Friday, October 13, 2006
'Banker to the poor' Dr Younus the Greatest of all.
OSLO (AFP) - Attack the causes of poverty and you remove the roots of conflict -- that is the message the Nobel Committee wanted to send out by awarding its Peace Prize to the creator of a micro-credit scheme which benefits millions, analysts said on Friday.
Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, the so-called "Banker to the Poor", and the Grameen Bank he founded three decades ago were the surprise winners of the award for pioneering a system of small-scale loans that has helped 6.6 million people escape the grind of poverty.
As the head of the Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, said: "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty."
A glance at recent Peace Prize winners reveals a shift in emphasis in the thinking of the secretive five-member committee away from the classic role of peacemaker, as it has honoured people working in the fields of human rights and the environment.
Asle Sveen, a Norwegian historian who closely follows the Nobel Prize, told AFP: "It is the first time that the fight against poverty has been rewarded in itself.
"There were enough good nominations in the area of conflict resolution in the strictest sense but the Nobel Committee is increasingly taking the fight to the fundamental reasons for which war is waged.
"It is not enough to make peace, this peace must be a just peace and the causes of war, such as hunger and poverty, must be treated at their roots."
Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai was another surprise winner in 2004 and the latest award shows that the Nobel Committee is moving with the times, said Sverre Lodgaard, the director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
"Challenges to peace have become different over the years. We have become more aware of new connections which impact on our security.
"Peace is not just the absence of war but also the absence of reasons for having a war. The committee has been good at updating its concept of peace," Lodgaard said.
"The prize this year is distinct because it's really focused on Yunus' contribution to alleviate poverty.
"There is a good justification for that. There are more lives lost because of extreme poverty than because of war."
He said the Nobel jury had probably expanded its reach as far as it could go for now.
"I don't see much of an expansion in terms of fields or subject areas for a while because I think that the Committee has come to its outer limits," he said.
Lodgaard said however that new categories within the existing fields, such as artists or poets, could be rewarded for their role in creating the conditions for peace.
Stein Toennesson, the head of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, said he believed a genuine peace broker such as former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, who helped end a three-decade conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh last year, should have won.
"Yunus and the Grameen Bank are very good winners but I would have preferred someone who did something earth-shattering for peace," Toennesson said.
Ahtisaari, a veteran mediator whose also led Namibia to independence and helped end the fighting in
We the Change Bangladesh team salute Dr Younus for making us proud to day to be a Bangladeshi.