US Congressional Gold Medal for Professor Yunus

Munir Quddus

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, will be awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal. The historic and glittering award-giving ceremony will take place in Washington, the US capital, on April 17, 2013.

Since the American Revolution in 1776, the United States "Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions" to humanity. These medals are given to honour individuals, institution or an event who are widely acclaimed by Americans for their sacrifice and contributions. All Congressional gold medal legislations must be co-sponsored by at least 66 per cent (290) of the members of the House. According to the rules of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, at least 67 Senators must co-sponsor any legislation for the Congressional Gold Medal before the committee considers it.

Given these high standards, only those who are universally recognised for their good works stand a chance of receiving this prestigious award.

In today's highly charged and partisan political environment in Washington DC, where the two major parties in the United States Congress seem to agree on nothing, it is remarkable for a foreign national to receive such widespread support from both parties. The award certainly demonstrates the high esteem Professor Yunus enjoys amongst members of the United States Congress and Senate, and among the American citizens.

Dr Yunus is being honoured for his lifetime achievements in the cause of alleviating poverty in Bangladesh and globally. Through his creative ideas, hard work and brilliant implementation of the idea of micro-credit throughout Bangladesh and globally, Prof Yunus has made brilliant contributions in the cause of helping millions of poor, especially women, take charge of their lives to overcome heartbreaking poverty. Thanks to the unique organisation he conceived and built over thirty years, more than $10 billion has been loaned to millions of small businesses owned by poor women in Bangladesh to generate incomes, savings and jobs. His efforts, along with that of other NGOs such as BRAC, are the catalyst behind a silent and peaceful revolution that has helped Bangladesh stay on schedule in meeting the Millennium Development Goals on time including the goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015. Today, globally, more than 150 million poor and their families, in nearly 100 countries benefit from access to collateral free loans given in small disciplined doses, and other financial services together known as micro-finance.

Since sharing the 2006 Nobel Prize in peace, instead of slowing down, Professor Yunus has redoubled his efforts to build a global consensus around the idea that business can be used for good works - coining the term "Social Business" to describe businesses that shun the profit maximisation motto and instead commit themselves to solve societal problems such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation, among others. Grameen bank, the mother institution, and newer businesses such as Grameen Shakti provide excellent examples of social businesses that have helped transformed lives of millions of poor in rural Bangladesh.

The previous recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include such luminaries and distinguished figures as George Washington, the first President of the United States, Harry Truman who as President led the USA to victory during the Second World War, Mother Theresa, the renowned humanitarian, Nelson Mandela who as President led South Africa peacefully away from the dark era of apartheid, Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, Dalai Lama, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution and winner of two Nobel Prizes, Dr Michael Debakey, the famous heart surgeon and inventor from Houston, and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

Not everyone who has received this award has also received the US President's gold medal, the highest civilian award the United States President can bestow. Finally, the list of people who have been honoured with these two awards, along with a Nobel Prize, is very short indeed.

This award is a great honour not just for Professor Yunus, but for all Bangladeshis. He is uniquely a product of Bangladesh, and could not have done his work on poverty alleviation outside Bangladesh. Today every citizen of Bangladesh, irrespective of party affiliation, should feel justifiably proud that a fellow Bangladeshi citizen is being honoured by this most distinguished award.

Bangladeshis, globally, will feel honoured at the outstanding achievement of their fellow citizen forgetting the recent deep and painful events at home, where political gridlock and violent protests resulted in deaths and destruction of property. The special event for honouring a Bangladeshi in Washington will usher in a hope amongst them for a brighter future when new political leaders will emerge from the youths, who would lead the nation away from animosity and partisanship towards an era of shared peace and prosperity for all.

