13 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/11010

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

29th Meeting (AM)


General Assembly President Calls for More Inclusive Finance Measures, As World


Body Weighs Progress, Hurdles in Promoting Microfinance as Path Out of Poverty


Provision of a range of financial services to the poor - from loans and savings to payments and transfer services – played a significant role in the fight against poverty, and more efforts were needed to ensure that coverage reached the most marginalized, who often lived farthest from banks and markets, General Assembly delegates said today as they measured progress in the follow-up to the 2005 International Year of Microfinance.


“Microfinance is a key instrument for improving the living conditions of poor populations,” said General Assembly President Joseph Deiss, who cited its considerable growth in recent years as a success unto itself.  Microfinance had an essential role to play in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, he said, noting improvement of women’s access to financial services, their consequent empowerment and the indirect positive effects on children’s school enrolment and health care as proof of that fact. 


However, microfinance could not permanently lift people out of poverty, he explained, and lessons should be drawn from experience to take better advantage of its potential.  Just as the initial concept of microcredit – providing very small loans for unsalaried borrowers to spur entrepreneurship - had broadened into that of microfinance to better reflect the wide range of financial services offered, “We should now take steps to give effect to the idea of inclusive finance,” he said, urging financial sectors to promote job creation and productive activities at the service of the poorest.


With that in mind, some speakers in the Assembly stressed that microfinance, with its focus on small, local banks and universal access to basic services, offered lessons for a new, more stable global financial order.  They could not conceive of sustainable development anywhere unless the poor were included in entrepreneurship, as the 2.7 billion people who currently lacked access to banking services would, with the proper financial tools, greatly contribute to long-term prosperity.


Above all, many delegates stressed, microfinance empowered women to gain control over their incomes and household decision-making.  They discussed the gains and challenges in helping the poorest of the poor generate opportunities for themselves.


India’s representative remained concerned about the high interest rates charged by commercial microfinance entities, saying Governments must intervene to address that anomaly.  While India was well aware of the limitations of microfinance as a poverty reduction strategy, its experiences had shown that such measures played a significant role in poverty reduction and social development in developing countries.  With the world’s largest microcredit network, India aimed to make all its villages financially included by 2015 through mobile banks, which had met particular success in least developed countries and Africa.


Nicaragua’s delegate added that, in her country, a “virtuous circle” had been created whereby the most dispossessed had strengthened the national production system - Nicaragua’s economic infrastructure-- protecting it from the worst impacts of the global economic crisis.  That would not have been possible if Nicaragua had not broken from the neoliberal model.  Governments could do much to build inclusive financial sectors through solid monetary and fiscal policies.


In Lebanon, where microcredit loans had existed since the 1990s, that country’s delegate said, an estimated 30,000 people had benefited from those services.  He asked Assembly delegates what they would do if they received a $1,000 loan. “It may not seem like a great deal of money, but for hundreds of millions of people around the world, it represents several times their annual income.”  In the wake of the economic crisis, donors must continue their contributions to ensure microfinance empowered the marginalized.


Bangladesh’s delegate said the engine of growth was through innovation and competition, which stemmed from better access to education, technology and capital.  While a champion of microcredit as a free-market development tool, Bangladesh also had noted that graduation from poverty through it had not yet proved successful.  Despite that 30 million people were covered by microcredit financing in his country, poverty remained at 32 per cent.  Still, if done right, microfinance could unleash the huge potential of the poor.


On that point, Australia’s delegate underscored that Governments played a crucial role in creating a policy environment that protected consumers against predatory service providers, including, by ensuring effective interest rate disclosure.  Also, mobile phones, point-of-sale devices and automatic teller machines offered better access for the poor in rural areas, where high transaction costs had impeded development of traditional financial services.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Kuwait, Indonesia, South Africa, Singapore, Brazil, Peru, Republic of Korea, Morocco and Benin.


The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 14 October, to consider the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


Background


The General Assembly met today to consider the outcome of and follow-up to the 2005 International Year of Microcredit, whose five objectives were designed to unite Member States, United Nations agencies and microfinance partners to build sustainable and inclusive financial sectors and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.


