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In the lead up to the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit, Michaël Knaute of Convergences shares his views on global partnerships and the role they can play in financial inclusion and the broader post-2015 development agenda.
In partnership with the Microfinance Gateway, we will be bringing you a series of interviews with speakers and key stakeholders participating in the upcoming 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit. Last week, the Gateway featured an interview with Carmen Velasco and this week’s interview features Michaël Knaute, special advisor & board member of Convergences. The overarching theme of the agenda for the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit is financial inclusion that leads to movement out of poverty. What do you think of that?
Partnerships in microfinance have been understudied or under discussed in microfinance in the past 10 years, so we’re very glad this is the topic at the top of the agenda at the Microcredit Summit. We’ll be releasing a study on partnerships at the Convergences World Forum (September 17-19 in Paris) and will also present findings and case studies during the 2013 Summit. There are some interesting, impactful studies relating microcredit to health, housing, water and sanitation, and energy. I believe the Microcredit Summits are a great opportunity to share knowledge and good practices, so I hope we take this opportunity to discuss not only partnerships, but where we stand in terms of regulations, involvement of donors and investors, and over-indebtedness.
It’s important to talk about failures as well. To be very frank, I was a bit frustrated at the 2011 Global Microcredit Summit in Spain. We were in the middle of the [Andhra Pradesh] crisis but we didn’t talk enough about it and what to do. I still expect—even though it’s not the main focus of the conference this year—that we talk openly about these issues, how people act and react, intervene, create, innovate.
What do you see as some of the priorities for the sector going forward?
Microfinance, first of all, should look to have a positive impact and ensure a “do-no-harm approach.” I also really believe that the efforts started a few years back on savings, microinsurance, and mobile banking still need to be pursued, developed, and supported. The sector should still encourage the donor community to integrate microfinance in wider development strategies and help the sector to push its barriers in terms of agriculture products in Africa or microinsurance in underserved countries and populations. The graduation approach and experiments from CGAP and the Ford Foundation are very good and should be replicated and supported by the donor community.
Your own conference, Convergences, is taking place this week. Why is this convening important for advancing progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
Convergences, our annual conference, is a gathering of 5,000 people and is the main conference in Europe focused on the MDGs and poverty alleviation. We take a very open approach, inviting big and small companies, social entrepreneurs, governments, NGOs, media, researchers, and so on. The mission of Convergences is to promote more partnerships between organizations. This year, the main topic of the conference will be the post-2015 agenda. The UN and the Rio+20 meeting in 2012 reaffirmed the need for new sustainable development goals after 2015 and the need for a New Global Partnership. We believe it’s very important in today’s globalized world to have a global agenda for development, sustainability, and poverty alleviation. When we talk today about a New Global Partnership, it’s very important to take into account not only poverty alleviation but also the environmental factor, the increasing role of emerging countries, optimizing local resources, and so on. That’s one side of a global partnership. Another side is the role of the private sector, and that includes the link with microfinance and financial inclusion. The private sector has been an increasingly important actor in the development agenda in the past couple of decades. It will remain an increasingly important actor and that’s why Convergences keeps reflecting on how we can optimize the contribution of the private sector to the achievement of the MDGs and the post-2015 goals.
What’s next for the Global Appeal for Responsible Finance?
First of all, we seek to get even more endorsements (at the moment, roughly 600 organizations and 2,000 individual signed the Appeal) and publicity because we believe that the Global Appeal for Responsible Microfinance is still as valid and relevant as it was two years ago. The Global Appeal calls for the self-regulation of microfinance institutions and also for better involvement of investors, regulators, and other stakeholders of microfinance. We will also keep using the Global Appeal for our engagement with the media. We have to acknowledge that although the negative media about microfinance has diminished, there are still challenges, misunderstandings, and questions about microfinance from the media and general audiences. So it’s still important to use the Global Appeal or other initiatives to reaffirm the role of microfinance as a powerful tool for economic development and poverty alleviation and communicate how the sector is evolving and committed to improving people’s lives. Finally, as we did earlier this year via a joint survey with the SPTF and the MIX as well as a collaboration with the main rating agencies (data presented at this year’s Convergences and published in Microfinance Barometer 2013), we will seek to monitor advancement of responsible practices in the sector together with the key actors (i.e., SPTF, Smart Campaign, AFI, UNPRI, raters, etc.).
The Microfinance Gateway is a media partner for the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit. Learn more. – Interview conducted by Sabina Rogers, communications and relationships manager at the Microcredit Summit Campaign