INGO – Registration Progress

Published By The Daily Star on 22nd December, 2015 (Link Above)

This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.

Query
We are a UK-based international charitable organisation planning to open an office in Bangladesh. However, we are receiving contradictory responses from different persons so far as the registration procedure is concerned. Some also informed us that it is not possible to get a registration! If so, how all other international NGOs are operating in Bangladesh?

Response
Thank you for your query. There are now more than 200 International NGOs (INGOs) operating in Bangladesh after duly undergoing the registration process.

There are several organisations willing to assist with the set-up, registration and operation of foreign NGOs in Bangladesh, and the law stipulating such procedures are also kept under regular monitoring by the Government of Bangladesh. There remain other stipulated rules in relation to renewal of registration, monitoring and receipt of donations, etc.

The procedure that dictates the registration of INGOs in Bangladesh is in the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance of 1978  and the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Rules of 1978.

For the purposes of conducting operations in Bangladesh, acquiring registration as an INGO in Bangladesh is of vital importance. An application is to be made to the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB) including all the listed documents, which shall then be considered by both the Ministry and the NGOAB in turn within a stipulated time frame. Once approval is provided by all the relevant authorities, the applicant INGO shall be furnished with a registration letter by the NGOAB and can thereafter ensure unencumbered operation of their NGO operations in Bangladesh. Once registered, the registration shall generally remain valid for a period of 5 years, which shall be thereafter renewed following the separately stipulated procedures for renewal. Although a time frame of 90 days is mentioned, practically the registration process may take up to 6 months.

The requirement for the registration of NGOs/INGOs in Bangladesh is made unambiguously clear by section 3(2) of the 1978 Ordinance, which provides that any organisation which is receiving or operating any foreign donation for the purpose of undertaking or carrying on any voluntary activity, shall register itself with such authority and in such manner as the Government may specify. In relation to this, ‘voluntary activity’ is defined as ‘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.’ In every other case, the scope of work generally undertaken by foreign NGOs fall within the widely-framed definition of ‘voluntary activity’ as provided in the 1978 Ordinance. Moreover, since such INGOs often receive foreign donations, it becomes imperative for them to be registered accordingly in order to be able to undertake any such voluntary activities.

On an application for registration being made by a particular foreign NGO to the NGOAB, it will thereafter be forwarded to the Ministry for consideration. Within 60 days after receiving a letter from the NGOAB requesting an opinion on the application, the Ministry shall provide such opinion to the NGOAB in light of the following factors: a) whether the applicant organisation is involved in anti-state/anti-social activities, and whether the individuals concerned were convicted for criminal behaviour; b) introduction of the members of the executive committee of the applicant organisation, mutual relationship and social stature; c) prior experience of the applicant organisation in relation to social welfare activities; and d) information on whether the applicant organisation has its own office.

The application has to be made in the prescribed fee along with payment of requisite fee. The following documents shall be submitted with the application:

(a)    FD-1 Form (Signed by Chief Executive in Bangladesh) [9 copies], (b) Certificate of Incorporations in the Country of origin [3 copies], (c) Constitution [4 copies], (d) Activities Report [5 copies], (e) Plan of Operation (Work procedure, Organogram) [4 copies], (f) Decision of the Committee/Board to open office in Bangladesh [4 copies], (g) Letter of appointment of the Country Representative [4 copies], (h) Copy of Treasury Challan in support of depositing US$ 3000 or Equivalent Bangladeshi Taka [3 copies] (With original copy), (i) Deed of agreement with the landlord in support of opening the office in Bangladesh [3 copies], (j) List of Executive Committee (foreign) [4 copies], (k) List of Executive Committee (local, if any) [4 copies], (l) Local constitution (if any) [4 copies], (m) Letter of Intent [3 copies], and (n) All documents from abroad should be notarised attested by peace of justice [notary public].
I hope that the above shall help you to primarily ascertain the registration formalities.

For detailed query contact: omar@legalcounselbd.com.