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Black Tie International:
People's Money: Harnessing Digitalization
to Finance a Sustainable Future

People's Money Report
People's Money
Harnessing Digitalization
to Finance a Sustainable Future
Report Courtesy of UN News

A UN taskforce set up to look into the risks and benefits of the digital economy, has concluded that it could have a transformational impact on sustainable development, and empower citizens, both as taxpayers and investors.

The report, “People’s Money: Harnessing Digitalization to Finance a Sustainable Future”, was released by the UN Secretary-General’s 
Task Force on Digital Finance 

The Task Force, led by UN development chief Achim Steiner, and made up of senior figures from the tech sector, financial institutions, governments, and UN bodies, was set up by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2018, to improve understanding of the benefits and risks of the fast-moving financial technology (fintech) and digital finance sectors.

The initiative is part of the UN chief’s strategy to support financing for the 2030 Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a better future, for people and the planet. The financing needs for the Agenda, Mr. Guterres said in 2018, are in the order of between $5 and $7 trillion per year. The shift to digital, conclude the authors of the People’s Money report, could provide the means to meet those projected costs.

“Digital technologies, which are revolutionizing financial markets, can be a game-changer in meeting our shared objectives”, said Mr. Guterres in response to the launch of the report. “The Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals provides leadership to harness the digital revolution.”

The COVID-19 acceleration effect

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of digital tools has grown rapidly, and demonstrates the potential of digital finance to provide relief for millions around the world, support businesses and protect jobs and livelihoods. 

Speaking to UN News, Mr. Steiner outlined the acceleration effect of the pandemic. “Things that we anticipated would happen over the next few years, have happened in weeks. The pandemic has allowed governments to see the importance of overcoming traditional limitations, and identifying and reaching the most vulnerable.”

Examples include digital cash transfers, which have helped millions of people in Pakistan, the connection of schools to broadband, and governments and parliaments connecting remotely in ways that are now common practice, he added.

The widespread adoption of smartphones, continued Mr. Steiner, puts powerful digital tools in the hands of more than a billion people, allowing them to work, socialize, and manage their finances. He emphasized the importance of remodelling the financial system, to underscore the fact that the trillions of dollars’ worth of investment flowing around the world, ultimately come from ordinary people.

“Citizens are the owners of this wealth, which is made up of pensions, and savings. The Task Force was keen to bring back the notion that the citizen is at the centre of the economy. Citizens need greater transparency, and to have a say over where their pension contributions go. And, as well as returns for investors, we also need to see public purpose benefits. Digital finance is a significant opportunity for citizens to re-engage, because this is a way to address major challenges, such as climate change.”

Digitalization is a choice

The report identifies five ways for harnessing digitalization, which cover much of global finance. Firstly, the huge amounts of money flowing around the world needs to be invested in a way that supports the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Public finances need to be more effective and accountable. Savings need to be invested for long-term development projects, using digital tools. And there needs to be more financing for small and medium-sized businesses, which are crucial for generating employment and income.

A key message of the report is that digitalization, and the way that it is used, is a choice, not an inevitability. There are considerable digital risks, such as increased exclusion, discrimination and inequalities. The five action areas point the way for governments to use digitalization for good.
Click the 2 links  below for print friendly PDFs

Briefing for Financial Companies and Global Digital Platforms

Briefing for Financial Institutions

“Digitialization must democratise the governance of finance to democratise finance itself”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

The final report of the Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals was launched on 26 August 2020 in New York by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres together with the Task Force Co-the two Task Force co-Chairs Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator
and Maria Ramos, until recently CEO of ABSA Group.

They were joined in a panel discussion by Task Force members Patrick Njoroge, Governor, Central Bank of Kenya; Natalie Jabangwe, Chief Executive Officer, EcoCash; Eric Jing, Executive Chairman, Ant Group; and Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions at the World Bank Group, moderated by Simon Zadek,
head of the Task Force Secretariat.

Executive Summary:

Digitalization can propel us towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
Our response to today’s unprecedented crisis demonstrates how digitalization can be harnessed to support vulnerable people, reduce inequalities, sustain livelihoods and strengthen solidarity. If unchecked, however, it could deepen exclusion, increase inequality and further divide us.

Digital disruption creates an historic opportunity to reshape finance. 
 Mobile platforms and data analytics are bringing sophisticated financial services to mass markets. Tens of millions of businesses depend on more than 2 billion people spending trillions of dollars annually online. Governments are digitalizing public finance, and a growing portion of the world’s public equities trades are executed by computer-managed funds.

Digitalization can have a transformative impact by empowering people
in financing.

 The Task Force has focused on how digitalization can support financing that meets the priorities of the people it is intended to serve, by empowering them as savers, lenders, borrowers, investors, and taxpayers. These priorities are collectively represented by the SDGs, the shared agenda adopted by all United Nations Member States.

The Task Force highlights that digitalization is already making a difference,
but that far more can be achieved by realising keystone, catalytic opportunities.Notable is accelerating the use of domestic savings for long-term development, enhancing accountability of public financing, making SDGs count in global financial markets, financing small and medium enterprises, and promoting SDG-aligned consumer spending.

Barriers and digital risks need to be overcome
 in harnessing digitalization’s potential in financing the SDGs, with barriers including inadequate digital infrastructure, and access, affordability and capabilities, and digital risks such as gender and minority biases, increased short-termism, cyber vulnerability, and market concentration.

Governance innovations are pre-conditions
for harnessing digitalization in delivering financing of the SDGs. Regulations and standards governing digital financing need to be informed by SDG commitments and goals, with a particular need to ensure that the SDGs inform the governance of a new generation of global digital financing platforms with cross-border, spillover impacts.

The UN can play a key role 
in realizing opportunities, overcoming barriers and mitigating risks in harnessing digitalization in financing the SDGs. Centrally is support to Member States in realizing catalytic opportunities, aligning digitalized finance ecosystems with the SDGs, progressing governance innovations to mitigate risks, and advancing digital financing in the UN.

The historic opportunity to harness digitalization in reshaping finance must be grasped now,
 given the urgency to finance the SDGs, the short window of change resulting from a period of digital disruption, and the potential to maintain the digital momentum of the current crisis.

Download Executive Summary: Arabic,  ChineseEnglishFrenchRussianSpanish .

people money

Click here to download  the full report as a print friendly PDF

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