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Muhammad Yunus at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 25 January 2012.
|Born|| 28 June 1940 |
Chittagong, British Raj
|Information at IDEAS/RePEc|
Muhammad Yunus at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 25 January 2012.
|Born|| 28 June 1940 |
Chittagong, British Raj
|Information at IDEAS/RePEc|
Muhammad Yunus (Bengali: মুহাম্মদ ইউনূস; born 28 June 1940) is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below". The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted that "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty" and that "across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development". Yunus has received several other national and international honours. He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
In February 2011, Yunus together with Saskia Bruysten, Sophie Eisenmann and Hans Reitz co-founded Yunus Social Business – Global Initiatives (YSB). YSB creates and empowers social businesses to address and solve social problems around the world. As the international implementation arm for Yunus’ vision of a new, humane capitalism, YSB manages Incubator Funds for social businesses in developing countries and providing advisory services to companies, governments, foundations and NGOs.
In 2012, he became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. He is a member of the advisory board at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was a professor of economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh. He published several books related to his finance work. He is a founding board member of Grameen America and Grameen Foundation, which support microcredit.
In March 2011, the Bangladesh government fired Yunus from his position at Grameen Bank, citing legal violations and an age limit on his position. Bangladesh's High Court affirmed the removal on 8 March. Yunus and Grameen Bank are appealing the decision, claiming Yunus' removal was politically motivated.
The third of nine children, Yunus was born on 28 June 1940 to a Muslim family in the village of Bathua, by the Boxirhat Road in Hathazari, Chittagong in the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj, which today forms modern Bangladesh. His father was Hazi Dula Mia Shoudagar, a jeweler, and his mother was Sufia Khatun. His early childhood was spent in the village. In 1944, his family moved to the city of Chittagong, and he moved from his village school to Lamabazar Primary School. By 1949, his mother was afflicted with psychological illness. Later, he passed the matriculation examination from Chittagong Collegiate School ranking 16th of 39,000 students in East Pakistan. During his school years, he was an active Boy Scout, and travelled to West Pakistan and India in 1952, and to Canada in 1955 to attend Jamborees. Later while Yunus studied at Chittagong College, he became active in cultural activities and won awards for drama. In 1957, he enrolled in the Department of Economics at Dhaka University and completed his BA in 1960 and MA in 1961.
After his graduation, Yunus joined the Bureau of Economics as a research assistant to the economics researches of Professor Nurul Islam and Rehman Sobhan. Later, he was appointed lecturer in economics in Chittagong College in 1961. During that time, he also set up a profitable packaging factory on the side. In 1965, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He obtained his PhD in economics from the Vanderbilt University Graduate Program in Economic Development (GPED) in 1971. From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Yunus founded a citizen's committee and ran the Bangladesh Information Center, with other Bangladeshis in the United States, to raise support for liberation. He also published the Bangladesh Newsletter from his home in Nashville. After the War, he returned to Bangladesh and was appointed to the government's Planning Commission headed by Nurul Islam. However, he found the job boring and resigned to join Chittagong University as head of the Economics department. After observing the famine of 1974, he became involved in poverty reduction and established a rural economic program as a research project. In 1975, he developed a Nabajug (New Era) Tebhaga Khamar (three share farm) which the government adopted as the Packaged Input Programme. In order to make the project more effective, Yunus and his associates proposed the Gram Sarkar (the village government) programme. Introduced by president Ziaur Rahman in the late 1970s, the Government formed 40,392 village governments as a fourth layer of government in 2003. On 2 August 2005, in response to a petition by Bangladesh Legal Aids and Services Trust (BLAST) the High Court had declared village governments illegal and unconstitutional.
In 1976, during visits to the poorest households in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University, Yunus discovered that very small loans could make a disproportionate difference to a poor person. Village women who made bamboo furniture had to take usurious loans to buy bamboo, and repay their profits to the lenders. Traditional banks did not want to make tiny loans at reasonable interest to the poor due to high risk of default. But Yunus believed that, given the chance, the poor will repay the money and hence microcredit was a viable business model. Yunus lent US$27 of his money to 42 women in the village, who made a profit of BDT 0.50 (US$0.02) each on the loan. Thus Yunus is credited with the idea of microcredit alongside Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, founder of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (now Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development), whom Yunus greatly admired.
