The ability of NGOs in Bangladesh to access international funding has long been stifled by formidable barriers, including the 2016 Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act. NGOs seeking to secure international support must first be registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau and secondly secure project approval from the same Bureau.
Several new restrictions were introduced last year. According to a 2021 NGO Affairs Bureau regulation, NGOs that remain inactive for five years and cannot secure international funding are subject to cancellation by the Bureau. In addition, newly registered organizations are given just six months to secure foreign funding, as written on the back of their registration certificates; this limitation, also introduced in 2021, can also result in cancellation by the Bureau.
Moreover, the NGO Affairs Bureau is not reluctant to cancel the registration in these circumstances. In 2021, some 22 NGOs saw their registrations cancelled. In the first eight months of 2022, some 20 NGOs have had their registration cancelled.
In addition, the November 2021 Prime Minister’s circular has introduced a new barrier to re-granting. Specifically, NGOs registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau can provide grants or financial assistance only to another organization registered with the Bureau. At present, there are only 2,529 CSOs registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau, but more than 200,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) registered under other governing laws of the country. Due to the Prime Minister’s circular, those CSOs registered under other governing laws but not with the NGO Affairs Bureau will no longer be able to receive grant support from domestic or international NGOs registered with the Bureau. In short, access to resources is now more limited than ever before.