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UN event highlights need to provide access to financial services to the poor

Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark.
Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark.

UN event highlights need to provide access to financial services to the poor

The United Nations and its partners have stressed the need to forge new partnerships that harness technology as a means to facilitate access to financial services to people living in poverty.

“The rapid spread of new information and communications technologies, and, in particular, mobile technologies, is increasingly making more services available to the world’s poor,” the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, said earlier this week at an event that brought together members of the private sector, development agencies as well as policymakers on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

“Access to mobile phones can be a game changer for the poor, particularly for those 2.5 billion adults who do not currently have access to financial services. Yet such access can contribute to poverty alleviation, development, and growth. With mobile technology, it is within reach.”

Miss Clark emphasized the role of partnerships in making financial services more accessible. Partnerships, she said, bring leadership, expertise and experiences together, and this is only possible if there is collaboration among various sectors of society.

“At UNDP, we firmly believe that by partnering together and leveraging the world’s current digital transformation, financial inclusion and inclusive growth can be significantly advanced.”

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to hear from leaders in the digital technology field – including philanthropist and former CEO of Microsoft Bill Gates – on how they see technology driving greater financial inclusion.

Miss Clark spotlighted UNDP initiatives across the globe which have used technology for social inclusion. In Haiti for example, the UNDP CARMEN project introduced the first ever mobile money transfer mechanism to support post-disaster housing reconstruction.

In India, UNDP worked with local banks and mobile providers to enable rural workers to open bank accounts remotely. And in Fiji, UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) supported the department of welfare to ensure 24,000 social welfare recipients received their benefits on time without having to undertake long journeys to pick up cash.

“The future will be digital in support of so many, often small, everyday activities – easing and facilitating our daily lives,” said the Executive Secretary of UNCDF, Marc Bichler, adding that the benefits of this will greatly impact the post-2015 development agenda.

The event was co-hosted by UNDP, UNCDF and the Better than Cash Alliance, an initiative that partners with governments, the development community and the private sector to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, USAID and Visa Inc. are the founders of the Alliance and the UNCDF serves as the secretariat.