Monday, December 11, 2006

Peace Prize Deserved: Muhammad Yunus

The Nobel Peace Prize committee rarely offers the prize to someone who truly deserves it -- someone who has truly done something to help humanity through a sincere and concerted effort toward preserving and encouraging human rights.

The choice of Muhammad Yunus is to be commended and admired: this individual and his Grameen Bank which provides loans for the very poor in Bangladesh without demanding any collateral, is truly an individual who has made an effort to save lives and change the course of poverty and human rights conditions in his country. Hopefully, he will encourage other well-to-do people to make a difference in this world where over 50% of the wealth is in the hands of only 2% of the population.

Previous winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have been insults to the value of human rights and to the many people who actually make a sincere effort toward peace and humanity. These poor choices tend to fall into one of two categories: attempts at revering failed statesmen (think Kofi Annan, 2001; Jimmy Carter, 2002; Arafat, Peres and Rabin, 1994; Gorbachev, 1990 and a long list of others) and tokens: minorities and women chosen to prove that the Prize Committee isn't prejudiced.

Sadly, the only Iranian to ever win the prize falls into this second category. The choice of Shirin Ebadi in 2003 was the committee's desperate attempt to give much needed voice to the deplorable dearth of human rights in Iran while at the same time finally awarding the prize to a Muslim -- sort of like killing two birds with one stone, really. Unfortunately, they didn't do their research and they picked an establishment pansy who did little before she won the prize and even less after.
Is Yunus the start of a trend toward justifiable Peace Prize laureates? Probably not, but then again, let's just be happy when credit is given where credit is due. Congratulations Muhammad Yunus and thank you.

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