Standing with Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank

Washington, DC (March 2, 2011) — Today the leadership of RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and the Microcredit Summit Campaign expressed concern and alarm over reports that the government of Bangladesh had forced Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus to step down as managing director of Grameen Bank. Prof. Yunus has vowed to stay on as managing director, noting that only the board of Grameen Bank is empowered to remove him.

“This is the latest move in a campaign to persecute Prof. Yunus and undermine the independence of Grameen Bank,” said Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and founder of RESULTS. “This is a scandalous way to treat a visionary who is the world’s greatest innovator in the field of poverty eradication.”

On Wednesday, the government-appointed chairman of Grameen Bank announced that Prof. Yunus would be removed as managing director at the direction of the Central Bank. Relying on sensationalist and discredited allegations in a Norwegian documentary as a pretext, the government of Bangladesh has sought to discredit Prof. Yunus and extend state influence over the independent microcredit institution. In January Prof. Yunus was ordered to appear before a court on defamation charges based on comments he made regarding corruption among politicians in Bangladesh in 2007. On its annual corruption index, Transparency International has ranked 127 other countries as being more transparent and honest than Bangladesh.

“The U.S. has been a great friend to Muhammad Yunus, and he and Grameen Bank need our support now more than ever,” said Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund. “We urge President Obama and Secretary Clinton to use every diplomatic tool available to preserve the independence of Grameen Bank and, by extension, the independence of the entire civil society sector in Bangladesh. If this decision is allowed to stand, it sets a dangerous precedent for other governments to take similar actions against independent microfinance institutions,” said Carter.

Prof. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his pioneering efforts to extend microcredit loans to poor borrowers. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama and is set to receive the Congressional Gold Medal later this year. These two awards are the United States’ highest civilian honors. Prof. Yunus has served on the board of directors of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund since 1988.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof expressed his support for Prof Yunus in a March 2 Facebook post: “Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who helped found microfinance to alleviate poverty around the world, has been fired. . . . I’m disgusted. This is the work of the Bangladesh prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who is jealous of . . . Yunus’s success — and she shames herself and her country. The losers are the world’s poor.”