In December 1976, Yunus finally secured a loan from the government Janata Bank to lend to the poor in Jobra. The institution continued to operate, securing loans from other banks for its projects. By 1982, it had 28,000 members. On 1 October 1983, the pilot project began operation as a full-fledged bank for poor Bangladeshis and was renamed Grameen Bank ("Village Bank"). Yunus and his colleagues encountered everything from violent radical leftists to conservative clergy who told women that they would be denied a Muslim burial if they borrowed money from Grameen. By July 2007, Grameen had issued US$6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers. To ensure repayment, the bank uses a system of "solidarity groups". These small informal groups apply together for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another's efforts at economic self-advancement.
In the late 1980s, Grameen started to diversify by attending to underutilized fishing ponds and irrigation pumps like deep tube wells. In 1989, these diversified interests started growing into separate organizations. The fisheries project became Grameen Motsho ("Grameen Fisheries Foundation") and the irrigation project became Grameen Krishi ("Grameen Agriculture Foundation"). In time, the Grameen initiative grew into a multi-faceted group of profitable and non-profit ventures, including major projects like Grameen Trust and Grameen Fund, which runs equity projects like Grameen Software Limited, Grameen CyberNet Limited, and Grameen Knitwear Limited, as well as Grameen Telecom, which has a stake in Grameenphone (GP), the biggest private phone company in Bangladesh. From its start in March 1997 to 2007, GP's Village Phone (Polli Phone) project had brought cell-phone ownership to 260,000 rural poor in over 50,000 villages.
The success of the Grameen microfinance model inspired similar efforts in about 100 developing countries and even in developed countries including the United States. Many microcredit projects retain Grameen's emphasis of lending to women. More than 94% of Grameen loans have gone to women, who suffer disproportionately from poverty and who are more likely than men to devote their earnings to their families.
For his work with Grameen, Yunus was named an Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Global Academy Member in 2001. In the book Grameen Social Business Model,  Rashidul Bari shows how Grameen's social business model (GSBM)- has gone from being theory to an inspiring practice adopted by leading universities (e.g., Glasgow), entrepreneurs (e.g., Franck Riboud) and corporations (e.g., Danone) across the globe. Through Grameen Bank, Rashidul Bari claims  that Yunus demonstrated how Grameen Social Business Model can harness the entrepreneurial spirit to empower poor women and alleviate their poverty. One conclusion from Yunus' concepts is that the poor are like a “bonsai tree”, and they can do big things if they get access to the social business that holds potential to empower them to become self-sufficient.
Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Grameen Bank, for their efforts to create economic and social development. In the prize announcement The Norwegian Nobel Committee mentioned:
Muhammad 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.
Yunus was the first Bangladeshi to ever get a Nobel Prize. After receiving the news of the important award, Yunus announced that he would use part of his share of the $1.4 million award money to create a company to make low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor; while the rest would go toward setting up an eye hospital for the poor in Bangladesh.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton was a vocal advocate for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Yunus. He expressed this in Rolling Stone magazine as well as in his autobiography My Life. In a speech given at University of California, Berkeley in 2002, President Clinton described Yunus as "a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize [and] I’ll keep saying that until they finally give it to him." Conversely, The Economist stated explicitly that Yunus was a poor choice for the award, stating: "...the Nobel committee could have made a braver, more difficult, choice by declaring that there would be no recipient at all."
He is one of only seven persons to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Other notable awards include the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1984, the World Food Prize, the International Simon Bolivar Prize (1996), the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord and the Sydney Peace Prize in 1998, and the Seoul Peace Prize in 2006. Additionally, Yunus has been awarded 50 honorary doctorate degrees from universities across 20 countries, and 113 international awards from 26 different countries including state honours from 10 countries. Bangladesh government brought out a commemorative stamp to honour his Nobel Award.
Yunus was named by Fortune Magazine in March 2012 as one of 12 greatest entrepreneurs of the current era. In its citation, Fortune Magazine said ″Yunus' idea inspired countless numbers of young people to devote themselves to social causes all over the world.″
Yunus was named "Nobel-Laureate-in-Residence" at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia) on 15 July 2011.
Yunus delivered the Seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.
On 15 May 2010, Yunus gave the commencement speech at Rice University for the graduating class of 2010. On 16 May 2010, Yunus gave the commencement speech at Duke University for the graduating class of 2010. During this ceremony, he was also awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.