The Year’s objectives were to:  assess and promote the contribution of microfinance and microcredit to the Goals; increase public awareness and understanding of microfinance and microcredit as vital parts of the development equation; promote inclusive financial sectors; support sustainable access to financial services; and encourage innovation and new partnerships by supporting strategic partnerships to build the outreach of microcredit and microfinance.


Opening Remarks


General Assembly President JOSEPH DEISS, of Switzerland, said microfinance had an essential role to play in efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, noting that one only needed to cite the improvement of women’s access to financial services, their consequent empowerment and the indirect positive effects on children’s school enrolment and healthcare as proof of that fact.  “Microfinance is a key instrument for improving the living conditions of poor populations,” he said, pointing to its considerable growth in recent years as a success.


That idea had been fostered by a strong partnership among Governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector, he said.  While innovative practices and new stakeholders were encouraging developments, more must be done, as geographical coverage was uneven, and rural areas were still often excluded.  Generally, it was often difficult for microfinance to reach the poorest populations.  While microfinance improved the lives of the poor, however, it could not lift them permanently out of poverty.  Microfinance was not sufficient to generate productive activities, but it did have significant educational potential by introducing the poor to market mechanisms and activities.


Lessons should be drawn from experience gained thus far with a view to taking better advantage of potential.  Just as the initial concept of microcredit was developed into the concept of microfinance to better reflect the wide range of financial services offered, “We should now take steps to give effect to the idea of inclusive finance” he said, and also called for ensuring that the financial sector promoted job creation and productive activities at the service of the poorest.


Statements


Christophe de Bassompierre (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that it was his delegation’s conviction that an inclusive financial sector, particularly microfinance and microcredit, was an important tool in the global effort to alleviate poverty and achieve the Millennium Goals.  Since the Year of Microcredit in 2005, microfinance and microcredit initiatives had gained significant momentum, and the microcredit agenda had gradually evolved into a much broader, financially inclusive approach.  Financial inclusion meant universal access, at a reasonable cost, to a range of financial services for everyone needing them, provided by a diversity of sound and sustainable institutions.


In that regard, he said the European Union remained committed to supporting the development of microfinance.  From 2005 to 2009, support for microenterprises and microfinance had been ensured through the European Union Microfinance Framework Program with €15 million for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, in collaboration with investment in debt and equity for banks and microfinance institutions provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB).  By 2009, the EIB Group committed some €654 million to an estimated 30 microfinance projects, including €26 million in grants for technical assistance.  The European Union’s new Microfinance Programme II, for the period 2010 to 2014, would support the microfinance sector in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries with €57 million, including €15 million from the Tenth European Development Fund.


The successful expansion of inclusive finance on a massive scale, he said, would require capacity building in the areas of human resources and institutions, private sector participation and partnerships, and the promotion of financial literacy.  In addition, the increased use of information and communications technology solutions, such as branchless banking, offered potential for broadening access through use of cell phones, bank cards and banking agents, such as retail stores and post offices. 


He went on to say that the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) aimed to exchange the best microfinance policies in developing countries through collaborations between stakeholders from the public and private sectors.  To that end, the European Microfinance Week 2010 would be held in Luxembourg, in November, and the Third European Microfinance Award would promote initiatives in Value Chain Finance.  In closing, he said the European Union looked forward to cooperating with other Member States to promote universal access to financial services.


VIDYA CHARAN SHUKLA ( India) said microfinance institutions had demonstrated the sustainability of microlending to fight poverty, and then commercial banks had transformed the model into a major global industry.  Between 2004 and 2008, those institutions had experienced annual average asset growth of 39 per cent and accumulated more than $60 billion in total assets, he said.  India, however, remained concerned about the high interest rates charged by commercial microfinance entities; Governments must intervene to address this anomaly. Microfinance schemes had also brought about social change, especially promotion of women’s empowerment.  India, with the world’s largest microcredit network, now had micro-pensions that gave social security benefits to its large informal sector.


India was well aware of the limitations of microfinance as a poverty reduction strategy, but experiences had shown that it had been able to play a significant role dealing with poverty reduction and social development in developing countries.  He said the financial crisis had also severely impacted the liquidity of microfinance institutions, weakening their ability to offer innovative services and leading Governments to realize it was time to move from the microcredit and microfinance regimes to more comprehensive financial inclusion.  India aimed to make all its villages financially included by 2015 through mobile banks, which had met particular success in Least Developed Countries and Africa. 


