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A NEW COOPERATION MODEL COULD HOLD THE KEY TO FINANCIAL INCLUSION UNDER THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

By Alfred Hannig
Executive Director of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were unveiled to the world in 2015, setting the stage for the global development agenda for the next 15 years. Over the last decade, much has been learned about how best to meet development targets and the kinds of strategies, goals and issues that have the biggest impact. Navigating the SDGs roadmap laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, it is easy to see how the lessons of the last decade are being applied. One of these lessons is that financial inclusion is one of the fastest and most eff ective routes to poverty alleviation and the provision of safe and sustainable financial services for the unbanked.

Through the SDGs and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the international community has made a bold and unified  statement on the importance of fi nancial inclusion to inclusive and sustainable development. The Action Agenda includes a dedicated financial inclusion initiative, a welcome sign of high-level understanding that financial inclusion is connected to a broad range of policy areas: economic stability, social inclusion, green finance, gender equality, sustainability, health, education and much more. In fact, this perception of financial inclusion has been evolving for some time, moving slowA NEW COOPERATION MODEL COULD 2ly but steadily from an interesting fringe subject on the sidelines of global debate into  mainstream economic and social policy agendas.

But recognition alone is not enough to confront the monumental task of bringing financial services to the world’s 2 billion unbanked. What is needed now is investment in a proven platform that captures our collective global experience and allows every nation to tap into this wealth of knowledge and use it to build and tailor their own policy solutions. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch.

AFI’s proven cooperation model
The Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) was founded on the idea that a global knowledge exchange platform was key to expanding and improving financial inclusion policy. Over the last eight years, the AFI network supported by
its funders has invested deeply in this platform, and data shows the model is delivering tangible results while saving
time and money. AFI’s members are actively engaged in advancing financial inclusion at national, regional and
international levels through partnerships and cooperative arrangements with other regulators, as well as with international organizations and private sector leaders. The cooperation model our network has developed is a simple one, based on two key priorities:

• Country-led approaches. Rather than looking for a single set of top-down solutions, AFI members focus on the best ways to support countries in designing and implementing highimpact solutions to meet their unique needs and challenges. This approach has proven to be practical, while also creating ownership and a sense of pride as ever more ambitious targets are set and achieved.

• Peer-to-peer engagement: The value of knowledge and experience is not judged by the size or wealth of any one institution. Our cooperation model creates a community of equals where every member, no matter how large or
small, is given the opportunity to share as well as to learn.

A NEW COOPERATION MODEL COULDBy following these two basic principles, AFI has created an international community of peers based on trust and mutual respect, and driven by a common vision of advancing financial inclusion. Inside this open space, partners and stakeholders are able to engage on trending issues, explore innovations and refine policies that support sustainable financial inclusion. The growth of our network is proof that the model is popular, but the more important question to ask is: Does the model actually work? This can best be answered by looking at how the AFI Maya Declaration has already altered the landscape of financial inclusion. Launched in 2011, the Maya Declaration quickly evolved from a simple statement of intent to a comprehensive initiative that has inspired regulators across the globe. The Declaration and the financial inclusion commitments it has inspired represent the AFI cooperation model in
action. In just over five years, more than 100 regulatory institutions have adopted the Maya Declaration, with 57 national commitments currently underway and 112 financial inclusion targets already achieved. It is an incredible
accomplishment, but represents only a glimpse of what could be possible.

Enhancing G20 leadership through AFI cooperation model

The successes of the Maya Declaration across emerging and developing countries offers an opportunity to be replicated through the leadership of the G20. Investing resources in the expansion of a financial inclusion cooperation platform will not only provide an invaluable tool for advancing the SDGs, it will also solidify the G20’s
reputation as a global leader.

The G20 has a well-deserved reputation for bridging the developing and developed world, and has always been looked to for leadership in raising and promoting issues that cut across traditional dividing lines of North versus
South or developed versus developing. At the 2010 G20 Summit in Seoul, the leaders of the G20 recognized financial
inclusion as one of the main pillars of global development and endorsed a concrete Financial Inclusion Action
Plan in cooperation with like-minded partners, including the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. Since then, every
G20 Presidency has moved the Action Plan forward, not only by advocating for financial inclusion in theory, but also by highlighting the specific and measurable impacts being felt in developing and emerging countries through initiatives such as the Maya Declaration.

With broad international support behind the SDGs and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and a proven cooperation
model that is ready to be deployed, the international community has a clear mandate to expand the reach and impact
of financial inclusion. It is also the logical continuation of an issue the G20 has been championing since 2010.

The journey ahead

The SDGs and Addis Ababa Action Agenda have provided us with a longterm roadmap for achieving our common
financial inclusion goals. But the most important part of any journey is the first step. There is an African proverb that
reads, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”

The journey for the world’s 2 billion unbanked is far, but full financial inclusion is not out of reach if we travel the road together.

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