Remarks of Judith Karl, UNCDF Executive Secretary, on the occasion of the International Ebola Recovery Conference

  • July 10, 2015

  • New York, USA

The United Nations Capital Development Fund played an important role in the Ebola response, and will continue to do so in the recovery phase.

As part of its financial inclusion work, UNCDF has unique experience in supporting payment digitization, including for salaries, pensions, and social benefits. This reduces inefficiencies and improves transparency.

During the crisis, working closely with UNDP in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNCDF helped national governments and other partners introduce technology for electronic payments and biometric identification, so that emergency workers could be paid reliably and on time.

UNCDF brought in expertise on using mobile money systems – including with from the Better Than Cash Alliance, which UNCDF houses; our “Mobile Money for the Poor” initiative; and our Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme.

In Sierra Leone, mobile money agents were established in every district. 13,000 recipients registered in just three days.

Overall, across the three affected countries, 60,000 frontline workers didn’t need to worry about their next paycheck or travel long distances to get paid. They could focus on stopping Ebola. This gave donors, national governments and development partners a better way to deliver payments.

From the start, we built the systems which could later be expanded to provide affordable financial services to poor people and communities.

Now, the Ebola recovery assessment report notes the need to:

  • Support the recapitalization of community banks and financial services associations;
  • Strengthen the capacities of micro-finance institutions;
  • Invest in the expansion of ICT and digital payments infrastructure; and
  • Strengthen local capacity and accountability.

In response, UNCDF’s work on financial inclusion will support financial institutions to mobilize domestic savings and to match people and businesses with the financial products they need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. This will inject cash into local economies; kickstart growth and job creation; and boost the stability of national financial systems.

Already, UNCDF is working with UNDP and the World Bank in all three countries to develop livelihoods and social protection payment-driven financial inclusion programmes that will support recovery efforts.

Sierra Leone, for example, has joined the Better Than Cash Alliance and will transition social welfare programmes and government salaries from cash to digital payments.

UNCDF will also continue to support local governments meet citizens’ needs. We will help countries to build local capacities and raise and manage resources for local investment. This can reduce transaction costs and accelerate responses in emergencies when regular communications break down. Afterwards, local governments can quickly rebuild contact between citizens and the state with tailored responses, stimulating local development.

Throughout, UNCDF will use smart ODA to crowd in public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to support a robust recovery.

With innovative partnerships and well-funded programmes, UNCDF can help affected populations, communities, and businesses face the future with confidence.