Nobel Laureate Yunus Speaks on Globalization
In 2006-2007, the Mortara Center for International Studies expanded its activities to promote the new University Initiative on International Development. Highlights included a March 14 lecture on globalization, poverty and microenterprise by the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.
Yunus, from Bangladesh, began his life-long effort to combat poverty in the 1970s as an economics professor. He lent a total of $27 to 42 Bangladeshi families to test the idea of granting small, flexible loans to the poor, without exorbitant fees and collateral— a concept that became known as micro-credit.
In spite of great skepticism from bankers and creditors, all the families repaid their loans. The program expanded and later evolved into Grameen Bank, which boasts a 98% repayment rate. Today, the bank provides small loans to some seven million borrowers, of whom 97% are women. Yunus’s efforts have gradually reshaped models of economic development.
Speaking to a full audience at Gaston Hall, Yunus challenged his listeners to reshape their views on poverty. “Poverty is not a creation of the poor person. It is created by society at large, by the system at large, by the concepts we teach in our classrooms,” explained Yunus. He also discussed the responsibilities of financial institutions, which must learn to view the poor as a viable clientele. Grameem Bank has made a profit almost every year of its existence.
Yunus encouraged Georgetown students to keep an open mind and use their imagination. “In order to redesign the world, we have to go back to the drawing board. We can create a world that we imagine,” said Yunus. “So let’s be bold and imagine a world totally free of poverty.”