ALAN EGGLESTON ( Australia) said financial inclusion of the poor was essential to poverty reduction and sustainable development efforts, as some 2.7 billion adults around the world lacked access to banking services.  Access to a wide set of financial tools, such as credit, savings products and insurance, helped build both income and assets.  Microfinance was particularly important for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, as over two-thirds of microfinance clients were women.  With access to microfinance, they gained more control over their incomes and household decision-making.  Australia supported financial inclusion initiatives, from Pacific island countries, to other nations outside the region, including Iraq, Peru and Colombia.


“It is clear that an enabling policy environment and supportive legal and regulatory framework are essential for sustainable growth of financial services for the poor,” he stressed, adding that Governments were crucial in creating a policy environment that promoted expanded financial services while also protecting consumers against predatory service providers.  Australia was working to ensure financial inclusion was high on the agenda of regional finance and economic ministers.  New technology, when appropriately used, meant that financial institutions no longer had to open “bricks-and-mortar” branches to provide services, while new technology-based microfinance models could significantly reduce transaction costs.  Australia was committed to fostering partnerships that pushed the frontiers of technology to expand financial services provision to the poor.  It also recognized the importance of supporting financial education, which was vital to ensuring that poor clients were treated fairly when using financial services, and they avoided over-indebtedness, which could push them even deeper into poverty.  Australia supported the Group of Twenty’s (G-20) efforts to promote financial services for the poor.


ABDULAZIZ ALJARALLAH ( Kuwait) stressed the importance of the need for States to continue intensifying their efforts to reduce rates of poverty and hunger by half, even in the face of discouraging figures that the number of poor people had risen to over one billion in 2009.  Those numbers were a direct result of the new challenges the world was currently witnessing, including the increase in food and energy prices and other issues of concern.  The confluence of such challenges called for united efforts and the consolidation of the concept of partnership for development, as well as encouraging collective work among States in order to tackle the scourge of poverty and work towards its eradication.  To that end, Kuwait spared no efforts in continuing to provide assistance to the developing and least developed countries through both its official and non-official institutions.


He said the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development continued to provide, as it had over the past 50 years, grants and assistance to more than 100 countries worldwide.  Kuwait had guaranteed loans in excess of $14.5 billion with easy repayment terms.  Stressing his country’s firm belief in the vital, well-established and effective role of the United Nations, he said Kuwait was committed to giving annual contributions to a number of international, regional and specialized United Nations agencies that were active in the fields of development and humanitarian assistance.  Noting that poverty eradicating required diligent hard work, he reaffirmed Kuwait’s commitment to that effort, saying it was high time the international community accomplished a tangible measure of progress in fulfilment of its commitments.


DEWI SAVITRI WAHAB ( Indonesia) said that despite the multiple crises that had negatively impacted the global economy, leaders at the Millennium Development Goals Summit had affirmed the need to achieve those objectives by 2015, and thus bring an end to poverty.  Contrary to expectations, the existing model of development did not always work as efficiently as it could to combat poverty.  In fact, the current global financial and economic crisis pointed to ongoing imbalances resulting from the use of that model.  She believed that a just and equitable distribution of national resources to promote economic growth and development would, out of necessity, respond to the special needs and problems facing the poor; the recognition of which led to the declaration of 2005 as the International Year of Microcredit. 


Given the importance of microcredit and microfinance in achieving the Millennium targets, she highlighted three pertinent points to justify intensifying their use in poverty reduction.  First, the poor needed to be given access to resources to overcome their severe deprivation.  Second, the financial needs of smallholding farmers should not be ignored; and third, the use of microcredit and microfinance had to be gender sensitive.  She added that as agents of development whose needs were often overlooked, due care had to be taken to ensure that microcredit reached into the lives of poor women. 


One of the key programmes of Indonesia’s Medium-Term Development Plan 2010-2014 had had an impact on the development of microenterprises, and because of policies and programmes designed to combat poverty, the country’s poverty rate fell from 16.7 per cent to 14.1 per cent.  That drop amounted to some 36.1 million people in 2004 to 32.5 million persons in 2009.  But, despite its successes, Indonesia recognized that a great deal of work had to be done to further reduce poverty through strategic use of the microfinance sector, which was only now growing in significance at the global level, she added.


DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) said microfinance was a catalyst for sustainable development and growth.  It had proved to be a powerful tool to bring financial services to the poor, who would otherwise be excluded from them. South Africa had undertaken a number of initiatives to ensure sustainable financial institutions were built to provide affordable and appropriate services for the poor and such institutions aimed to achieve growth, stimulate job creation, overcome social exclusion and reduce poverty.  South Africa would continue its efforts to develop and grow microfinance by providing technical support, funding and a conducive regulatory environment with special focus on the poor and women in particular.


Women, who represented more than 70 per cent of all microfinance clients, also had the burden to provide their families with food, fuel and water.  By engaging in income-generating activities, women were able to provide their families with more stability, better access to education and consequently more opportunity to lift the next generation out of poverty.  South Africa shared the view expressed in the Secretary-General’s report that microfinance was part of a strategy to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, fully agreeing there was an urgent need to deepen their inclusion in financial activity.


MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said that in an international context characterized by the deep impacts of the financial crisis, her country’s National Unity and Reconciliation Government had made progress in fighting poverty. Independent studies had shown Nicaragua had reached Millennium Goal 1 (end poverty and hunger).  The country also was free from illiteracy and one of its school feeding programmes had been rated among the four best in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  In the area of agriculture, Nicaragua was a grain exporter for Central America.  Moreover, women held a prime position in the country’s development and the majority of social projects were directed towards women.  Empowerment programmes for microcredit included the “No Hunger Programme”, the “Usury” Programme and the “Home Savings” Programme.


Those and other initiatives had provided access to financing for hundreds of thousands of families, she explained, and had been accompanied by technical training that included elements to protect the environment.  Indeed, a “virtuous circle” had been created whereby the most dispossessed had strengthened the national production system - Nicaragua’s economic infrastructure - and protected the country from the worst impacts of the global economic crisis.  Nicaragua had been among those countries that had suffered least from the economic contraction, which would not have been possible if it had not broken from the neoliberal model. Governments could do much to build inclusive financial sectors through solid monetary and fiscal policies, and by promoting access to financing for the poorest of the poor.  Her country exemplified the fact that, with political will, “we can do things,” she said.


JILL WONG ( Singapore) compared today’s daunting global landscape of poverty to the imbalanced landscape of European economies after the Second World War.  It was a “sad state of affairs” that in the twenty-first century, millions still lacked access to their basic needs, she said, and called for a reassessment of poverty eradication philosophy and methods.  Impoverished people could not rely on aid alone - they must be empowered to pursue economic self-advancement, which would require increased access to economic prospects and the tools necessary to tap into the opportunities.  Fostering inclusive growth had been the major thrust of Singapore’s growth strategy, she said, but going forward, it must focus on improving the economic prospects of the lower-skilled and less educated people, and ensure that their children had full educational opportunities to help break out of the cycle of poverty.


To that end, Singapore introduced the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme in 2007, which encouraged low-wage workers to help build retirement savings, and the Workfare Training Scheme, which helped low-wage workers build skills.  Regarding its assistance to external partners, the Singapore Cooperation Programme offered technical assistance to developing countries to help build competencies in relevant areas.  Since 1992, that initiative had organized training programmes for more than 70,000 participants from 169 countries, and to date, had committed in excess of S$400 million.  Further, in an effort to build cooperation through regional institutions and initiatives, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had set a target to form an Economic Community by 2015, and would pursue an ASEAN Connectivity Initiative to deepen cooperation and narrow the development divide between its member countries.  In closing, she said Singapore reaffirmed its commitment help the international community realize the Millennium Goals by 2015 and to help eradicate poverty.


JOAO LUCAS QUENTAL NOVAES DE ALMEIDA ( Brazil) said social inclusion was at the heart of his country’s development model, which associated economic growth with social justice and equitable income distribution.  Increased access to microfinance played an important role generating income for those normally excluded from the financial market, and, over the past three decades in Latin America, had become an important tool to reduce vulnerability and dependency.  To meet the need for useful financing systems for the poor, the Brazilian Government had launched its Banking Inclusion Programme, which created simplified bank accounts that reached 10 million low income people last year.  Following global trends, women were the main microcredit clients in Brazil, further promoting gender equality.


