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Palabras de Su Majestad la Reina con motivo de la entrega del Premio Humanitario 2000 de la Grameen Foundation U.S.A.

EE.UU.(Nueva York), 30.10.2000

M

r. Alex Counts and Mr. Michael Pascucci,Dr. Muhammad Yunus,Mr. President Elect of Mexico,Distinguished Donors and guests:

It is with great pride and pleasure that I accept the Award that has just been presented to me. Not only does it represent a singular honor to me personally, and to the Spanish Crown; it also recognizes the  commitment of the men and women of Spain in their endeavour to alleviate poverty around the world. A world that has come to recognize the outstanding breakthrough that Microfinance represents in the fight against poverty

In this sense, all of us are indebted to Dr. Yunus for his insightful and original conception of Microcredits which for the last two decades has proved to be a very powerful instrument in the eradication of poverty and a tool which, in combination with other development policies and programmes, has brought renewed hope to the world's poorest.

In particular, to those three billion people who, though culturally and geographically different, still live on less than two dollars a day according to World Bank estimates; but also to those who share the daily battle of feeding a household, those who enjoy no health insurance, those who have no access to basic infrastructures that many of us take for granted, and who have no access to education, while continuing to be extremely vulnerable to climatic and natural catastrophes.

But microcredits also offer an additional and extremely important opportunity to the poorest, to those who lack credit history and the required financial assets: the possibility of becoming a productive part of the national economy and society to which they belong, and to contribute in their own right and with their own work to its development and growth. And in doing so, microcredits have managed to give back to the poor the self-esteem that poverty so often obliterates.

Therefore, microcredits have become not only an indispensable instrument in the eradication of poverty, of ignorance and of illness, but also a means of assuring peace and economic growth in a world which, on the threshold of the 21st century, has failed to find lasting solutions to the many forms of deprivation that the poor suffer daily. As we gather here today, we cannot help but recognize that poverty was the 20th century's most outstanding and unresolved social blemish, and will still be the most pressing challenge we will encounter in the new century.

Grameen Bank and the Grameen Foundation USA have broken new ground in the task which still faces us. Dr. Yunus and Grameen will forever be remembered for their pioneering work and new approaches to alleviating poverty. Their contributions have been and will continue to be an essential key to provinding lasting and effective solutions.

I have had many occasions to see for myself Grameen's outstanding work with the neediest. On my last visit to Bangladesh, early this year, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Spanish Government with Grameen Trust, thus opening the way for institutional collaboration between both parties for the purposes of concluding an Agreement in order to set up a "Spanish Microcredit Fund" at Grameen Trust.

Negotiations related to such a bilateral Agreement have been ongoing since early fall and have had the support of the Government of Bangladesh. As soon as this Agreement is concluded, the Spanish Government, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be ready to create a Microcredit Fund which will finance new microcredit projects selected by both parties in agreed sectors and regions of Bangladesh, wherever there is a special need of new funding to support Grameen's fight against poverty. This Agreement is part of the Spanish Government's overall cooperation and development policy, a policy which relies on microcredits as one of the essential tools to bring economic growth and development to the neediest, wherever they may be.

It is with this goal in mind that other  Spanish  Microcredit Funds have been and are being set up in different countries such as the Philippines, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, República Dominicana, and the Centralamerican Bank for Economic Integration which manages Spanish microcredit funds for El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Spain's commitment to the fight against poverty is strong and lasting. Though we are latecomers to the microcredit world, we are persuaded of its importance and have duly funded the Spanish Microcredit Programme with aproximately fifty million dollars for the year 2001, a programme which will reach a total amount of a little over 200 million dollars in the coming years.

The full achievement of the goals put forward by the Grameen Foundation would certainly fill me with special satisfaction. The fact that Mr. Vicente Fox, President Elect of Mexico, has already offered his country as the next venue to host the new meeting, together with the expectation that microfinance might be successfully applied in his great country, gives us all renewed energies. I wish the greatest success and all the best to this new reunion on mexican soil.

I would like to finish by contratulating tonight winners of the Microcredit Excellence and Pioneer Awards, and expressing once more my sincere gratitude to the members of the Grameen Foundation U.S.A. for honouring me with the Humanitarian Award 2000.

Thank you.

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