Protect the independence of Grameen Bank and the integrity of Professor Yunus

 

 

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.

 

Liam Black,

President of the Friends of Grameen Executive Committee

London based social entrepreneur and co-founder of Wavelength.