For the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), microfinance is a clear priority for the future. As SDC director Martin Dahinden pointed out to the media representatives, “More than two-thirds of the world’s population still do not have access to financial services.” Above all, there is a lack of professional institutions that also offer loans, money transfers and micro-insurance to the poor at affordable prices. Financial instruments can make a valuable contribution towards the fight against worldwide poverty, and as a major financial centre Switzerland could play a pioneering role here.
Martin Dahinden went on to note that the SDC and its partners have already accomplished a great deal within the framework of the SPTF. The measurability of social sustainability and the transparency of the sector are major prerequisites for creating incentives for investors to strengthen social sustainability. At the media conference, Dahinden evaluated the outcome of this year’s SPTF conference, of which the SDC was co-organiser together with the Liechtenstein development aid service, CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) and the Ford Foundation. The media conference was also attended by Laure Foose (co-ordinator of the SPTF), Melchior de Muralt (chairman of the World Microfinance Forum in Geneva), Klaus Tischhauser (director of ResponsAbility) and Jean-Pierre Klumpp (CEO of Blue Orchard Finance).
The SPTF is the global forum of microfinance experts. Its mandate is to make social standards in the microfinance sector measurable and place them on a solid footing. All interest groups are represented in this body: microfinance institutions and their national, regional and international networks, social investors, rating agencies, scientists and donors. This year’s conference was attended by 200 specialists from around 50 different countries.
The conference opened with a workshop on 28 June, at which participants for whom this area of activity is new were given an introduction to the tasks that are involved in the sustainable finance sector, and to the work of the Social Performance Task Force. On 29 June, the members of the various workgroups (networks, socially sustainable management, investors, etc.) met in order to discuss their respective stances. The plenary assembly of the SPTF was held on 30 June and 1 July, at which each workgroup reported on its activities during the past year, and on the challenges and potentials in the coming year. On the final day, the SDC organised a seminar at which the participants were able to summarise the conference and which was also addressed to the broader community of involved players in Switzerland.
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