Agenda 2030 Graduate School blog

Lund University Agenda 2030 Graduate School is a global, cutting-edge research school and collaboration platform for issues related to societal challenges, sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. The 17 PhD students from all faculties at Lund University enrolled with the Agenda 2030 Graduate School relate their specific research topics to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this blog the PhD students of the Graduate School discuss topical research and societal issues related to the 2030 Agenda.

The UN’s agenda for Financial Development

Posted on 4 November 2019 by Juan Ocampo

Financial inclusion and the SDGs

Embedded in the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals we can find Financial Inclusion. By signing the 2030 Agenda resolution, nations aim to build strong foundations for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. To achieve these goals, policies aiming to increase productive capacities, productive employment, resilient infrastructure, and financial inclusion are promoted. It is not a surprise then that, during the 2019 United Nations High-Level Political Forum (read more), the event “Financial Inclusion for Development: Building on 10 Years of Progress” was held.

But before we enter into the details of the event, it is worth asking what definition of financial inclusion is reproduced in these “diplomatic spaces”. By reading the UN Resolution 70/1 Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, it is clear that the economic growth discourse has been established as the ruling paradigm for the SDGs. I believe we should be critical about what “growth” implies for sustainability, however the green growth/degrowth debate requires a more detailed analysis that I will address in a later post. The World Bank has defined financial inclusion as “individuals and businesses having access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way”. And who better than the United Nations Secretary-General Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) to stress how: “financial inclusion is within 7 SDGs and we are under 8 global targets”. So yes, I will say that financial inclusion has relevance in the development agenda.

The world’s? financial inclusion agenda – Money is Power

Amongst the attendants at this event, we could find President of the World Bank, Melinda Gates, and PayPal’s CEO, amongst other important actors of the financial development discussion. I recommend you to watch the whole event here, however, the main takeaways I would like to highlight are: (i) Public, Private, and NGO actors need to trust each other to solve the troubles of financial inclusion; (ii) Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Digital Money are key technologies for financial inclusion; (iii) Financial literacy of women would be the focus of the World Bank policy development; and (iv) one of the main focuses of financial inclusion from the SDG perspective is gathering better data to make decisions regarding private investment and policy . The discussions held in the forum were expected considering the technological trends in today’s economies. There is one last thing I do want to highlight from Melinda Gates speech: “Money is power. If we want to empower people, we have to ensure that they have means for saving”. This was one of the few references to money in a Financial Inclusion event, but a very strong one I must admit.

Reflecting on the event, key questions emerge for further discussion:

-Which inclusive economic (de)growth the paradigm should we advocate for?

-If Money is the way to empower the commons, why are financial services “delivered” by banks and not self-managed by the communities?

– Assuming technologies such as Blockchain and Digital Money are the present and future of financial inclusion, then the question is who should govern these infrastructures and under which parameters? 

Through the analysis of this event I have mentioned the agenda for the financial inclusion of the developing world. However, growth paradigms and governance structures are important themes that were left without an appropriate discussion and that are worth following up on. And I will!

This blog post is based on a presentation made for a seminar hosted by Lund University’s Agenda 2030 Graduate School.

Juan Ocampo is a PhD candidate within the Agenda 2030 Graduate School at LUSEM – Lund University

October 23, 2019

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SDG 8 UN Summit Blog Series