Grameen Foundation has strongly protested an Associated Press article that said Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus runs the foundation and it received USAID funding because of the Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer's friendship with Hillary Clinton when she was the US secretary of state.
“There is no basis for the allegations in your article,” said Grameen Foundation, referring to the AP's article, headlined “Many Donors To Clinton Foundation Met With Hillary Clinton At State Department”, published on August 23.
“They misrepresent our work, our history, and our values,” said Steve Hollingworth, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation, in a letter to the AP on Wednesday.
Hollingworth said the article incorrectly states that Prof Yunus “runs” Grameen Foundation, and insinuates that Grameen Foundation received USAID money based on unethical behaviour, rather than through standard competitive processes and based on the merit of their organisation and programmes.
Prof Yunus was a founding member of the board of Grameen Foundation in 1997, and has been Emeritus Board Director since. However, Grameen Foundation is an independent US-based nonprofit organisation with its own leadership and staff.
“While we continue to gain inspiration from the vision and leadership provided by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, he does not “run” Grameen Foundation.”
Furthermore, said Hollingworth, the AP article incorrectly implies that Grameen Foundation's original partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and subsequent grant funding, were the result of a meeting between Prof Yunus and Hillary Clinton in April 2009.
“On the contrary, the partnership entered between the USAID and Grameen Foundation in 2009 was based on both organisations' strong commitment to microfinance as a path out of poverty for the world's poor.”
The statement said Grameen Foundation had worked in microfinance since its founding in 1997. The partnership, formalised by a memorandum of understanding signed in October 2009, was to extend $162.5 million as loan guarantees in support of microfinance institutions in poor countries, thus enabling those institutions to support more low-income individuals and small businesses with microloans, as a pathway out of poverty.
The $162.5 million was not money that went to Grameen Foundation. It was a pool of funds to provide credit guarantees to enable microfinance institutions in poor countries to operate and continue to serve low-income clients. Grameen Foundation managed the fund on behalf of the USAID and provided additional co-guarantee funding.
The AP article, said Hollingworth, also implies that the money received by Grameen Foundation from the USAID between 2012 and 2016 was unethically procured or sourced.
“In fact, Grameen Foundation competed for the USAID-funded grants, participating in its rigorous and strictly regulated competitive bid process.
“During that time, we were awarded four grants totalling $3.1 million to design and implement projects aimed at improving child and maternal health, and improving the financial security for the poor. In addition, we were sub-grantees on an additional six grants totalling $2.2 million. Again, we were selected as subgrantees based on the merit of our work and expertise.”
The Foundation said: “We are proud of our history, and of the inspiration provided by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.”
It said as the founder of microcredit, Prof Yunus has helped to change the lives of tens of millions of poor people the world over. He founded and ran the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and founded a whole family of associated organisations and social enterprises in Bangladesh.
“This work has demonstrated how it is possible to create self-sustaining institutions that operate within the market system and serve the needs of the poor. These are models all people, countries, and governments can learn from as they strive to address the deep-seated problems of poverty, inequity and hunger.”
In a separate response, Grameen America Inc, which is dedicated to helping women who live in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families, denied that Prof Yunus donated any funds to the Clinton Foundation.
Grameen America said it is a fully independent nonprofit organisation registered in the United States.
“All tax deductible payments made by Grameen America to the Clinton Foundation have been solely for standard conference fees to attend the annual Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meetings. Public commitments made by Grameen America at these meetings are announcements about Grameen America's independent programme and impact, and have never involved any funding to or from the Clinton Foundation.”
Prof Yunus founded Grameen America based upon the belief that Grameen Bank, a system that has succeeded with remarkable results in the villages of Bangladesh, could work in urban America.
The organisation offers microloans, training and support to transform communities and fight poverty in the United States. Since opening in January 2008, Grameen America has invested $480 million in more than 75,000 low-income women entrepreneurs.