Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima is an active global voice on the importance of inclusive finance for reducing poverty and achieving development goals. Designated in 2009 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as his Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Princess Máxima works with government, financial regulators, standard setters, parliaments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and the media to raise awareness and foster action.
As Special Advocate, Princess Máxima plays a leading role in promoting best practices and policies that increase access to finance, advance consumer protection and enhance financial literacy. The Princess encourages universal access, at a reasonable cost, to a wide range of financial services, provided by a diversity of sound and sustainable institutions. Such services include savings accounts, loans, insurance, payments, pension plans, and remittance facilities that can help people generate income, build assets, manage cash flow, invest in opportunities and strengthen resilience to setbacks. Access to savings is especially important. Princess Máxima advocates access for both individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are often local engines of job creation and growth. She underscores the need for a common approach that creates a continuum of access to finance, rather than separate silos.
Inclusive financial systems are critical infrastructure, just like roads. Strong banking institutions, coupled with new technologies like smart cards and mobile phones, hold promise of expanding access by dramatically reducing costs for providers and clients alike. Princess Máxima champions successful approaches, innovations and partnerships that can reach the unbanked, including rural poor, who account for more than 70 percent of global poverty.
In highlighting the shared benefits of bringing more people into the financial system, Princess Máxima underscores how financial inclusion, integrity and stability are mutually reinforcing in vibrant financial systems. She addresses these issues during her visits to countries and international fora, including the UN, IMF, World Bank, the G20, FATF, and standard setting bodies. As Honorary Patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, Princess Máxima advocates the importance of complementarity and coherence among global and country-led initiatives, and the importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders. The Princess also emphasizes the need for high-quality data that sheds light on how households and enterprises use financial products, and the resulting impact on development.
An important aspect of inclusive finance is responsible finance, with clients empowered to make sound and informed choices. As one step toward this end, Princess Máxima developed and launched with private and public sector partners the Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance in January 2011. (Please see www.unpri.org/piif.)
In all this, Princess Máxima believes that financial inclusion is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Financial services can also have powerful impacts when combined with access to basic services. Credit and savings, for example, can help poor people obtain improved cooking stoves, solar panels, safer housing, connections to water systems and education. Insurance can help with preventive and emergency health care. Princess Máxima and her husband, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, heir to the Dutch throne and Chair of the UNSG’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), collaborate on this integrated approach.
Main Partners and Secretariat
As UNSGSA, Princess Máxima consults with an international advisory reference group: the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP); the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); the UN Development Programme (UNDP); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI); and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Princess Máxima and the reference group work closely with many national, regional and global partners.
A small Office of the UNSGSA, housed at UNCDF in New York, works closely with the Secretariat of the Princess in The Hague to coordinate her UN activities in the field of inclusive finance.
Financial Inclusion in the Netherlands Princess
Máxima is also an advocate for financial inclusion in her home country. As a member of the Dutch Council on Microfinance from 2007 to 2011 and currently, of its successor, the Dutch Committee for Entrepreneurship and Finance, Princess Máxima promotes entrepreneurship by encouraging expanded coaching and small loans to entrepreneurs starting or running businesses in the Netherlands. Since 2008, the Princess has engaged in advocacy for financial education, most notably for children and youth. The Princess became Honorary Chair in 2010 of ‘Wiser in Money Matters’, a national partnership of banks, schools, government, consumers’ organizations and research institutions based in the Netherlands.
Prior UN experience
Drawing on her professional experience in banking and emerging markets, Princess Máxima served on the UN Advisors Group to the 2005 International Year of Microcredit. She traveled widely to observe microcredit programs in action. From 2006 to 2009, the Princess served on the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. She was a member of the Group’s Executive Committee and chaired its Working Group on Advocacy. In 2008, the Princess presented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the Group’s recommendations. Its key messages were designed to serve as guidelines for legislators, supervisory bodies, development partners and the private sector. Princess Máxima was Honorary Chair of the G20 SME Finance Data Working Group in 2010.