Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, a founding member of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction Advisory Board, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize announced in Oslo today. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.
Yunus is a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. He is a strong advocate of the importance of sustainable construction through projects such as the “Grameen House” low-cost housing initiative.
The Advisory Board ensures that the activities of the Holcim Foundation are conducted in accordance with current interpretations of sustainable construction by identifying the architectural, scientific, cultural, and policy concerns that should be integrated into its initiatives.
Grameen Bank has been instrumental in helping millions of poor Bangladeshis, many of them women, improve their standard of living by letting them borrow tiny sums to start businesses. Loans go toward buying items such as cows to start a dairy, chickens for an egg business, or cell phones to start businesses where villagers who have no access to phones pay a small fee to make calls.
Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea.
From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world.
"Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Nobel Committee said in their laudation. Yunus and the bank will share in the $1.4 million prize as well as a gold medal and diploma. The peace prize was the sixth and last Nobel prize announced this year. The others, for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics, were announced in Stockholm, Sweden.
In an inspiring and charismatic keynote address at the first Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Yunus brought the structural nature of poverty to life through “The power of small changes”.
He presented the “Grameen House” – a particularly successful project of the Grameen Bank. It is the model for a sturdy, practical, and economical dwelling that borrowers can build mostly themselves. Each house is built on a cornerstone of four concrete posts to provide a flood-resistant foundation, use locally-available materials, and generate employment, skills creation, and opportunities.
The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction extends its sincere congratulations to Muhammad Yunus on being announced the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.