Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced that it has joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, pledging to transition 58 percent of its operational, programmatic and emergency payments from cash to electronic across 22 countries.
For Catholic Relief Services, two of the main benefits of using electronic payments – as opposed to distributing cash or in-kind goods to people in need – are the safeguarding of people’s dignity and privacy.
“Using electronic payments often makes people feel less like they’re sitting with their hand outstretched and more in control of when and how they use the money,” says Steve Perry, CRS’s Global Treasurer. “There’s also increased privacy: families that receive payments via mobile phone, for example, don’t have to line up for distribution, alerting others that they have received cash. Electronic payments help safeguard their personal information.”
In addition, electronic payments can result in cost savings; transparency; added security for beneficiaries, vendors, and aid workers; and economic growth.
Today, 2.5 billion adults — more than half the world’s adult population — don’t have access to banks or other formal financial services. In the developing world, approximately 80 percent of poor people find themselves unable to access official financial services because of, for example, remoteness or illiteracy. Electronic payments can create lasting benefits for people by creating opportunities to access formal financial services, begin to develop assets and save for the future.
Electronic payments can also be helpful in re-establishing local economies in the aftermath of natural disasters, conflict and other emergencies. In Mali, for example, CRS distributed prepaid debit cards to more than 4,000 families displaced by the country’s 2012 military coup. Monthly payments helped them pay for food, rent and medical expenses. And in Haiti, CRS provided hungry families with mobile money to boost their purchasing power.
The Better Than Cash Alliance is an alliance of governments, the private sector and development organizations such as CRS committed to a global movement away from cash to the use of electronic payments. It advocates for the shift from cash to electronic payments, builds the evidence base and provides support to those who commit to making the transition.
“CRS works at the frontlines of poverty alleviation around the world. The Better Than Cash Alliance is delighted at the opportunity not only to support CRS in its transition from cash to electronic payments but also for our Alliance members to learn from CRS’s experience,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance.
Catholic Relief Services joins the governments of Afghanistan, Colombia, Kenya, Malawi, Peru and the Philippines along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme, ACDI/VOCA, CARE USA, Chemonics International, Concern Worldwide, Grameen Foundation, MEDA, Mercy Corps and WSBI who have committed to increase their electronic payments, thereby becoming eligible for support from the Better Than Cash Alliance.
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About Better Than Cash Alliance
The Better Than Cash Alliance partners with governments, the development community and the private sector to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, MasterCard, Omidyar Network, USAID and Visa Inc. are funders and the U.N. Capital Development Fund serves as the secretariat. To learn more, visit www.betterthancash.org, follow @BetterThan_Cash and subscribe for news at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services is the official humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries without regard to race, religion, or nationality. Learn more at www.crs.org, Twitter: @CatholicRelief; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatholicReliefServices