Thursday, July 30, 2009

Professor Muhammad Yunus Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

From the Grameen Foundation...
I am delighted to announce that Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of Grameen Bank and member emeritus of Grameen Foundation’s board of directors, has been awarded a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. Yunus will receive his medal from President Barack Obama at a special White House ceremony on August 12.
I worked with Dr. Yunus for six years in Bangladesh prior to establishing Grameen Foundation with his support in 1997, and I am delighted that he is being honored for his tremendous work on behalf of poor people worldwide. While living there, I saw Professor Yunus’ humble leadership and pathbreaking ideas changing lives and motivating people at all levels of society to envision and work towards a poverty-free Bangladesh. Today, it is a completely different country than when I first arrived there in 1988, and his work has been at the center of those positive changes.
Ultimately, it is his unwavering belief in the power of even the poorest person in a society—whether they live in a rural Asian village or an urban slum in Africa, Latin America or even the United States—to help themselves that inspires all of us here at Grameen Foundation each and every day.
President Obama captured these sentiments wonderfully in his announcement of the awards, saying, "Each [recipient] saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.“
I am deeply honored that Dr. Yunus has invited me to join him and others at the ceremony and look forward to sharing that experience with all of you.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is this nation’s highest civilian honor and recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the United States, world peace and culture. When Dr. Yunus receives his award, he will be joining a distinguished group of individuals that includes Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please join us in sending congratulations to Dr. Yunus by clicking here. We will present all these congratulatory notes to him on August 13, the day after the awards ceremony.


Alex Counts
President & CEO
Grameen Foundation

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Foreign Aid Reform Introduced in the Senate

Bread for the World Urges Senators To Pass Initial Aid Reform Bill

Washington, DC, July 28, 2009—Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann urged members of the Senate to promptly pass a bill introduced today aimed at revitalizing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The bipartisan bill -- the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524) -- was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

“Revitalizing USAID is crucial to the overall reform of U.S. foreign assistance,” said Rev. Beckmann. “If the Obama Administration and Congress improve the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, our dollars will do more good for decades to come.”

USAID was created to lead U.S. development efforts and was once the premier development agency in the world. However, after years of benign neglect and proliferating aid programs across the U.S. government, USAID has lost much of its professional capacity, expertise and authority.

The bill includes a formal statement that it is U.S. policy to promote global development, good governance, and the reduction of poverty and hunger. It contains provisions for restoring planning, policy, and evaluation capacities to USAID. It also lays out new transparency measures for U.S. foreign assistance.

Rev. Beckmann, who is also co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Aid Network, called for the immediate appointment of an administrator for USAID. He said that an administrator should be in place to provide a development perspective as the State Department institutes a quadrennial review and develops a blueprint for U.S. diplomatic and development efforts.

He cautioned that without a USAID administrator, the State Department’s review has the potential to blur the important distinction between diplomacy and development. “When we try to achieve development and diplomatic goals with the same dollars, aid is usually much less effective in reducing poverty,” said Rev. Beckmann.

The Senate bill introduced today complements the efforts of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and his initial aid reform bill, H.R. 2139, which currently has 91 bipartisan cosponsors.

Rev. Beckmann added that the White House, the State Department, and USAID should work closely with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to coordinate foreign aid reform efforts.