2020-06-23
AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig delivers opening remarks during webinar on the Roadmap to the Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Persons, 24 June 2020.

The Roadmap to the Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Persons - The role of financial regulators and other stakeholders
Monday, 23 June 2020

Opening Remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, Executive Director, AFI

Warm greetings to all and welcome to the BMZ-AFI Webinar on the Roadmap to the Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs), during which we will examine the role of financial regulators and other equally key stakeholders in the implementation of the Roadmap towards advancing financial inclusion for all.

It is encouraging to see the interest developed for the webinar with close to 200 registrants. This speaks to the importance of the issue at hand today, and we are grateful to have such an excellent, diverse expert panel of AFI members and partners to share insights into how we can continue to drive this agenda forward.

I am also delighted to be co-hosting this event jointly with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ), a key partner for AFI in our work on FDPs, and for financial inclusion more broadly. Indeed, our colleagues in BMZ and GIZ have played a critical role in bringing financial inclusion to the forefront in global policy discussions on forced displacement, as well as in leading and coordinating the development of the Roadmap that forms the basis of our discussion today.

A few days ago, on 20 June, we observed World Refugee Day, a day we raise awareness of the plight of refugees who have fled persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. In their latest annual Global Trends in Forced Displacement Report, the UNHCR reported that at the end of 2019 almost 80 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes or countries due to conflict and persecution. Out of these, 26 million were refugees; 45.7 million were internally displaced persons or IDPs; and 4.2 million were asylum seekers. Quite strikingly, 68 percent of the total number of FDPs come from just five countries, namely, the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

Global Forced Displacement Numbers

Unfortunately, there has been an increase from last year’s numbers and once again the world’s forcibly displaced population has reached a new record high. Developing countries – which host 85 per cent of FDPs - continue to shoulder a disproportionately large responsibility for hosting refugees.

We also need to appreciate the particular challenges faced by women and youth FDPs. Based on available data, at a global level the proportion of women and girls in the refugee population was at least 48 percent in 2019 whereas children under 18 represented about 50 percent, and young adults aged 18-24 a further 13 percent. This signals a need to already begin devising long-term solutions for a growing population of displaced youth who would otherwise be extremely socially and economically excluded from our systems, and lack access to economic opportunities.

What’s more, the COVID-19 global pandemic further underlined the systematic inequalities that are still present within our formal financial systems. While those with ready access to digital financial services during a time when our movements were restricted could make use of them to mitigate the impacts of the crisis, the most disadvantaged and vulnerable segments of our populations, including FDPs, were often excluded from these services, and therefore left behind.

The COVID-19 crisis also presents a risk of countries turning away from extending the hand of friendship to outsiders and focusing on the needs of their own populations first. This would be catastrophic for FDPs and we need to challenge these tendencies towards isolationism. This is a global problem that requires global cooperation in all our shared interested.

Financial Inclusion of FDPs as a “Durable Solution”

In this context, it is impressive to see that AFI members, such as the Central Bank of Jordan, Bank of Tanzania, Bank of Uganda, National Bank of Rwanda, Banque Centrale de Mauritanie and Da Afghanistan Bank, have shown commendable leadership in leveraging financial inclusion as a durable, dignified and empowering solution to what is traditionally viewed as a humanitarian policy challenge. Despite grappling with already existing hurdles in economic development, financial policymakers and regulators in our network have begun to transform their policies and break silos to ensure FDPs are no longer financially excluded.

They have promoted the collection of appropriately disaggregated financial inclusion data on FDPs, included FDPs in their national financial inclusion strategies (NFIS), lowered KYC requirements for FDPs, implemented digital financial literacy programs for FDPs and established new relationships with crucial stakeholders such as those from the humanitarian and FinTech sectors.

AFI’s Global Agendas

As part of our efforts to reach full financial inclusion, AFI is committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s aspiration to leave no one behind, including FDPs. This is demonstrated by our whole-of-membership’s endorsement of the Sochi Accord for Inclusive FinTech and the Kigali Statement, which was endorsed at our 2019 Global Policy Forum in Rwanda. Both documents explicitly mention FDPs and clearly demonstrate our network’s collective commitment to ensure that we do not leave those who have been forcibly displaced behind as we progress towards sustainable development.

We additionally view this as our way of upholding the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees, which is the international community’s “framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing, recognizing that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation”. Towards that end, we intend to leverage AFI’s special model of peer-to-peer engagement and learning, as well as country-led approaches, to facilitate cooperation among our membership of almost 100 central banks and financial regulators. By doing so, these members will make a key contribution towards bringing to life the Roadmap to the Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of FDPs launched at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, and to which AFI was pleased to be a co-signatory.

Conclusion

It is for these reasons we that we have chosen to co-organize this timely webinar, I hope that you will find it informative, and I wish you fruitful deliberations ahead. Thank you again.

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