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Versión Español | May 2014


Partnerships for Financial Inclusion

OAS Strengthens Partnerships for Financial Inclusion

“A wide access to financial services, products and asset building tools has the real potential of triggering the much needed social change to support more equality in the Americas; stakeholders must understand the social impact of financial inclusion and how it can benefit us all. This issue is not only a matter of sound public policy, but a wise investment in the future of our societies,”  those were the words of  OAS Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin at the conference on ‘Partnerships for Financial Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Catalyst for Inclusive Growth’ held in New York City, April 29-30.  

Recent studies show that over the past decade, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries  have  made significant progress in reducing poverty and expanding growth, and it is estimated that 51 million people have risen to the middle class (UNDP, 2014). An increasingly dynamic consumer demand and a growing business sector have led to important changes in the financial sector and governments are making efforts to support a transformation that leaves no one behind. As a result, the topic of financial inclusion has gained momentum and strong regional interest over the past few years.At the same time, there is a growing recognition within the public and private sectors of the need to align efforts to address the issues of poverty and inequality in the region by expanding products and services to those at the base of the pyramid.   

In response, the OAS Inter-American Social Protection Network (OAS-IASPN) - a cooperation mechanism that facilitates the exchange of knowledge and best practices in the area of social protection- has made Public Private Partnerships for financial inclusion a priority within its scope of work. In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE), and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (NYC/DCA) and its Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), the OAS-IASPN brought together Ministers and senior government officials from 26 Member States, as well as more than 100 representatives from the international banking sector including J.P. Morgan Chase, Master Card, AIG, Citibank and Visa, as well as non-profit foundations such as the Ford Foundation and others to discuss the challenges and needs of the region on the topic of financial inclusion and examine concrete ways to work together to bring about meaningful change.    

Jonathan Mintz“Local governments and leaders are uniquely positioned to bring members of underserved communities into the financial mainstream; lack of access to safe and high-quality financial services is a problem that exists beyond U.S. borders and we look forward to supporting the OAS Inter-American Social Protection Network’s efforts to advance financial inclusion throughout the Americas."  

Jonathan Mintz, President & CEO, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund
In her address to the gathering, Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States stated that "In order to grow our economies, achieve adequate social safety nets, and strengthen our democracies; we must make our financial systems more inclusive and receptive to the needs of all the people in the region”.  Likewise , Sherry Tross, OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development highlighted the importance of establishing partnerships and  acknowledged that “the fact that so many representatives from Member States, the international financial sector, foundations and NGOs are present is evidence of the commitment and dedication of each and every one of you to contribute to efforts to break the cycle of poverty and inequality that affects many in the region”.  

Overall, government officials gained insight on how to create an enabling framework to develop and implement financial inclusion and asset building initiatives; learned about different techniques and programs that have helped people transition from fringe markets to the financial mainstream, and discussed tangible collaborative solutions for inclusive development. Beyond the meeting, a live web cast was viewed by over 13,000 participants in 37 countries.

Commitments to Action

·   OAS and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE) signed an Agreement to support and promote financial inclusion programming in Latin America and the Caribbean;
·   VISA, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas agreed to explore  a tripartite arrangement for technical assistance in implementing conditional cash transfer programs;
·   A dedicated area of the Social Protection Network will be established to facilitate the sharing of experiences and ongoing dialogue;
·   A roster of experts will be created and made available to policy makers seeking advice and technical assistance;
·   A resource guide to financial inclusion and programming in micro finance will be developed in partnership with others;
·   The cultivation of partnerships to help build financial awareness, capability and access, and analyze data that can help match needs with capacity;
·   Sub-regional meetings will be organized to offer information that is more specifically focused on the needs of the country groupings. 

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