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October 13, 2006

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He Deserves It

Muhammad Yunus and Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank just won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I met Yunus in Bangladesh. Without detracting from his accomplishments, which are vast, I will report that he is at least as good at self-promotion as anything else. That’s why Grameen gets such disproportionate global attention compared to, for example, an organization like BRAC, which also does microcredit in Bangladesh and, by many reports, does it better.

More than anything else, I am delighted that a Bangladeshi organization won the prize. That country is such a puzzle: one of the most populous in the world (almost 150 million people!) but nobody pays any attention to it.

Update: Istiaque uddin Rifat is a Bangladeshi blogger; check out his reaction:

This day is one of the happiest days for our nation since its independence. Dr. Yunus made the nation proud. Dr. Yunus’s name will be uttered with “Mother teresa” and “Nelson Mendela”, two legend who won Noble peace price. Now we can say we are from Dr. Yunus’s country. From today we have a new identity.


Posted October 13, 2006 at 1:49 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Society/Culture


Well put, Robin. If nothing else, Yunus and his operation have been great publicizers of the microfinance movement. Who knows how many people (like you and I for instance) might never have heard about microfinance w/o Yunus.

At the same time, the reason that BRAC may be better than Grameen is that BRAC is more of a whole-person development and poverty-alleviation organization. Microfinance is not the silver bullet it often is portrayed to be and can even have rather negative consequences. So while one hopes that the Nobel Prize directs attention to Bangladesh and microcredit, I also hope it encourages broad-based discussion on ways to use microcredit as one tool in a poverty-alleviation program.

Micro-credit and poverty-alleviation treat the idea of peace differently from, say, negotiating the end of violence/war: the socio-economic equivilant of preventative maintenance. Perhaps a small part of the reason that underappreciated Bangladesh has had the eye of Nobel turned on it is because so little of that other take on peace (ending ongoing wars) is going on in the world today.

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