THERE was some consternation when the little economics professor from Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
There were some who said the prize should have gone to someone more well known, such as Bono. Or at least to someone who helped the peace cause, not just the plight of the poor as prize winner Muhammad Yunus had done.
Even 1983 Nobel peace laureate Lech Walesa seemed a bit put out, declaring that Yunis should have won the economics rather than the peace prize.
The Nobel Prize committee had the right idea. It said eliminating poverty would be a good way of bringing about peace.
Yunis, who helped lift millions out of poverty by lending small amounts of money, once said: “My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us.’’
He set up banks to give low interest loans to the poor and explained: “`This is not charity. This is business: business with a social objective, which is to help people get out of poverty.’’
His major problem, he said, was convincing bankers that poor people were credit worthy.
Prof Yunus said this week that the international youth community should set a new deadline for 2030 to eradicate global poverty.
The Nobel laureate described the present generation of young people as the most powerful generation in history because of their grip on communication and information technology.
“When Kofi Annan and the UN declared the millennium development goals in 2000 – people laughed and said they were crazy, they didn’t believe you can reduce poverty, but when Bangladesh announced it had achieved the number one goal to reduce poverty by half in 2013, you know it has been serious goal after all.”
This was significant news because Bangladesh was labelled as a basket case at its birth, said the founder of Grameen Bank.