New Innovation Challenge Fund to boost financial resilience of low-income populations in developing countries

UNDP and ICMIF Foundation are launching a new mechanism to promote innovative mutual insurance schemes to better protect the most vulnerable in developing countries

October 25, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on low-income communities in developing countries and millions were pushed back into poverty.


Rome - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) Foundation today launched the Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund. The Fund, initially funded with US$600,000, will enable mutual insurance initiatives to strengthen financial resilience of people with low income. Mutual and cooperative insurers will have to compete for technical and financial resources to develop and distribute innovative and affordable insurance products specifically serving the needs of most vulnerable households.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on low-income communities in developing countries and millions were pushed back into poverty. For the first time since its inception over three decades ago, there has been a fall in UNDP’s Human Development Index for the past two consecutive years. The war in Ukraine and the looming climate crisis are exacerbating poverty and inequality hike.

“Expanding access to affordable insurance solutions specifically tailored to the needs of the poorest in developing countries is a priority to strengthen how they manage to cope through compounding crisis. When the worst happens, these communities are often the most affected and the least able to recover. Insurance is one of the key tools to avoid a downward spiral of debt and poverty,” noted Ulrika Modéer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy.

“ICMIF is excited about this new joint endeavor with UNDP to support the world’s poorest communities and build resilience in the face of climate, health and other shocks. Mutual and cooperative insurers work with grassroots communities to co-create risk models and build education programmes that support risk mitigation and adaption. This partnership will help scale access to affordable insurance for the people who need it most, building on the ICMIF Foundation’s 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy which has reached 15 million people over the last five years” added Rob Wesseling, President and CEO, Co-operators (Canada) and Chair of the ICMIF Foundation.

The Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund brings together the inclusive insurance expertise and closeness to vulnerable communities of the ICMIF Foundation, which is currently serving three million households living on average with less than US$5 per day, with UNDP’s long-term focus on building the financial resilience of communities and countries. Overseen by UNDP’s Insurance and Risk Finance Facility and administered by the ICMIF Foundation, the Challenge Fund will support a minimum of four organizations over 2-3 years to scale their existing microinsurance programmes to reach new customers and markets in developing countries, with plans to significantly scale up the work into the future.

The signing ceremony took place at the sidelines of ICMIF Centenary Conference in Rome, Italy.

Media Contacts

Lothar Mikulla, Communications Specialist, UNDP IRFF:

Alison Grant, Communications Manager, ICMIF:

Notes for Editors

About UNDP’s Insurance & Risk Finance Facility

The Insurance and Risk Finance Facility (IRFF) is part of UNDP’s Sustainable Finance Hub, and the organization’s flagship initiative dedicated to insurance and risk finance. The IRFF manages UNDP’s global representation in the insurance space, and is a one-stop shop for innovative risk transfer solutions for UNDP Country Offices, programme countries and partners. This includes engagement in global and regional developments, policy development and alignment, networking and partner development, technical guidance and capacity, as well as financial and other resource opportunities. More information available at

About The ICMIF Foundation

ICMIF has been providing development support to its members in emerging markets for almost sixty years and in 2015 established a charitable organisation called The ICMIF Foundation to take the work to the next level. The ICMIF Foundation’s 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy was launched in June 2016 and currently has reached over three million low-income households in total with insurance and resilience building efforts. This equates to over 15 million lives being impacted when averaging five people per household with a current funding cost per insured household of less than one USD a day.


Celebrating its centenary in 2022, the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) is the global association for 197 cooperative and mutual insurers in 60 countries across the world. As a membership organisation, the Federation’s mission is to help its member companies achieve their strategic goals and sustainably grow in their local markets.

Focusing on the key areas of mutuality, sustainability and business transformation, ICMIF’s networking and business intelligence activities leverage the knowledge, competencies and experience of its global network of member-owned and purpose-led insurance companies across 60 countries. Through its influence work, ICMIF represents the interests of global mutual/cooperative sector – accounting for approximately 26% of the global insurance market - to key stakeholders around the themes of resilience, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and responsible investing.