Yunus was invited and gave the Wharton School of Business commencement address on 17 May 2009, the MIT commencement address on 6 June 2008, Adam Smith Lecture at Glasgow University on 1 December 2008 and Oxford's Romanes Lecture on 2 December 2008.
He received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service from the Eisenhower Fellowships at a ceremony in Philadelphia on 21 May 2009. He was also voted 2nd in Prospect Magazine's 2008 global poll of the world's top 100 intellectuals.
Yunus was named among the most desired thinkers the world should listen to by the FP 100 (world's most influential elite) in the December 2009 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. On 1 March 2010, Yunus was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. This is the highest honour available from the University.
On 22 September 2011 the documentary film, Bonsai People – The Vision of Muhammad Yunus, the first documentary film that looks his full body of work from microcredit to social business, premiered at the United Nations.
Yunus received 50 honorary doctorate degrees from universities from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA and Peru.
United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, invited Yunus to serve as an MDG Advocate. Yunus sits on the Board of United Nations Foundation, Schwab Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Grameen Credit Agricole Microcredit Foundation. He has been a member of Fondation Chirac's honour committee, ever since the foundation was launched in 2008 by former French president Jacques Chirac in order to promote world peace.
Yunus has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006, The Colbert Report in 2008, Real Time with Bill Maher in 2009 and The Simpsons in 2010. On Google+, Yunus is one of the most followed person worldwide, with over 1.7 million followers.
In 2012 Yunus was installed as Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. U.S House and Senate leaders held a ceremony to present Yunus with the Congressional Gold Medal on April 17, 2013 in Washington, D.C for his contributions to the fight against global poverty.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States Congress. At the ceremony, which you can watch on YouTube, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained why Yunus is such a visionary: "It's been said that almost anyone can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make something simple. My friends, make no mistake; Muhammad Yunus is a genius." The gold medal was awarded to Yunus with the 111th Congress Public Law 253.
In early 2006 Yunus, along with other members of the civil society including Professor Rehman Sobhan, Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman, Dr Kamal Hossain, Matiur Rahman, Mahfuz Anam and Debapriya Bhattchariya, participated in a campaign for honest and clean candidates in national elections. He considered entering politics in the later part of that year. On 11 February 2007, Yunus wrote an open letter, published in the Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star, where he asked citizens for views on his plan to float a political party to establish political goodwill, proper leadership and good governance. In the letter, he called on everyone to briefly outline how he should go about the task and how they can contribute to it. Yunus finally announced that he is willing to launch a political party tentatively called Citizens' Power (Nagorik Shakti) on 18 February 2007. There was speculation that the army supported a move by Yunus into politics. On 3 May, however, Yunus declared that he had decided to abandon his political plans following a meeting with the head of the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed.
In July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu convened a group of world leaders “to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.” Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday. Yunus attended the launch of the group and was one of its founding members. He stepped down as an Elder in September 2009, stating that he was unable to do justice to his membership due to the demands of his work.
Yunus is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, that outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies. In 2012, the Africa Progress Report highlighted issues of Jobs, Justice, and Equity. The 2013 report will outline issues relating to oil, gas, and mining in Africa.
Since 2010, Yunus has served as a Commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a UN initiative which seeks to use broadband internet services to accelerate social and economic development.
He also serves on the advisory board of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, a foundation supporting initiatives that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence.
Since late November 2010, several allegations have been made against Yunus. They started with a critique of microcredit and blame of Grameen Bank on several points in the documentary “Caught in Micro Debt” on Norwegian television on 30 November 2010. This developed at a time when larger questions were being raised about the benefits of microfinance and its effects on poverty alleviation, particularly in regards to several microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India and Mexico.
The allegations against Yunus became political when the government of Bangladesh – led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed turned against him and the concept of microfinance, accusing it of “sucking blood from the poor”. Wajed reportedly viewed Yunus as a political rival since Yunus considered creating a political party in 2007. – In the book Grameen Social Business Model, Rashidul Bari explained the political vendetta in Bangladesh by Sheikh Hasina against Yunus as a replay of the conflict between Pope Urban VIII and Galileo Galilei.
