H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is scheduled to virtually deliver opening remarks at the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit: “Women’s Role in Building a Cohesive, Dynamic, Sustainable, and Inclusive ASEAN Community in a Post COVID-19 World” on 12 November 2020. She will speak in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA).
The virtual closed-door event will be held on the opening day of the 37th annual ASEAN Summit. It will include high-level representation and participation by heads of states and governments from ASEAN member countries, as well as ASEAN women leaders.
Reaching underserved segments, especially women, to improve their economic and social development opportunities is a key focus area of the UNSGSA’s agenda. According to the most recent World Bank Global Findex (2017), in many ASEAN countries, less than 50% of the population owns an account at a formal financial institution.
ASEAN’s Working Committee on Financial Inclusion has emphasized developing key digital public goods—also a focus area of the UNSGSA. The public goods are crucial for the underserved to safely join and participate in the formal digital financial and economic system. They consist of connectivity, cybersecurity, data privacy, digital and financial literacy, digital ID, fair competition, interoperability and physical infrastructure.
Additionally, the Special Advocate has traveled to the ASEAN region for country visits to promote and support inclusive finance in recent years. For example:
- In March 2020, the UNSGSA held meetings in Jakarta with public and private sector leaders to discuss Indonesia’s financial inclusion progress. The Special Advocate has visited the country three previous times in 2012, 2016 and 2018, to offer support as Indonesia developed and implemented its national financial inclusion strategy (NFIS) and began to introduce digital financial services at scale, including the government’s efforts in digitizing social aid payments.
- Queen Máxima last visited Vietnam as the UNSGSA in 2017. Her Majesty met with members of the public and private sectors, as well as highlighted several focus areas for expanding financial inclusion, including Vietnam’s NFIS, agricultural finance, and tech-enabled innovations for financial services.