Helen Clark: Speech at event celebrating the UNCDF Fiftieth Anniversary

Jan 30, 2017

As part of the Pacific Financial Inclusion programme, a bank representative helps customers in Fiji manage their electronic bank accounts. (Photo: Jeff Liew/UNCDF)

I am delighted to welcome you to this celebration of UNCDF’s 50th anniversary. 

For the past half-century, UNCDF’s core mission has been to make finance work for the poor. With a capital mandate unique to the UN development system, UNCDF has been an important partner to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), focusing on enabling poor families, communities, and small businesses to access the financial resources they need to build a better future.

I clearly recall a visit on a rainy day in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, where, through UNCDF, local women were being assisted to open bank accounts for the very first time. It was truly inspiring to hear their hopes of what could open up to them and their families as a result of this programme.

As an associated programme of UNDP, UNCDF works closely with UNDP to build dynamic local economies and ensure that financial sectors are inclusive and responsive to the needs of the poor. UNDP’s wide country presence, convening power, and strong focus on policy advice, governance, and sustainability complement the skills and knowledge of UNCDF. 

We have partnered together on a number of successful initiatives. For example:

•    The challenge of making secure and reliable payments to Ebola response workers was paramount during the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Together, UNDP and UNCDF brokered partnerships between the governments of the affected countries and private sector technology and mobile phone companies. This enabled tens of thousands of Ebola response workers to be paid efficiently and transparently. This was critical in ensuring that all relevant services could be continuously provided; 

•    In the South Pacific, UNDP, UNCDF and other partners collaborate on the Pacific Financial Inclusion programme which helps low-income households access financial services and gain financial literacy.  Through this programme, we have, for example, jointly supported the Department of Social Welfare in Fiji to ensure that 24,000 social welfare recipients receive their benefits on time via mobile transfers, and without having to make the long and often costly journeys they used to make to pick up cash; and

•    Through the “Better than Cash Alliance” hosted by UNCDF, we collaborate with a range of partners to bring together governments, the private sector, and development organizations to promote the shift from cash to electronic payments in order to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth.

Looking ahead, UNCDF is well placed to support LDCs as they tackle the next generation of development opportunities and challenges: 

•    UNCDF is innovative – it can help introduce new and innovative technologies, financing instruments, and partnerships to tackle entrenched inequalities and exclusion in LDCs;  

•    UNCDF is catalytic - in the fast changing development finance landscape, UNCDF can support LDCs to use Official Development Assistance (ODA) to leverage other sources of finance. UNCDF’s innovative finance models and public-private partnerships can also help de-risk markets to encourage investment and boost sustainable development; 

•    UNCDF promotes inclusion – UNCDF helps LDCs to build more inclusive and resilient communities and economies by helping them target sectors and regions on which other development finance institutions have yet to focus. This is critical for meeting the challenges of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind.

To invest in UNCDF is to invest in a track record of getting and demonstrating results. UNCDF is currently operational in thirty LDCs – and if enough funding were available, we could ensure that all LDCs could benefit from UNCDF’s expertise. 

I thank all UNCDF funding and implementing partners and staff past and present for supporting UNCDF to help improve lives and livelihoods in LDCs and beyond. 

UNCDF’s mission is essential to building a better tomorrow for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. I wish UNCDF well for the next chapter of its journey.

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