"Pope Urban VIII put 70-year-old Galileo in prison in 1632 for condemning and rejecting Ptolemy's geocentric model, which was adopted by the early Christian Church. In the same spirit, Sheikh Hasina who labeled Yunus as a “blood sucker of poor people”—unleashed her propaganda machine (e.g., AMA Muhith) to remove Yunus from Grameen—and used the High Court and Supreme Court to justify her decision. Why did Pope Urban VIII insult the Father of Astronomy? Because Galileo rejected the accepted Christian Church view, that the earth is the center of the universe, and that all other celestial objects orbit around it.
The Government announced a review of Grameen Bank activities on 11 January 2011, which is ongoing. In February, several international leaders, such as Mary Robinson, stepped up their defence of Yunus through a number of efforts, including the founding of a formal network of supporters known as “Friends of Grameen”.
On 15 February 2011, the Finance Minister of Bangladesh, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, declared that Yunus should “stay away” from Grameen Bank while it is being investigated. On 2 March 2011, Muzammel Huq – a former Bank employee, whom the government had appointed Chairman in January – announced that Yunus had been fired as Managing Director of the Bank. However, Bank General Manager Jannat-E Quanine issued a statement that Yunus was “continuing in his office” pending review of the legal issues surrounding the controversy .
In March 2011, Yunus petitioned the Bangladesh High Court challenging the legality of the decision by the Bangladeshi Central Bank to remove him as Managing Director of Grameen Bank. The same day, nine elected directors of Grameen Bank filed a second petition. Following Hillary Clinton, John Kerry expressed his support to Yunus in a statement on 5 March 2011 and declared that he was “deeply concerned” by this affair. The same day in Bangladesh, thousands of people protested and formed human chains to support Yunus. The High Court hearing on the petitions, was planned for 6 March 2011 but postponed. On 8 March 2011, the Court confirmed Yunus's dismissal.
A Danish documentary, Caught in Micro Debt, produced and directed by journalist Tom Heinemann, aired on Norwegian national television NRK in November 2010. It made a number of allegations against Yunus and Grameen Bank. Those allegations were disproved by later inquiries. The documentary falsely accused Yunus and Grameen Bank of diverting 7 billion taka (about 100 million dollars) given by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) from Grameen Bank to another organisation called Grameen Kalyan in 1996. This allegation was widely spread in the Bangladeshi electronic media in December 2010. On 6 December, NORAD published a statement clearing Yunus and the Bank from any wrongdoing on this point, following a comprehensive review of NORAD’s support commissioned by the Minister of International Development.
However, the allegations quickly spread through the Bangladesh media. Leading Bangladeshi economist Rehman Sobhan stated “Rather than first seeking clarification and response from Grameen Bank as to the validity of the TV program, some sections of the media and society pounced on it with unseemly enthusiasm, using it as an opportunity to cite wrongdoing in a widely respected organization.” Yunus asked for consistent and transparent investigations on these matters.
The allegations against Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank were made in a context where some people began to question the effectiveness of microfinance, prompted by the actions of some for-profit microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India and Mexico. Coercion, peer pressure and physical harassment were reportedly used as loan repayment practices in some specific MFIs. Commercialization of microcredit prompted Yunus to state that he “never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks.”
The lure of profits attracted some for-profit MFIs to hold initial public offerings (IPOs), including the largest Indian MFI, SKS Microfinance, which held an IPO in July 2010. In September 2010, Yunus criticized the IPO; in a debate with SKS founder Vikram Akula during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, he said, “Microcredit is not about exciting people to make money off the poor. That's what you're doing. That's the wrong message completely.” Calculations of actual interest rate vary, but one estimate puts average Grameen rates at about a 23% interest rate. At the same time the organization enjoyed a tax-free status for a period of several years which now has been removed.
Sympathizers of Yunus allege that the government of Bangladesh is exploiting this “moral crisis around microcredit” to oust Yunus.
Though Grameen Bank was quickly cleared by the Norwegian government of all allegations surrounding misused or misappropriated funds in December 2010, in March 2011 the Bangladeshi government launched a three-month investigation of all Grameen Bank's activities. This inquiry prevented Muhammad Yunus from participating in the World Economic Forum.
In January 2011, Yunus appeared in court in a defamation case filed by a local politician from a minor left-leaning party in 2007, complaining about a statement that Yunus made to the AFP news agency, “Politicians in Bangladesh only work for power. There is no ideology here”. At the hearing, Yunus was granted bail and exempted from personal appearance at subsequent hearings.