Source: The Financial Express

Yunus Social Business, Virgin Unite and Clinton Foundation Launch Haiti Forest Initiative

Ten thousand hectares of land being promised by Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to develop sustainable agro-forestry initiative

Project to Impact the environment, agriculture and improve livelihoods in rural areas of Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus , founder of Yunus Social Business, Sir Richard Branson , founder of Virgin Unite, and U.S. President Bill Clinton, founder of the Clinton Foundation, announced last Sunday the launch of a new social initiative called Haiti Forest. The partnership aims to solve social and environmental problems in Haiti by bringing sustainable, productive and socially responsible forests to the country.

Ten thousand hectares of land are being promised by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to develop the new, bold Haiti Forest Initiative in the Artibonite and northern part of the country. Haiti Forest has full support of the Government of Haiti and is in line with the priorities of the Government to support long-term reconstruction efforts, especially those that create jobs and promoting economic opportunities. The multi-year project will provide affordable food, timber, and employment in Haiti, and will be organized as a Social Business – a company set-up for maximizing social benefit rather than private profit.

"I am pleased that my Foundation is working with Yunus Social Business and Virgin Unite," said President Bill Clinton . "Through this partnership, we hope to create a replicable model for programs that demonstrate long-term, positive social and environmental impact as well as economic benefits across Haiti."

"Haiti Forest is an example how social business represents a unique opportunity to drive economic growth in Haiti," said Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus , founder of Yunus Social Business. "Social Businesses like Haiti Forest that are aimed at an environmental or social need represent not only the solutions to these pressing issues, but the financially sustainable means for continued development in Haiti."

"Virgin Unite is very pleased to partner with the Yunus Social Business Initiative and the Clinton Foundation to invest in supporting entrepreneurial solutions to generate reforestation and sustainable livelihoods in Haiti," said Richard Branson , founder of Virgin Unite. "This project will create much-needed economic opportunities for many and is wonderful way to do something good for our planet and the people of Haiti."

The new initiative's four main objectives are: to re-forest Haiti; provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers; and over the long term help mitigate Haiti's dependency on food imports; and help identify alternative fuel sources to reduce usage of charcoal. To ensure that the benefits of re-forestation are lasting and durable, Haiti Forest will empower micro-entrepreneurs and local communities to preserve and maintain their country's forests.

The announcement marks the beginning of a six-month planning and preparation study that will form the basis of the Haiti Forest pilot program. The study will work closely with Haitian rural communities and small holder farmers to determine what trees and crops should be planted, engage community leaders on the reforestation aspects of the project, and work with government to identify applicable land areas.

The Haiti Forest partnership was created out of a recognized need to address environmental degradation and deforestation in a sustainable way. Haiti has lost virtually all of its forests over the last half-century, resulting in massive soil erosion and a consequent decline in the amount of arable land. By enabling sustainable forest management, Haiti Forest works toward providing a model to help reverse this trend.

About Yunus Social Business (Global Initiatives)
Co-founded by Peace Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus, Yunus Social Business (YSB) initiates and manages incubator funds for Social Businesses in several countries. While the incubators search, coach and select Social Businesses, the funds provide loans and equity after a thorough due diligence process. YSB also provides advisory services to corporates, NGOs, foundations and governments. YSB has a team of enthusiastic consulting, venture capital and development experts based in Germany, with subsidiaries in Haiti and Albania and is currently expanding into Brazil, Togo, Tunisia and Colombia.

For more information, visit http://www.yunussb.com

About Virgin Unite
Virgin Unite is the not for profit foundation of the Virgin Group, founded by Sir Richard Branson . It unites people and entrepreneurial ideas to reinvent how we live and work in the world to help make people's lives better. Its aim is to revolutionize the way businesses, government and the social sector work together – driving business as a force for good.

