Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening remarks to the high-Level event on “10 Years of Financial Inclusion; vast progress and Challenges Ahead, in New York on 25 September:
Thank you for being here today to focus on the role of financial inclusion in sustainable development.
I want to particularly thank Her Majesty Queen Maxima, my Special Advocate, for raising the profile of this issue around the world in a way that has been absolutely remarkable. I believe that these ten years have indeed made an enormous difference. I believe that when you started we were in a kind of proto history of financial inclusion and today we are really in a very dynamic movement everywhere.
So, on behalf of the United Nations as a whole, I wanted to thank you very much and to say how proud I am that you have accepted to go on remaining as my Special Advocate.
And I thank the Group of Friends for Financial Inclusion, for their work and for co-hosting today’s event.
Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on adequate financing, based on the global partnership agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
This relies in turn on taking full advantage of the fintech revolution. New financial technologies, institutions and markets have great potential to extend financial inclusion and to facilitate investment.
Since 2011, the proportion of people with access to formal financial services has risen from 50 percent to nearly 70 percent. Some 1.2 billion additional people now have access to savings accounts, credit, payment plans and insurance products. These services can help people and communities to build resilience and to make the most of opportunities.
New financial technologies have also reduced operational costs, enabling governments to reach people with financial services more easily. They can facilitate investment and help small businesses to access credit. And they can help to fight the tax evasion, money-laundering and illicit financial flows that can drain resources from the developing world.
However, despite this enormous progress, some 1.7 billion adults still do not have an account with a financial institution or a mobile money provider. More than half are women. Gender equality is a proven driver for ending poverty and building sustainable communities and economies, and so it is particularly negative that more than half of those that are deprived of these instruments are women.
The Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda that I launched last year sets out ways in which the United Nations can support a fundamental shift to align global economic policies and financial systems with the 2030 Agenda.
Seizing the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance is one of its three key objectives.
Beyond the United Nations, I am pleased that the G20, the Gates Foundation and others are prioritizing financial inclusion, and that more than 50 countries have now developed their own national financial inclusion strategies.
Lack of a legal identity is a major bar to financial inclusion for 1.1 billion people. Any solution must include efforts to tackle this.
New technologies can create new risks, disrupt labour markets and contribute to growing inequality. Financial systems and regulatory frameworks must manage these risks without creating new obstacles to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals is addressing these challenges. Its forthcoming report finds that digitalization is already helping to mobilize funds more quickly and direct them towards sustainable development and I hope these initiatives will continue to complement and support each other, to harness the fintech revolution for sustainable development and promote lives of peace, dignity and prosperity for all.
Your Majesty, I know that with your leadership, with your enthusiasm and with your mobilization capacity this is going to move even more quickly in the next ten years.