These investigations fueled suspicion that many attacks might be politically motivated, due to difficult relations between Sheikh Hasina and Yunus since early 2007, when Yunus created his own political party, an effort he dropped in May 2007.
At 72 years old, he was 12 years beyond the legal retirement age for civil servants in Bangladesh in 2011. Government spokespersons called for Yunus to step down and declared, ”We need to redefine the bank's role and bring it under closer regulation.”
The government as chairman Muzammel Huq, himself a foundational figure of the Grameen Bank and one of senior managers together with Yunus of GB Research and Operations until the early 2000s. He has publicly criticised Yunus, saying, "I think he is a good man with a small heart ... He cannot give credit to anyone but himself”.
On 27 January 2011, Yunus appeared in court in a food-adulteration case filed by the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) Food Safety Court, accusing him of producing an “adulterated” yogurt whose fat content was below the legal minimum. This yogurt is produced by Grameen Danone, a social business joint venture between Grameen Bank and Danone that aims to provide opportunities for street vendors who sell the yogurt and to improve child nutrition with the nutrient-fortified yogurt. According to Yunus's lawyer, the allegations are “false and baseless”. At the request of Yunus's lawyers, pointing procedural irregularities and errors, this case is now considered by the High Court.
On 15 February 2011, Yunus was summoned by a court in Pabna (in North Bangladesh) to appear on 18 April in a fraud case involving Grameen Phone. This case concerns a Grameen village phone user, who received overdue bills although she had paid the bills regularly.
Investigation by an 2012 independent public commission examining the Grameen Bank assert that Yunus misrepresented his authority and abused his powers during his tenure in management. The report establishes that legal challenges exist for authority of the Grameen Bank to have acted as guarantor and to have forwarded credit to independent private enterprises during Dr. Yunus's tenure. The report raised specific questions relating to a) establishment and financing of GrameenPhone, a for-profit telecommunications entity initially established as a trust for the Grameen Bank borrowers together with Norwegian government owned multinational Telenor by Dr Yunus, and b) simultaneous management and operational financing of private enterprises established by Dr Yunus applying resources of the Grameen Bank. The commission also examined the legal status of the Grameen Bank and concluded that it was de jure public i.e. government entity, of which incompetent oversight by the state and (potentially unwitting) misrepresentation by Dr. Yunus in past resulted in the popular perception of the private ownership. The commission report refers to obstruction of commission investigations by current Grameen Bank management, representatives of Telenor, the Government of Bangladesh, and by partisans of Dr. Yunus. Full implications of the report are thus far not closely examined in either state-controlled elements of Bangladeshi media, or by pro-Yunus press releases, where these implicate Dr Yunus as at least accessory to corruption at the nexus of the Bangladeshi public-commercial establishment, in collusion with other parties. See Grameen Bank Commission report http://www.mof.gov.bd/en/budget/gb/Grameen_Bank_Interim_Report.pdf.
In 1967, while Yunus attended Vanderbilt University, he met Vera Forostenko, a student of Russian literature at Vanderbilt University and daughter of Russian immigrants to Trenton, New Jersey, US. They were married in 1970. Yunus's marriage with Vera ended within months of the birth of their baby girl, Monica Yunus (born 1979 Chittagong), as Vera returned to New Jersey claiming that Bangladesh was not a good place to raise a baby. Yunus later married Afrozi Yunus, who was then a researcher in physics at Manchester University. She was later appointed as a professor of physics at Jahangirnagar University. Their daughter Deena Afroz Yunus was born in 1986.
Yunus's brothers are also active in academia. His brother Muhammad Ibrahim is a professor of physics at Dhaka University and the founder of The Center for Mass Education in Science (CMES), which brings science education to adolescent girls in villages. His younger brother Muhammad Jahangir is a popular television presenter and a well known social activist in Bangladesh. He is also the moderator of several Talk show programmes in Bangladesh. Monica Yunus, his elder daughter, is a Bangladeshi-Russian American operatic soprano, working in New York City.
Grameenphone is now the leading telecommunications service provider in the country with more than 10 million subscribers as of November 2006.[dead link]
Muhammad Yunus should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics years ago.
At first glance, the current state of Bangladesh appears to be a paradox : a country under a state of emergency, but where the general public seem quite content.
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|Awards and achievements|
|World Food Prize|
Hans R. Herren
|Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University|