UN chief promotes digital technology in financing for development

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that digital technology, by giving people greater control over how global finance is used, can be a critical enabler for sustainable development.

“From mobile payments to crowdfunding, digital technology is already helping to meet development challenges,” he told a virtual event for the launch of a report by his task force on digital financing for development on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Digital technology can be a critical enabler, kick-starting the transformative changes the world needs to create stronger, more resilient and inclusive communities and societies on a healthy planet, he said.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, digital technology is a critical lifeline, enabling billions of people to maintain connections with loved ones, buy daily necessities, preserve their livelihoods and receive government assistance, he noted.

Guterres endorsed the task force’s vision of citizen-centric finance and its conclusion that the digitalization of finance must be inclusive and empowering so that it becomes a force for good.

Currently, 3.6 billion people worldwide, including a disproportionate number of women, lack the resources and capabilities to take advantage of the digital world. Addressing this gap will contribute to the economic resilience of communities and national economies. It will also address gender inequality by enabling women to have greater power over how they make, spend, save, and control their money, said Guterres.

The report, “People’s Money: Harnessing Digitalization to Finance a Sustainable Future,” also highlights the importance of institutional arrangements to steer digital finance into alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said. “The continued dislocation between our collective commitment to the SDGs and decision-making around public financing cannot continue.”

Much can be done at the local and national level. But international cooperation is needed to make a real difference, and that cooperation cannot be confined to yesterday’s clubs of influential actors. Digitalization must democratize the governance of finance, in order to democratize finance itself. Developing countries need and deserve a much greater role in formulating the policies and decisions that will impact their citizens, he said.

The task force’s report set out five catalytic opportunities to move public and private money into alignment with the SDGs: aligning the vast pools flowing through global capital markets with the SDGs; increasing the effectiveness and accountability of public finance; channelling digitally aggregated domestic savings into long-term development finance; informing citizens how to link their consumer spending with the SDGs; accelerating the lifeblood financing for the employment and income-generating world of small and medium-sized businesses.