Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank
Nobel Peace Prize 2006
Banker to the poorest of the poor
Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006 for their work to "create economic and social development from below". Grameen Bank's objective since its establishment in 1983 has been to grant poor people small loans on easy terms - so-called micro-credit - and Yunus was the bank's founder.
In 1972, following studies in Bangladesh and the USA, Yunus was appointed professor of economics at the University of Chittagong. When Bangladesh suffered a famine in 1974, he felt that he had to do something more for the poor beyond simply teaching. He decided to give long-term loans to people who wanted to start their own small enterprises. This initiative was extended on a larger scale through Grameen Bank.
According to Yunus, poverty means being deprived of all human value. He regards micro-credit both as a human right and as an effective means of emerging from poverty: Lend the poor money in amounts which suit them, teach them a few basic financial principles, and they generally manage on their own, Yunus claims.
Microcredit as a means of fighting poverty
By establishing Grameen Bank in 1983, Muhammad Yunus sought to realise his vision of self-support for the very poorest people by means of loans on easy terms. The bank has since been a source of inspiration for similar microcredit institutions in over one hundred countries.
Banks in the traditional system have been reluctant to lend money to anyone unable to give some form or other of security. Grameen Bank, on the other hand, works on the assumption that even the poorest of the poor can manage their own financial affairs and development given suitable conditions. The instrument is microcredit: small long-term loans on easy terms.
When Grameen Bank was awarded the Peace Prize in 2006, more than seven million borrowers had been granted such loans. The average amount borrowed was 100 dollars. The repayment percentage was very high. Over 95 per cent of the loans went to women or groups of women. Experience showed that that ensured the best security for the bank and the greatest beneficial effect for the borrowers' families.