About the Clinton Foundation
Building on a lifetime of public service, President Bill Clinton established the Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results. Since 2001, President Clinton's vision and leadership have resulted in nearly 5 million people benefiting from lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment; more than 15,000 U.S. schools building healthier learning environments; more than 51,000 micro-entrepreneurs, small business owners, and smallholder farmers improving their livelihoods and communities; and more than 248 million tons of CO2 being reduced in cities around the world. And President Clinton has redefined the way we think about giving and philanthropy through his Clinton Global Initiative, whose members have made more than 2,300 commitments that are improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. For more information, visit clintonfoundation.org, read our blog at clintonfoundation.org/upclose, and follow us on Twitter @ClintonTweet and Facebook at Facebook.com/BillClinton.

SOURCE Yunus Social Business

Source: prnewswire.com

RELATED LINKS
http://www.yunussb.com
http://www.clintonfoundation.org

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus Spurs the AfDB to a Greater Commitment in Building Social Business

afdb

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and micro-credit promoter in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus, on Tuesday 12 March in Tunis urged the African Development Bank (AfDB) to provide support to social business given its consequential impact on poverty reduction. Yunus was speaking before members of senior management of the AfDB during a meeting organized by the Office of the Chief Economist of the institution.

Following a brief  introduction on the background on social business and the Grameen Bank (Bank for the poor) that he created, the economist and  Nobel Peace laureate explained the object and philosophy behind his initiative called ‘Yunus Social Business’.

Capitalism with a human face

In his words, the aim is to come to the aid and assistance of the poor by improving their conditions of living and help them fend for themselves. This approach is more or less philanthropical with the sole difference that it has nothing to do with giving. But  but to lend a hand to these poor populations, investing in the social sectors or setting up business ventures, the ultimate objective of which is not profit making as done in ordinary capitalistic business enterprises.  

This initiative, says Yunus, is his contribution to the high levels of poverty that prevailed in his country Bangladesh, during the 1970s when he completed his studies in economics in the United States. This is capitalism with a human face made of humanitarian motives and the dividends are reinvested into the initial commercial channel.

A venture of significant impact

The impact of micro-credit and of Grameen Bank and their social approach is immense, says Yunus. In Bangladesh, the latter is tangible as it has helped to increase considerably socio-economic indicators with regard to women and children. A high proportion of women have in this way attained social and financial autonomy. This has made it possible to provide better health care for their children and higher education through scholarship training programs.  

Furthermore, through development projects, solar energy panels and drinking water points have been installed as is the case with the reduction of mortality rates due to malaria with the use of mosquito nets.

This remarkable impact on these populations is a demonstration of the success of social business. Thus the need to urge institutions like the AfDB to invest in this enterprise. He congratulated the AfDB for launching its social business pilot program in Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.

For the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the success of his initiative is also due to the simplicity   of the system, free from red-tape, middle-men and law agents, etc.  "Confidence is the essence of social business", he repeated.

With regard to certain skeptic remarks particularly concerning the ‘humanitarian’ nature of the initiative, Yunus says that to be able to judge social business "one must accept to change glasses and appreciate things from a different perspective".

Source: afdb.org

University honors Muhammad Yunus with Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award

albert awardQuinnipiac University presented its Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award to Muhammad Yunus, who founded the practice of microcredit as a means to combat global poverty before his March 6 lecture at the university. Yunus, who was awarded Quinnipiac's most prestigious humanitarian award, also accepted an invitation to join the Albert Schweitzer Institute's honorary board.

"Dr. Yunus has demonstrated a life-long commitment to finding creative solutions to some of life's most challenging problems," said Mark Thompson, senior vice president for academic and student affairs.

"Dr. Yunus has made significant contributions in the area of international business. In addition to microloans, his innovative idea of social business has also attracted a lot of attention in international forums, including the World Economic Forum in Davos," said Mohammad Elahee, professor and chair of international business in the School of Business. "Many global firms, especially those based in Europe, are now setting up social businesses. For example, Danone has set up a yogurt factory in Bangladesh to provide nutrient fortified yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh. The concepts of microloans and social business have no boundary."

