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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 185
September 4, 2010

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Laws For everyday life

Law on Foreign Donations

Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky

THE law governing the operation of non-governmental organizations which carry out “voluntary activities” in Bangladesh with the use of “foreign donations” is contained in the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activity) Regulation Ordinance, 1978 ('the 1978 Ordinance') and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Ordinance, 1982 ('the 1982 Ordinance').

Section 4 of the 1982 Ordinance provides as follows:
“4. Receipt of foreign contribution without permission prohibited. -- (1) No citizen of, or organisation in, Bangladesh shall receive any foreign contribution without the prior permission of the Government.

(2) No Government, organisation or citizen of a foreign state shall make any donation, grant or assistance, whether in cash or in kind, including a ticket for journey abroad, to any citizen of, or organisation in, Bangladesh without the prior permission of the Government.

(3) Nothing in this section shall apply to an organisation established by or under any law or the authority of the Government.”

Under the 1978 Ordinance, no person or organization (whether incorporated or not) may “receive or operate, except with prior permission of the Government, any foreign donation for the purpose of undertaking or carrying on any voluntary activity”. The term 'foreign donation' and 'voluntary activity' are defined in section 2(a) and 2(d) of the 1978 Ordinance respectively, which provide as follows:

The term foreign donations” is defined in section 2(a) of the 1978 Ordinance, which provides as follows:

“(a) 'foreign donation' means a donation, contribution or grant of any kind made for any voluntary activity in Bangladesh by any foreign government or organization or a citizen of a foreign state and includes, except in the case of a donation made for such charity as the Government may specify any donation made for any voluntary activity in Bangladesh by a Bangladeshi citizen living or working abroad;”

“(d) ' voluntary activity' means an activity undertaken or carried on partially or entirely with external assistance by any person or organisation of his or its own free will to render agricultural, relief, missionary, educational, cultural, vocational, social welfare and developmental services and shall include any such activity as the Government may, from time to time, specify to be a voluntary activity;”

Where the activities carried out by an organisation falls within the aforementioned definition- i.e., is “voluntary”, and where the donations are from outside Bangladesh, such an organisation would require registration with and prior permission from the NGO Affairs Bureau to receive such funds.

An applicant for NGOAB registration is not required to be an incorporated entity. The 1978 Ordinance, section 2(b) defines “organisation” as follows:

“2.(b) "organisation" means a church or a body of persons, called by whatever name, whether incorporated or not, established by persons for the purpose of undertaking or carrying on any voluntary activity in Bangladesh;” (emphasis added)

In practice, however, the applicants are usually a) international not for profit organisations b) companies limited by guarantee under the Companies Act 1994 c) societies registered under the Societies Act 1860 d) Trusts registered under the Trusts Act or e) voluntary social welfare agencies, registered with the Department of Social Services under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance 1961.

Section 3 of the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Rules, 1978 (“the 1978 Rules”) provides as follows:

“3. Application for registration (1) Any person or organization receiving or operating any foreign donation for the purpose of undertaking or carrying on any voluntary activity shall apply to the Director General for a registration in Form FD-1.”

Any organization which wishes to obtain registration with the NGO Affairs Bureau under the 1978 Ordinance is required to submit an application in a prescribed form (Form 'FD-1') to the NGO Affairs Bureau, under the Prime Minister's Office, together with supporting documents to the Director General, NGO Affairs Bureau. The supporting documents/ the necessary papers for Foreign NGO registration under the 1978 Ordinance are as follows:

1. FD-1 Form (Signed by the Chief Executive in Bangladesh)- 9 copies
2. Certificate of Incorporation in the country of origin- 3 copies
3. Constitution- 4 copies
4. Activities Report- 5 copies
5. Plan of Operation (Work procedure, Orgnaogram)- 4 copies
6. Letter of appointment of the Country Representative- 4 copies
7. Decision of the Committee/Board to open office in Bangladesh- 4 copies
8. Copy of Treasury Challan in support of depositing USD 1500 or Equivalent Tk amount in the Code 1-0323-000-1836- 3 copies (with original copy)
9. Deed of agreement with the landlord in support of opening the office in Bangladesh- 3 copies
10. List of Executive Committee (foreign)- 4 copies
11. List of Executive Committee (local, if any)- 4 copies
12. Local constitution (if any)- 4 copies
13. Letter of Intent- 3 copies

All documents from abroad should be notarized attested by peace of justice.

A fee of US$ 1500 has to be deposited along with the application.

It is also pertinent to note that in order to apply for registration, the applicant must have a bank account in Bangladesh.

On a sidenote, an application usually takes a minimum of three to four months to process, and is subject to the satisfaction of the NGOAB and the receipt of prior clearance from several security agencies (including the Special Branch of Police, and the National Security Intelligence (NSI)).

The writer is a Barrister-at-Law.


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