The recent financial crisis had spotlighted the need to promote both poverty eradication policies and responsible finances management - two key demands met by the production and entrepreneurship fostered by microcredit and microfinance.  The United Nations could play a central role mobilizing resources and giving technical support to developing countries to expand their programmes.  A strengthened and well-funded United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) should take the lead, providing investment capital, capacity building and technical advisory services to make microfinance available and foster local development.


GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ ( Peru) said microcredit and microfinance generated possibilities for self-reliance.  For its part, Peru had executed a comprehensive development programme that aimed to generate growth and employment, and thereby reduce poverty.  In recent years, the microfinance system had significantly helped to improve access to financial and banking services.  There was a relationship between poverty reduction strategies and those to tackle climate change.  In that context, Peru agreed that there were opportunities to promote access to clean energy for microcredit recipients.


Much of the energy consumed in the country came from domestic cooking sources in poor areas, he explained, and Peru’s President had said during the Assembly’s general debate that hundreds of millions of homes still used wood stoves, which polluted the environment and created health problems.  Peru had proposed that by 2021, the use of such stoves be reduced to one-fifth of their current level and that microfinance institutions play a major role in achieving that objective.  Peru had gained much experience in its development which it was ready to share.  Use of improved stoves in poor and extremely poor populations should be included in United Nations development programmes.  Also, the principles of sustainability and social responsibility must be applied at the national and international macroeconomic levels


ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said the global financial meltdown had caused a growing inequality between rich and poor, and that the global economy appeared to be “skewed against the weak.”  Further, the crisis was an excuse for developed countries to impede trade and exports from developing countries, many of which were left without a means to confront the burgeoning menace of poverty.  Progress, however, would not come from foreign assistance.  Instead, the engine of growth would be innovation, competition, competitiveness, participation and motivation, whose actions could be developed through better education, technology and access to capital for a decent living.  In Bangladesh, for example, small scale financing provided to a large number of the country’s women had resulted in a reduction of birth rates and child mortality, he said.


After the Great Depression, he explained, microfinancing was practiced in the United States, followed next by Colombia, where the practice flourished in the 1960’s with the establishment in that country of the world’s first microcredit bank.  After the independence in 1971, BRAC, a Bangladesh-led development organization began microcredit financing in rural areas, but coverage remained low.  In 1983, however, Bangladesh established its first microcredit bank - the Grameen Bank – which soon had 30 million borrowers and guaranteed nearly 99 per cent repayment of loans.  Since then, thousands of non-governmental organizations had been involved in microcredit financing.  In addition, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, an autonomous Government agency, provided money to civil society groups for microcredit lending.  However, he credited the Grameen Bank, and its founder, Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus, for popularizing microcredit financing throughout the globe.


Although he said that Bangladesh championed microcredit as a free-market development tool that empowered the poor, he noted that graduation from poverty level to higher income through microcredit had not yet proved successful.  In fact, despite 30 million people being covered by microcredit financing in his country, the poverty level remained at 32 per cent.  Still, microcredit had proven its potential as the most cost-effective development tool.  It had helped convince the world that people living in poverty were innately capable of working their way out with dignity.  If done right, microfinance could unleash the huge potential of the poor.  Echoing the sentiments of Grameen Bank founder, Professor Mohammed Yunus, he said, “let us put poverty in a museum.”


KIM CHANG MO ( Republic of Korea), stressing that microcredit had quietly changed the world, cited the 1997 Microcredit Summit, the 2005 Year of Microcredit and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Mohammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.  In the last four decades, microloans had proven the potential of microfinance to change the lives of the poor.  However, such loans were not a “cure all” for eradicating poverty.  The reality was complex and his Government had appreciated the Secretary-General’s report, which cited both the achievements and limits of microcredit and microfinance as tools for opportunity.  While microloans had effects for social inclusion, they should first be seen as tools for economic growth.  Sustained and equitable growth was necessary for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


Moreover, economic growth must be pro-poor and inclusive, he said.  The poor must be allowed to participate in economic growth and equitably enjoy its benefits.  Microfinance was among the most useful tools to that end.  The impact of microfinance should not be overestimated, as studies had shown it did not always have much impact on the poorest, who could not repay the loans and thereby developed a heavier debt burden.  National development strategies based on an understanding of where grants were most needed must be carefully crafted.