A conversation with Muhammad Yunus, father of the microcredit movement

fahmidaMuhammad Yunus, the father of microcredit and founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, has proved that poor entrepreneurs, mostly women, can advance economically with small loans. The doctor of economics made his first loan of $27 out of his pocket to several women who were paying exorbitant loan rates to a loan shark in order to buy bamboo to make tables.

Before Grameen, there was no bank to lend money to the people who needed modest amounts of capital to buy a sewing machine or expand inventory in anticipation of greater sales. Yunus spoke Friday at “Business Day” at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum hosted by Augsburg College and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Q: It’s said that Grameen Bank has loaned something like $7 billion to working-poor entrepreneurs since you started it in 1983, after several years of successful making small loans of less than $100 to people out of your own pocket. How do you quantify the impact of microlending?

A: Each person is a story by herself. There are millions of them who transformed their lives from a feeling of nothingness, to somebody who can take care of herself. That is the power of the loan ... and the ability to go from a lower-size loan to a larger-size loan. There are now a lot of seasoned businesswomen and their children are inspired by them. This is the story of how microcredit has expanded, including in the United States. We have 6,000 borrowers of Grameen Bank America in San Francisco and New York.

Q: Are you surprised that the movement has grown so large?

A: I never believed this could be so large. I was trying to solve a local problem. Loan sharks were putting poor people under so much misery. I thought I could solve this problem, in one town. I began with $27 and it was paid back to me. I thought, “Why can’t I go on doing that?”

Q: What has been the repayment rate at Grameen?

A: Microcredit at Grameen has always been 96 or 97 percent throughout the years. And there is no collateral. People pay back even though we could not force them. At Grameen Bank in New York City, the repayment is 99.6 percent. The system of solidarity groups responsible for the loan and a small repayment every week is why it works. They are not overwhelmed by the size of the loan. You build up the customer and the culture of investment and repayment that they can handle. Earn income. Keep the door open. And cooperate with each other.

Q: I recently wrote about a young woman from Bangladesh, Fahmida Zaman, who is studying at St. Catherine University in Minnesota. She says this was made possible largely because of her mother’s drive and a $100 loan, the first of several, from Grameen. Zaman says her goal is to earn a graduate degree in politics and economics and be part of political reform in Bangladesh.

A: This is fantastic. I’ve been talking about the children of Grameen Bank. That’s very exciting for me to see girls completing their education. To see qualitatively there is no difference between a poor child and one from a rich family.

Q: The success of microlending and Grameen Bank led to conflict with the Bangladesh government that eventually led to your retirement from Grameen. How do you describe this period and what effect did it have on you?

A: It was a sad experience, but I’ve continued with my work. I’m developing social businesses in Bangladesh and other countries. My work continues ... and I’m 72 years old.

Q: How do you spend your time now?

A: I started the Yunus Centre after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. People were calling and e-mailing and visiting. I couldn’t handle it all by myself. And I have a few volunteers and other people working with me. Now we have some cooperative organization like the Yunus social business based in Germany that does programs in Haiti and Albania. We have a global business summit in November. Last year, in Vienna, we had about 500 people. This year in, Kuala Lumpur, there will be about 1,000 delegates.

Q: Somebody called you the Nelson Mandela of the microloan phenomenon. Are you wealthy from your work?

A: All my life I’ve created companies, about 50 in Bangladesh. But I don’t own any shares in any company in the world. I create business to solve human problems. That’s a “social business.” Grameen used to pay me about $400 per month. The income I receive from my lectures and books, all this money goes to the Yunus Centre to run it and arrange programs. I live very modestly. I don’t need much. My family understands that. I do what makes me happy ... I am lean and thin. I like a simple life. I don’t like luxury.

Q: What do you hope will be your legacy?

A: Making money can make you happy. But making other people money, too, and changing the world, can really make you happy. I mean what is the purpose of life — to make money? Or to tap the creativity of human beings to solve problems? If we put our human power into that, we can overcome the problems of the world.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

Source: startribune.com

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