The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized a two-day event on the theme “Building inclusive financial sectors” on 7 and 8 November 2005. The United Nations General Assembly designated 2005, as the International Year of Micro credit to emphasize the importance of building inclusive financial sectors that will catalyze achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Representatives from more than 100 countries attended this event. Panelists and speakers included Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank among others. The intention of the Forum was to find ways to move from the Year of Micro credit into a future where all people have access to the financial services they need. Discussions focused on the changing profile of microfinance from charity to a profitable business opportunity that can benefit poor people, Governments and investors alike.
Princess Maxima of the Netherlands gave the Keynote speech. HH stated, “When you invest in a woman, you invest in her whole family. Her children go to school, the whole family gets better health care and she gets a voice in her community.”
The Conference Room was packed and there were many officials from banks from all over the world. Quite a few civil society members were also brought in. It is obvious a lot of funds flowed into this event. A major highlight of the two-day event was the honoring of the nine micro entrepreneurs who came to New York from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Liberia, Peru, etc.
There were altogether 10 panels covering various related topics, some of which were: Will the International Private Sector Transform the Landscape of Microfinance? The Future of Access to Finance, Poor and Low Income Clients: Exploring Their Financial Needs, Africa: Growth and Access to Finance – The Final Frontier, Migration: The changing Landscape of Banking were some of the topics covered besides others.
Picturing the poor women of ‘Self Help Groups’ in India, Africa and elsewhere in this context and how this was all going to work seems to be ambiguous - poor women engaging with this high profile International bankers! It is amazing to see the interest of the Bankers in Micro-finance. How their profit motives match with the basic necessities of most Self Help Groups’ participants remains to be seen. Those NGOs engaged in micro-finance needs to be on the lookout for further developments in their area.