Enhanced transparency of financing institutions should not hamper the innovative nature of microfinance, he explained.  Those institutions should be allowed to offer varied financial services.  It was the primary responsibility of Governments to keep a balance between expanding financial services and reducing risks.  The Republic of Korea recognized that financial inclusion was a core issue and would contribute to G-20 discussions on the creation of new measures for enhanced capital flow for small - and medium-sized enterprises.


WILLIAM HABIB ( Lebanon) asked Assembly delegates, if they received a $1,000 loan, what would they do with it?  “It may not seem like a great deal of money, but for hundreds of millions of people around the world, it represents several times their annual income.”  In Lebanon, where microcredit loans had been present since the 1990s, an estimated 30,000 people had benefited from those services, he said.  The outcome of the recent High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals called for expansion of microfinance as a way to accelerate progress, providing evidence of increased public understanding that microfinance and microcredit were vital for development.


The “Blue Book Project,” which brought together the United Nations and multilateral agencies to build inclusive financial sectors for development, was an example of new partnership to provide sustainable access.  But the economic and financial crisis had affected financial inclusion, and donors must continue their contributions to ensure microfinance continued to empower marginalized people. Microcredit and microfinance, like all investments, were more likely to prosper in a peaceful, secure and stable environment, and the 2006 war Israel waged against Lebanon demolished many gains.  He also echoed the Secretary-General’s call for microcredit and financial inclusion initiatives be complemented with interventions that further addressed aspects of poverty such as health and skills training.


MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said today’s meeting was taking place on the eves of two other notable meetings in Nagoya (on biodiversity) and Cancun (on climate change).  Morocco’s position had been reflected in national strategies for environment and sustainable development.  Implementation of its 2020 development strategy was based on the convergence of policies to address problems in rural areas.  It aimed to help rural populations accede to a dynamic process.  Among Morocco’s achievements was the creation of a social development agency, as well as a national human development initiative, launched in 2010 and which represented an innovative approach to assisting marginalized areas.  It sought to reduce poverty and social exclusion through support for income-generating activities and improved access to basic infrastructure and services.


In the coming days, Morocco would review the progress of that initiative in reducing poverty, he said, noting the opportunity to also exchange best practices. Morocco also had strengthened its financial institutions and improved access to financing.  Today, microcredits given to the poor were valued at 29 million euros. In other areas, the creation of a consultative council of microcredit was proof of a legal framework to promote microcredit.  Microenterprises allowed 60 per cent of the population - 6 million people - to work, and in that context, the status of women was improving.  Also, multiple threats had hampered the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  A yearly review of progress towards their attainment would prove useful


JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin), recalling that Assembly resolution 53/197 had declared 2005 the International Year of Microcredit, said his Government was combating poverty and social exclusion through a plan that aimed to consolidate the country’s macroeconomic framework.  That included work to develop human capital, enhance government and institutional capacities and create sustainable jobs.  Microcredit, which sought to enable the poor to take part in income-generating activities, had awakened dormant human capital in Asia and his Government, inspired by that, had launched a “Microcredit for the Poorest” programme, valued at some $20 billion.  That programme was being implemented by a ministry focused on those issues, as well as community associations and non-governmental organizations.  It had empowered some 600,000 people, many of whom were women in cities and rural areas.


Innovations targeting literacy and mutual health insurance had been introduced, he continued, as had a “biometric solution” whose goal was to professionalize the programme and secure funds.  Benin hoped to extend the programme to 1 million people and, to that end, was working to marshal resources. In that context, he called for supporting developing country approaches to the oversight of microcredit during the drafting of effective regulations for that sector, which included informal networks.  He urged adopting and implementing appropriate regulation as part of a global approach to increase access to financial services for the poor.  He also welcomed the inclusion on the agenda of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) of an item related to the harmonization of microfinancing policies.


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