General Assembly President calls for expanded microfinance services to fight poverty

13 October 2010

The President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss today underscored the importance of microfinance as a means of alleviating poverty, citing improvements in the lot of poor women who have had access to financial services they previously lacked.

“One need only cite the improvement of women's access to financial services, their consequent empowerment and the indirect positive effects this has on children's school enrolment and health care,” Mr. Deiss told a General Assembly session held as a follow-up discussion on the International Year of Microcredit.

“Microfinance is a key instrument for improving the living conditions of poor populations. The considerable growth of microfinance over the last few years can be termed a success,” Mr. Deiss said.

He, however, echoed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report on the role of microcredit and microfinance in the eradication of poverty, which revealed a number of limitations.

The report showed that geographical coverage of microfinance services is uneven and rural areas are still often excluded, meaning that the poorest populations had difficulty accessing services.

According to the report, while microfinance helps to improve the lives of the poor, it cannot lift them permanently out of poverty. The service, however, has significant educational potential in terms of introducing poor populations to market mechanisms and activities, of which they often have little knowledge.

“We should draw lessons from the experience gained thus far so as to take better advantage of the potential of microfinance.

“Just as we developed the initial concept of microcredit into the concept of microfinance […] we should now take steps to give effect to the idea of inclusive finance, thus ensuring that the financial sector promotes the creation of jobs and productive activities and is thus placed at the service of the poorest, and of society as a whole,” Mr. Deiss said.

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