Seoul Peace Prize

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Dr. Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize 2006 Dr. Muhammad Yunus, father of the microcredit movement and founder and managing director of the Grameen Bank, is the foremost leader in the global fight to combat poverty.

Born in Chittagong, Bangladesh in 1940, Dr. Yunus graduated from Dhaka University and subsequently obtained a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States as a Fulbright scholar.

He was teaching at the University of Chittagong as a professor of economics when he was beset by deep skepticism, as he found himself powerless as an economist in the face of the economic plight of his fellow Bangladeshis. He decided to devote his life to fighting poverty.
  Dr. Yunus realized that the poverty of his fellow countrymen was not because of their laziness but due to social institutions, which made it impossible to borrow money without collateral.

So he developed the epoch-making microcredit system, which has enabled tens of millions of poor people in Bangladesh and many other parts of the world to embark on life-transforming income-generating activities with small sums of money they borrowed without collateral. Dr. Yunus champions capitalism, free enterprise, small government and individual liberty.

He knows from experience that everyone is endowed with an innate ability to overcome poverty, and believes that efforts should be made to help develop such ability. He regards credit as a human right. Dr. Yunus also believes that women and homemakers more acutely feel poverty. So he decided to lend money primarily to women, who he thought should also hold the key to fighting poverty.

About 96 percent of the borrowers of the Grameen Bank are women. And this has brought about amazing results. By empowering women as a major player of economic activities, he also helped enhance the status of women in a traditionally male-dominant society.

The microcredit movement, initiated by Dr. Yunus, has been called a “revolutionary” method in fighting poverty, and has been adopted throughout the world from Afghanistan and Pakistan to France, Canada and the United States. It was also introduced in Korea to help the urban poor and credit defaulters. The United Nations designated 2005 as the year of the microcredit to underscore its commitment to fighting poverty, which it considers a global issue, transcending national boundaries.