On March 7, 40 global leaders from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business, the arts, and academia sent the letter below to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh regarding her government’s treatment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. This open letter was also published as a full-page ad in the Washington Post. Those wishing to work in solidarity with these leaders can consider the steps suggested in a call to action published elsewhere on this site that can be accessed here.
May 7, 2023
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister’s Office
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Honorable Prime Minister Hasina,
We write to you as friends of Bangladesh who admire the courage and ingenuity of the people of your country. We are public servants and businesspeople, civil society leaders and philanthropists. We are among the tens of millions of global citizens who have been inspired by the innovations that have been developed in Bangladesh and adopted around the world. It is out of this deep respect for your country that we write to urge you to take positive steps to support and recognize the great contributions one of your most notable citizens, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus.
We have deep concerns for Professor Yunus’ well-being and his ability to contribute to humanitarian advancement in Bangladesh and around the world. As we are sure you are aware, Muhammad Yunus’ contributions to Bangladesh-especially to the very poor and the most vulnerable-as well as to the world, are recognized and honored around the globe. For example:
- Professor Yunus is one of seven people in history to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential medal of Freedom, and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, a group that includes Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and Elie Wiesel.
- He founded Grameen Bank in 1976 and grew it to a world-renowned poverty-fighting institution of 9 million borrowers, 97 percent of them women, that has lifted millions out of poverty and been a model for other microcredit programs around the world.
- In the mid-1980s Grameen Bank began offering housing loans of $200-$500 that have led to the construction of sturdy rural homes for more than 750,000 families.
- Grameen Shakti, which Professor Yunus founded and chairs, has installed more than 1.8 million solar home systems and trained thousands of rural women to install and repair these systems.
- The farsighted investment of Grameen Telecom, a nonprofit organization that he founded, in GrameenPhone, has allowed for the proliferation of social innovation throughout Bangladesh such as the establishment of Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing, the country’s largest private nursing college, four eye care hospitals that cater to the country’s poor, 150 primary health care clinics, and more.
- He established Grameen America in 2008 to provide microcredit to low-income people in the United States, mostly in amounts under $2,500. It is about to cross the milestone of $3 billion lent, and it has a 99% repayment rate.
Muhammad Yunus has not benefited financially from his involvement in Grameen Telecom or GrameenPhone. Rather, he has devoted himself to the poverty-fighting missions of the many organizations he has established and lives modestly in Dhaka. It is therefore painful to see Prof. Yunus, a man of impeccable integrity, and his life’s work unfairly attacked and repeatedly harassed and investigated by your government.
We believe one of the most important roles of government is to create an environment where traditional and social entrepreneurs can flourish.
We hope that Bangladesh will return to its role as a model for other developing nations of how a vibrant civil society can be nurtured to ensure sustainable progress. A good first step would be to recognize Professor Yunus’ achievements and allow him to focus his energy on doing more good for your country and for the world, rather than on defending himself.
We, and tens of millions of people around the world, hope that you will embrace this vision.
Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary General of the UN