Sights Set on Providing Microfinance Institutions Worldwide with Tools
to Ensure Commitment to Clients’ Best Interests
Washington, D.C., March 30, 2009– In the face of major client protection failures in the mainstream financial sector, leaders of the microfinance industry came together this month seeking means to ensure that microfinance providers worldwide remain committed to serving their clients’ best interests.
The Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International hosted the first meeting of a distinguishedSteering Committeefor theCampaign for Client Protection in MicrofinanceMarch 5-6. Twenty-three recognized leaders in the microfinance industry – representing microfinance organizations from every region of the world – officially endorsed the Campaign’sSix Principlesof Client Protection in Microfinance and set the course for the Campaign itself.
The Campaign for Client Protection in Microfinance is an industry-wide alliance formed to affirm and institutionalize the commitment to client welfare in the practices of microfinance organizations (MFIs) worldwide. The Campaign’s six principles include ensuring that MFIs do not engage in reckless or predatory lending; that they are transparent with clients about prices, fees, and terms; that they treat clients with dignity, even during debt collection; and that they keep client data secure.
The wide geographic distribution of Steering Committee members ensures that the Campaign will be broad-based and help shape the practice and principles of thousands of microfinance organizations currently serving tens of millions of the working and entrepreneurial poor worldwide.
Committee members include Clara Serra de Akerman, President, Women’s World Banking Colombia;Daouda Sawadogo, General Manager, Fédération des Caisses Populaires du Burkina (FCPB), Burkina Faso; Shireen Farrag, Executive Director, Sanabel Network, Egypt; Anne-Francoise Lefevre, Head of WSBI Institutional Relations, World Savings Banks Institute (WSBI), Belgium; Asad Mahmood, Managing Director, Global Social Investment Funds, Deutsche Bank, United States; Vipin Sharma, Managing Director, Access Development & Access Alliance, India; Kate McKee, Senior Advisor, CGAP, United States; and Elisabeth Rhyne, Managing Director, Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International, United States. A complete list ishere.
“As MFIs come under the pressure of poor economic conditions, it is critical for the industry to join together and proactively safeguard the interests of microfinance clients through appropriate policies, practices, and products,” said Steering Committee member Mathias Katamba,CEO, Uganda Finance Trust.
“Microfinance was born of a desire to help the poor help themselves, and as the industry has grown it’s been remarkably successful in avoiding the exploitive practices that characterized the subprime crisis in the United States,” said microfinance investor Pilar Ramirez, Managing Director of Latin America’s LOC Fund, also a committee member. “As microfinance matures, the time is ripe to codify core values and develop practices and standards that will maintain commitment to those values as a norm.”
To date, 43 leading microfinance organizations, 50 of the largest microfinance investors, and 125 individuals have endorsed the Campaign for Client Protection in Microfinance. In addition to securing the commitment of MFIs to the six principles, the Campaign will provide practical resources – on-line assessments, training and communications materials – to facilitate and support their implementation. Presently, MFIs can download an abbreviated client protection self-assessment tool on the Campaignwebsite. The tool is part of a larger social performance measurement tool that can be found on the website of the MIX Market, the largest repository of MFI financial information. Ultimately, the Campaign website will host a comprehensive library of resources for MFIs, provided by experts in the field.
About the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International
The Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International is an industry-building initiative that works closely with a wide range of actors to tackle challenges surrounding financial inclusion. It is dedicated to the proposition that low-income people deserve high-quality financial services, and that those services are best provided through sustainable, commercial programs. The Center brings together nonprofits, commercial banks, technology firms, regulators, universities, and many others to address three principal topics: Investors and Microfinance, the Double Bottom Line, and Product and Process Breakthroughs. Using tools such as convening, coalition building, research, information dissemination, training and piloting, the Center is the next step in ACCION’s longstanding commitment to commercial microfinance. For more information, please visit:www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org.
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Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International
Tel. 202-393-5113, x1667