On October 16 and 17, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) participated in the European Development Days - Europe's premier forum on international affairs and development cooperation organized by the European Commission and provided expert advice to an audience of European Commission members, representatives of developing countries, donor agencies and NGOs.
In the first event organized by UNCDF, the CleanStart Project Lab, discussion focus on actions needed to expand the energy value chain for poor people, with a particular focus on the role of finance, as well as provide insights into the role of the European development community in advancing this important agenda.
Christine Roth, UNCDF Executive Secretary a.i., moderated the panel on CleanStart, UNCDF’s new global programme with UNDP to find scalable and sustainable financing for clean and renewable energy.
Panelist Martin Krause of UNDP highlighted the need for donor agencies to look beyond small scale pilot programmes and focus on proven sustainable models to make clean and renewable energy sources affordable and accessible to millions of low income households. He noted that governments should consider policies that encourage this, such as eliminating customs duties and taxes on technologies like solar lights and bio mass cookstoves.
UNCDF’s Henri Dommel noted how enabling poorer clients to pay small amounts over time rather than paying a large amount up front for these devices is possible with the right financial product and an easy means of payment. By working with established microfinance providers, CleanStart will help design financing arrangements with an eye on new payment technologies, such as mobile banking, to make small payments over time possible.
Julius Alip of CARD (Centre for Rural Development) in the Philippines discussed the efforts and challenges they have faced in providing these products with financing. He noted how it is important to work with both sales agents and clients to help them understand how items like solar lamps can not only improve their lives, but also improve their household’s income. As he noted, “seamstresses have to stop sewing when its dark and repair shops do too. So it is not only about parents and children being able to read at night.”
UNCDF also organized a high-level panel on inclusive finance in collaboration with the International Finance Organization, the International Disability and Development Consortium and the European Microfinance Platform. The high-level panel “Making Finance Work for Inclusive Development” showcased how finance can work for inclusive development, highlighting the innovative approaches used to tackle needs of financially excluded households, entrepreneurs, and vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities and gathered representatives of the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda, UNCDF, USAID, the EU, International Finance Corporation, and Inter-American Development Bank.
The panel was energetically moderated by Chris Burns of Euronews, who frequently challenges panelist to explain why billions of people in the world remain financially excluded despite decades of efforts. The panelists spoke optimistically about the future, noting that there was more progress and opportunity in inclusive finance than many other areas of global development.
Each noted the embrace of the private sector of these efforts in many countries, including many “non-traditional” actors in microfinance such as commercial banks, mobile network companies, technology firms and others. “We believe in supporting the local private sector, and developing a capable banking and financial sector to ensure that small private sector operators have access,” said Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid (DEVCO), European Commission.
Special attention was paid to the needs of the disable. As noted by Ms. Flavia Bwire of Uganda’s Association of Microfinance Institutions, there is growing need to reach out to organizations that work with disable and otherwise marginalize populations and find ways to work with them.
Videos of all EDD high-level panels are available at https://live.eudevdays.eu/live?video_id=1024564.