khatun
  • Born Country: Bangladesh
  • Humanitarian
  • Human Rights Activists
  • Died on: December 20, 2019
  • Place of death: Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Founder/Co-Founder: BRAC, BRAC Bank
  • Education: Dhaka College, University of Glasgow
  • Humanitarian Work: In 1970, Abed formed an NGO called ‘HELP’, along with friends, with the aim of rehabilitating victims of the cyclone that struck the island of Manpura in Bangladesh, that year.
  • Awards:
    • The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership – 1980
    • The Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award – 1990
    • The Maurice Pate Award by UNICEF – 1992
    • The Olof Palme Prize – 2001
    • The Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Schwab Foundation – 2002
    • The International Activist Award by the Gleitsman Foundation – 2003
    • The UNDP Mahbub ul Haq Award – 2004
    • The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership – 2007
    • The inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award – 2007
    • The Karma Shahayak Foundation (PKSF) Lifetime Achievement in Social Development and Poverty Alleviation – 2007
    • The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award – 2008
    • Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) – 2010
    • The WISE Prize for Education – 2011
    • Open Society Prize – 2013
    • Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal by The Russian Children Foundation (RDF) – 2014

Childhood & Early Life

Fazle Hasan Abed was born on April 27, 1936, in Baniachong, now called Habiganj, Bangladesh. He completed his secondary education at Pabna Zilla School and graduated from Dhaka College. He then pursued a course in Naval Architecture at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. However, since shipbuilding was not a viable career option in his hometown, he continued his studies at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in London, graduating in 1962.


Upon returning to Bangladesh, Abed began working for Shell Oil Company and quickly rose to the position of Head of Finance Division. During the partition of East Bengal and Pakistan, he fled to England and established Action Bangladesh, an organization aimed at garnering support for his country’s fight for independence. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Abed returned home to find the country economically devastated. In response, he used all his savings to establish an NGO called BRAC (originally Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee), which later became Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee.

Throughout his career, Abed held various positions of influence and leadership. He became a visiting scholar for the Harvard Institute of International Development in 1981 and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies the following year. He also served as the chairman of the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh and became a member of the World Bank NGO Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.

In 1993, Abed became the chairperson of Ain O Salish Kendra, an organization dealing with human rights, and joined the Board of Trustees of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka the next year. From 1998 to 2005, he served on renowned committees such as the Policy Advisory Group of The World Bank in Washington and the Board of Governors of the Institute of Development Studies affiliated with Sussex University. He was also appointed as the Chairman of the governing body of BRAC and the Commissioner for the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor.

In 2010, Abed became a part of the UN Secretary General’s Group of Eminent Persons for Least Developed Countries and later joined the UN Secretary General’s Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. He retired as the chairperson of BRAC International and BRAC Bangladesh in August 2019 and became chair emeritus.

Major Works

Fazle Abed is best known for founding BRAC in 1972, which has become one of the world’s largest non-governmental organizations.

Awards and Achievements

Abed received numerous awards and honors throughout his lifetime. He was honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1980 and UNICEF’s Maurice Pate Award in 1992. In 2001, he was awarded the Olof Palme Prize, and in 2002, he received the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Award. Abed was also honored with the Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution in Human Development in 2004 and the Gates Award for Global Health from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the same year.

In 2007, he received the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership from Claremont McKenna College and the Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award. Abed was awarded the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award in 2008 and the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for BRAC’s philanthropic efforts. In 2010, he was bestowed with the rank of Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George by the British government. Abed also received other accolades such as the Entrepreneur for the World Award, Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal, Spanish Order of Civil Merit, and Trust Women Hero Award. He was also granted honorary doctorate degrees from prestigious institutions such as Princeton University, Yale University, University of Manchester, and University of Oxford.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Fazle Hasan Abed was married to Sarwat Abed, and they had a son named Shameran and a daughter named Tamara. Abed passed away on December 20, 2019, at the Apollo Hospital at the age of 83. He was hospitalized due to breathing problems and physical weakness.


Fazle Hasan Abed was the second person in his family to receive a knighthood from the British crown, following in the footsteps of his great-uncle, Justice Nawab Sir Syed Shamsul Huda.

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