3 June 2005

Financing for Development: not for the Poor but with the Poor

UN Information Service and Austrian Development Agency Promote Financial Global Partnerships at Symposium on the International Year of Microcredit

VIENNA, 3 June (UN Information Service) – The United Nations Information Service Vienna, in collaboration with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), held a symposium on 2 June at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), to discuss the issues facing microfinance institutions (MFIs), in the developed and developing world. The symposium gave an insight into microcredit as one effective tool out of a variety of instruments for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the context of the United Nations Secretary-General’s report In larger freedom and in preparation of the UN summit to be held in September. Panellists and participants also discussed the benefits of microcredit and microfinance in different economic and political environments, and elaborated on best practices and innovative approaches in bringing finance providers and beneficiaries together.

Guided by the theme “Promoting Financial Global Partnerships for Development” participants from government agencies, non-governmental and civil society organizations, the financial sector, academia and media, together with United Nations staff, held a lively discussion on the issues facing innovation, development, commercialization, advancement, and cooperation, with the goal of including all factions of society in the financial services sector. Friedhelm Boschert, Chairman of the Managing Board,  Volksbank International Aktiengesellschaft, called microfinance “the democratization of credit”, when he talked about a cooperative view of microfinance and stated that “sustainable development is not only for the poor but with the poor.”

Kathryn Imboden, Senior Policy Advisor, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), introduced the International Year of Microcredit and how it relates to the Millennium Development Goals, while Hermann Spirik, Director of Programmes and Planning of the Development Cooperation at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, explained the role of his Government as a “niche player” looking for development of new financial products to alleviate poverty. Further talks were given by Hanns Martin Hagen, Vice President and Senior Financial Sector Specialist, KfW Entwicklungsbank, who discussed the role of development banks in supporting microfinance also in crisis and post-conflict areas; and Florian Grohs, Oikocredit International, who analyzed the role of NGOs in promoting global partnerships – lessons learned from South East and Eastern Europe. Mamadou Wane of  North-South Net Solidarity explained how microfinance supported young people in Senegal in establishing their livelihoods and turned them away from migrating to Europe or to the United States.

In two seminars participants discussed the topics of “Mainstreaming Microfinance”, and “Microfinance Investment Funds”, reaching to subjects such as “Ethical Investment – A Tool for Supporting the Poorest of the Poor”. Participants in the Symposium suggested during the closing session to also liaise with the “Global Marshall Plan” – a European initiative to further the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; for governments to take on the role as facilitator of knowledge transfer from commercial banks to microfinance institutions; and to better integrate the provision of microloans and other financial tools for the poor in the work of central banks and commercial banks.

The Symposium was held in context of the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution declaring that 2005 be the “International Year of Microcredit”, in order to emphasize the significance of microfinance in the global fight against poverty.

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