The term ‘digital financing’ is used broadly to encompass digital finance and the financial technologies (‘fintech’) that underpin it. In addition to mobile connectivity, these technologies include, but are not limited to, big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology (‘blockchain’) and the Internet of things.
The Secretary-General’s released his Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2018. It highlights the need for deep changes across the business and financial sectors and in public policies to mobilize private finance at the scale and greater speed. A core part of this strategy is to seize the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance. The Task Force was specifically created to help answer the question “how do we unlock the potential of digitalization of finance and manage the risks?”
The Task Force is intentionally designed to convene stakeholders to bring a holistic view on the potential of financial technologies to achieve the SDGs. It includes leaders from governments, business, the financial community, international organizations and civil society, bringing market leaders and disruptors together with rule makers. Its composition reflects a balance of gender, age and geographic representation, both developed and developing countries. Some of the Task Force members’ areas of expertise include mobile money, digital economic policy, e-commerce, insurance and sustainable investing. A full list may be found here.
The Task Force members will determine the areas of focus, guided by the mandate to consider high-impact, scalable public, private and policy solutions.
Some examples for illustration purposes only are the following:
- How retail or government financing of clean energy, enabled by digital finance, is greatly enhanced by the development of green bonds, which can finance such solutions on a large scale.
- How middle-income consumers can make more sustainable or socially responsible consumption choices through digital means, resulting in a positive impact on the environmental and decent-work practices for companies across value chains.
- How farmers can receive greater compensation for their crops by proving the source of origin or organic farming methods and using technology to market and sell to agricultural buyers.
- How migrants and refugees can more quickly become economically self-sufficient through the digital economy and support (or be supported by) their families through very low-cost remittances.
The Task Force will inform the Secretary-General’s three-year roadmap of actions and initiatives help bring his strategy to life. At the same time, Task Force members will help raise awareness of these issues their respective stakeholder groups to build more momentum globally for making sustainability a core goal for the digitalization of finance. In doing so, it could help achieve the goals set out in Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement.
The Task Force members will also be asked to put forward recommendations on concrete actions for themselves, their own stakeholder groups and the United Nations to ensure the momentum is not lost.
UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) serves as Co-Chair. As the lead development agency within the United Nations system, UNDP was given the mandate to create the Task Force by the Secretary-General. In addition, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner brings deep experience in the green finance movement which identified digital finance as a key enabler. UNDP chose the United Nations Capital Development Fund, or UNCDF, to act as the Task Force secretariat because it has technical expertise in digital finance.
As individual members and through its Secretariat, the Task Force will publicly solicit input and gather research, thoughts and proposals from a range of stakeholders. It will draw on the expertise of its members and from stakeholders across the globe, including through engagement at existing events, conferences and forums and from its networks. In keeping with its digital focus, the Task Force will seek to maximize digital and virtual engagements.
The Task Force will draw on the work of other initiatives on digital finance, green finance, and social and responsible investment, to name a few. All of these initiatives can and should be mutually reinforcing. Wherever possible, the Task Force will collaborate with other initiatives and seek to identify synergies and complementarities.
The Task Force will remain focused on its primary remit, which is how the digitization of finance can help achieve the SDGs.
The Task Force includes four members from the UN to ensure that the UN is not a beneficiary of this process but an active participant. The Task Force will report to the Secretary-General and will take account of all related efforts across the UN, including the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation and the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, ensuring alignment through complementary and reinforcing activities.
The Task Force will also draw on in-kind contributions, primarily in the form of research and of sponsorship of meetings and other convenings by interested parties.
As co-chair, the United Nations Development Programme will have overall responsibility for the Task Force. As Secretariat, the UN Capital Development Fund will manage all technical and operational aspects of the Task Force. The Secretariat is funded by donor resources.
No. The Task Force is not a grant-making entity.
The Task Force has set an ambitious and action-oriented agenda to last approximately twelve months. The Task Force will issue a call for papers and commission research beginning in late 2018 to be complemented by peer learning among the members, solicitation of ideas and gathering input from a broad range of stakeholders globally, and other activities. Initial findings will be presented at the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2019. The final report of recommendations will be presented to the Secretary-General by early 2020.