BRAC, believed to be the largest nongovernmental organization in the developing world, has been named the winner of the annual $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world's largest award for humanitarian achievement.
Founded as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee in 1972 by a former Shell Oil executive, BRAC, which has field offices in nine Asian and African countries, uses a holistic approach to address poverty by providing microloans, education, health services, and jobs. Since its inception, the organization has issued $5 billion in microloans to nearly seven million borrowers; graduated 3.8 million students from its primary schools and 2.3 million from its pre-primary schools; provided basic health services to more than 90 million people; created 8.5 million jobs; and employed 110,000 staff and teachers.
According to BRAC founder and chair Fazle Hasan Abed, the organization plans to use the prize money as a challenge grant to generate $3 million through its U.S. affiliate BRAC USA to accelerate recently established programs in southern Sudan. BRAC is one of the first NGOs to move into southern Sudan and in less than a year has enrolled six thousand Sudanese in its microfinance program, trained a hundred community health workers, and started construction on fifty schools.
"BRAC's approach to creating self-sufficient and sustainable programs on a massive scale has blazed a trail for development organizations around the world," said Steven M. Hilton, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Hilton Foundation. "Where most NGOs might tackle one dimension of poverty, BRAC delivers multifaceted solutions to attack all aspects simultaneously."