Statement from Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, on the resignation of microfinance pioneer Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of Grameen Bank.
The resignation of Professor Muhammad Yunus this week marks an important transition in the work and mission of Grameen Bank. For 35 years, his deep commitment to the world’s poorest people and unshakeable belief in their power to help themselves escape poverty have shaped the work of the Bank and its more than 26,000 employees in Bangladesh. His ideals, which have inspired countless others and helped to build a global movement to empower the poor through access to financial services, do not end with his term as Grameen Bank’s managing director.
Throughout his career, Professor Yunus has never been afraid to speak his mind nor challenge the status quo, earning both praise and criticism in many quarters. He dispelled prevailing notions about the abilities of poor people by creating Grameen Bank, which today serves more than 8.3 million people across Bangladesh. His recognition of poverty’s complexity also led to the creation of the Grameen family of companies, which focus on solving problems related to a range of issues, including hunger, educational disparities and access to affordable energy. (For more information about the Grameen family of companies, see M. Khalid Shams’ paper, Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Bangladesh Through the Grameen Family of Companies: Building Social Enterprises as Business Ventures]. That voice of reason will continue to echo, as will his unrelenting quest to promote social businesses and other changes that benefit poor people.
His bold vision of a world free from poverty has unleashed a powerful force that will continue, both in Bangladesh and abroad. I’m proud to say that he planted the early seeds of Grameen Foundation. He also played a pivotal role in launching the Microcredit Summit Campaign in 1997, which achieved its nine-year goal of reaching more than 100 million poor families with microcredit – and has now launched a second goal of reaching 175 million by 2015. Equally important, he has inspired individuals in such diverse places as Haiti, India and Nigeria to launch organizations modeled after Grameen Bank to provide hope and opportunity to poor people in those countries.
We salute Professor Yunus for urging us all to do more and press further to make poverty a thing of the past, and will continue to work with him to reach this admirable goal. We also look forward to Grameen Bank and its 8.3 million borrower-owners continuing its long, proud tradition of being a beacon for the microfinance community, and call on the Bangladesh government to respect the independence of Grameen Bank during this new era. As Prof. Yunus said in his resignation statement, “I hope Grameen Bank will continue to operate, maintaining its independence and character under the Grameen Bank Ordinance and move toward even greater success.”