Foreward: In reaction to the Bangladeshi government’s attempt to remove Grameen Bank Founder and Managing Director Muhammad Yunus from his post of over 30 years, Friends of Grameen was created as an international response. Yunus is both a professor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is credited with rethinking financing for the poor.
BusinessWeek reports: Last week, the central bank ordered 71-year-old Yunus out of Grameen, saying he was violating the country’s retirement laws. An outspoken government critic, Yunus has said his dismissal is illegal and alleged that the government is trying to take control of his bank.
Letter from Friends of Grameen:
Dear Friends and Supporters of Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank
You will have no doubt heard or read about the alarming events which have unfolded over the last days. This reached a climax yesterday when the High Court of Bangladesh upheld the Central Bank’s decision to remove Professor Yunus from his post as Managing Director of the Grameen Bank, which he founded over three decades ago. Professor Yunus’ lawyers have announced that they shall now appeal to the Supreme Court, as the High Court decision is blatantly politically oriented and without legal grounds. However, Professor Yunus will remain in post during the proceedings; a hearing is expected to be held on 15th March.
In order to provide ongoing support to Professor Yunus and the Grameen bank, at a time when the Government of Bangladesh is seeking to take over the Grameen Bank for political purposes, an organization named “Friends of Grameen” was launched earlier this month, comprising NGO’s, international figures, and companies, some of which have social business joint ventures with Grameen such as Danone, Veolia, and Credit Agricole.
We have launched a website: please come and visit and encourage others to do so as well! We have received overwhelming encouragement and support, and many of you have contacted us asking what you can do to help. There is now a pressing need for global action! As a first step, we would like to suggest the following targeted actions:
Contacting key actors
- Bangladesh Embassies in your country :Reiterating the fact that the decision is unlawful and that this is a dangerous turning point for the Grameen Bank
- Bangladeshi expat community: This is a key group to mobilize in your country, and raise awareness of the current situation.
Conveying your message
- In the local/ national / specialist press : via op-eds and opinion papers
- On blogs and websites
- A number of petitions have been circulating, but we would recommend the following:
The current events have overwhelming public outrage in Bangladesh over the week-end, as a Government takeover of the Bank would effectively result in the 8.35 million borrower owners (and their families) of the Grameen Bank to be disowned. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC,the second largest microfinance organization in Bangladesh, has also voiced its backing of the Grameen Bank.
Hundreds of demonstrations took place in villages in support of Grameen Bank and Yunus, and NGOs, academics, and various figures have spoken out against the unlawful treatment of Professor Yunus. A “Citizen committee” was also formed as a testimony to Professor Yunus and his legacy to Bangladesh, and a “human chain” of NGOs, Grameen borrowers and supporters has been planned from the Southern border to the Northern tip of the country next Friday. In addition, a number of initiatives led by academics both in Bangladesh and abroad, and female activists have emerged over the last couple of days.
This news has of course received tremendous media attention over the last week, and it is very encouraging to see that most international media as well as some sections of the Bangladeshi media have sought to tell the story of the ongoing, brutal destabilization campaign which has been relentlessly pursued over the last months against Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank. The Nobel Committee reiterated its support of the Grameen Bank and its founder, who were jointly awarded the prize in 2006, whilst other.
Within the international political sphere, alarm has been raised in the press by both Hilary Clinton and John Kerry, who have expressed their concern over the treatment of Professor Yunus. In Bangladesh, the alarm has been raised not only by the opposition parties but also by the Awami League party, and voices are now challenging the legitimacy, legality and the political cost of the attempt to sack the Peace Nobel Prize winner founder of Grameen Bank. We greatly appreciate your involvement and your help! Please keep us informed on your various actions, and of course, do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends of Grameen
The honorary committee is Chaired by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and comprises members such as Jagdish Sharan Verma, former Chief Justice of India and former Chair of the National Human Rights Commission of India, and James D. Wolfensohn, former President of World Bank, Chairman and CEO Wolfensohn Fund Management, L.P, and Michel Camdessus, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
The executive Committee is chaired by Maria Nowak, President of ADIE, a pioneering French microfinance institution created in 1989. Kerry Kennedy human rights activist, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation of Europe and Chair of the Amnesty International Leadership Council (USA) and President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has joined as one of the Vice Presidents of its Executive Committee. The full list of members is included as an appendix.