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Protect the independence of Grameen Bank and the integrity of Professor Yunus
an article by Liam Black, Friends of Grameen Bank

When we first created Friends of Grameen in December 2010 – with the strong support of widely respected figures such as Mary Robinson and Maria Nowak - our key objectives were to defend the independence of the Grameen Bank; to preserve the integrity of Professor Yunus, and protect his pioneering vision of microcredit and social business, as effective ways of alleviating poverty.

For several months, with a number of others in Bangladesh and abroad, we tried in all ways open to us to convince the Government of Bangladesh to put an end to the relentless smear campaign against Professor Yunus. It became clear very early on that the Government's aim was his removal as Managing Director. All offers of mediated settlements and compromises were flatly rejected.

In May this year, after the Chairman of the Grameen Bank Employee Association was tortured, Professor Yunus decided to step down, in spite of the fact that he was supported by the bank’s board and by many thousands of people inside Bangladesh and across the world, including 3.6 million women that signed a petition to the Prime Minister asking that their bank remain independent. What they can see – and this may be the ultimate goal of some of the most radical quarters in Bangladeshi politics – is that the strategic and operational independence of Grameen Bank – and the assets of the many millions of its borrowers – are jeopardised by such heavy handed and crudely politically motivated campaigns against its Nobel Prize winning founder.

Like many people around the world, we were deeply shocked and saddened by the forced resignation of Professor Yunus. It is impossible to see who benefits by it – certainly not the poor of Bangladesh whose champion Professor Yunus has been for more than three decades.

And so the work of solidarity and support continues.

We shall endeavour to preserve the pioneering model created by the "banker to the poor"- a model heralded by the world's most eminent economists, politicians and intellectuals, as an empowering tool for poverty alleviation. A powerful and financially sustainable model which has enabled people in Bangladesh living in rural communities to lift themselves out of poverty, and change the destinies of their families forever.

We will continue to argue the case for microcredit and promote the social business model of non-loss, non-dividend companies designed to address social objectives. Professor Yunus has successfully established social businesses in Bangladesh, the Grameen sister companies, and more recently such partnerships with some of the largest international corporations across the world, and in doing so, is paving the way for a “new form” of capitalism the world badly needs.

Grameen has been rightly called a ‘dignity engine’, standing for something far bigger in the world than simply financial services. The Friends of Grameen will continue to honour, defend and promote this legacy of Muhammad Yunus.

(Editor's note: Readers are invited to read the CPNN article written when Muhammed Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize. At that time (in 2007) there was already great political unrest in Bangladesh and Muhammed Yunus was trying to establish a new political party based on the participants in the Grameen Bank.)

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Editor's Note:  European leaders evidently consider that microcredit is effective for poverty allevation, as indicated by the following article:

Paris, 8th July 2011

Professor Yunus launches G20 international working group on microfinance in Paris, ahead of G8 Meeting

Responding to President Sarkozy’s invitation, sent last April, to collaborate within the framework of the French Presidency of the G20, Professor Yunus was invited to Paris to launch an International working Group on microfinance, ahead of the G8/G20 meeting in Cannes, to be held in November.

The President of the finance Commission of the Senate Jean Arthuis, governor of the Banque de France, Christian Noyer, and former IMF Director Michel Camdessus, all testified of the pioneering work accomplished by Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank, highlighting the fact that the model of microfinance has since been replicated across the world. Referring to the situation in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus emphasized that the further development of microcredit would require more efficient global regulation, as well as a normalization of his relationship with authorities in countries where microfinance has proved to be a compelling tool for social and economic development.

Following his meeting with President Sarkozy in December 2010, when they discussed the social aspects of globalization, and the possibility of opening up the G20, Professor Yunus was also met at the Elysée by Secretary General Xavier Muscat. He reiterated the attachment of the French Presidency to the development agenda of the G20, and in particular, the social aspect, which Professor Yunus championed during his participation in the preparatory work carried out in 2010. He also emphasized the support of France in adopting a multidimensional approach to the fight against poverty. He said:”France strongly supports the work of Professor Yunus, not only in the field of microfinance, but also social business”. During this meeting, Professor Yunus was, once again, assured of the ongoing French support towards the independence of Grameen Bank, and the respect of the rights of the millions of women who own the Bank.

On 6th July, Professor Yunus spent the day in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where, during a series of private meetings, he discussed the global microfinance situation and the future of “social business”. Discussions were held with President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the Parliament Jerzy Buzek, and Commissioners Michel Barnier, and Antonio Tajani, and a number of members of the European Parliament. German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle expressed his support for Professor Yunus ‘work, and said: "I do hope that he will carry on with his commitment, and that he will be allowed to carry on."

Following his meeting with 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso made the following statement: "I would like to express the EU's recognition for the successful work of Professor Yunus, whose tireless commitment deserves our profound respect. . ...more.


This report was posted on August 6, 2011.