H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), held virtual meetings with leaders of the 2021 Italian G20 Presidency on 30 November 2020. The Special Advocate is Honorary Patron of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI).
Queen Máxima commended Italy for its role in prioritizing digital financial inclusion and SME finance, including a focus on digital and financial literacy as well as technology to help supervisors. Further, the UNSGSA noted with well regard the Italian Presidency’s commitment to put the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 at the top of its agenda. The UNSGSA has emphasized that financial inclusion is more important than ever as the world responds to and recovers from the pandemic.
The Special Advocate held meetings with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Dr. Ignazio Visco, Governor of Bank of Italy. The UNSGSA also participated in a roundtable chaired by Governor Visco where she joined, among others, Mr. Pietro Benassi, Ambassador, Diplomatic Advisor to Prime Minister Conte and G20 Sherpa.
The UNSGSA welcomed the input of the roundtable participants, and stressed the importance of focusing on data to better understand and address issues around financial inclusion. In addition, the Special Advocate pointed out the significance of digitization and key digital public goods as a driving force for development for micro and small businesses. Queen Máxima also stressed the issue of protecting users of financial services as central to inclusive finance.
Governor Visco highlighted the importance of the meeting ahead of the Italian Presidency of the G20, recalling the crucial role of cooperation in the field of financial inclusion to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic. Ambassador Benassi also noted the import of defeating the pandemic, and highlighted that for the Italian Presidency’s priorities of “People, Planet, and Prosperity” financial inclusion is an important cross-cutting issue—particularly the critical role of digital financial inclusion.
Dr. Magda Bianco, Co-Chair of G20 GPFI and Head of Consumer Protection and Financial Education Directorate at the Bank of Italy, covered the GPFI priorities and the Italian G20 Presidency’s deliverables with the UNSGSA. She noted an aim to continue a commitment to financial inclusion to foster growth and reduce inequalities. She also stated that digitization has benefits, but new forms of exclusion caused by the digital divide should be prevented—a theme in line with the UNSGSA’s ongoing advocacy to mitigate these risks, as well.
The UNSGSA also spoke at the roundtable about preparing the financial system for sustainability challenges with Mr. Daniele Franco, Senior Deputy Governor, Bank of Italy, and Mr. Stefano Cappiello, Director General of Banking and Finance, Ministry of Economy and Finance.
In regard to financial inclusion and the role of women in the response to COVID-19, the Special Advocate spoke with Ms. Alessandra Perrazzelli, Deputy Governor, Bank of Italy, and Ms. Linda Laura Sabbadini, Director, Instituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) and W20 Chair. Ms. Sabbadini, noted that the W20’s goal is to help achieve more work opportunities and decision-making roles among women, as well as reiterated the UNSGSA’s point on the importance of good data for financial inclusion, especially women.
Additionally, on 4 December, the UNSGSA held a virtual meeting with Dr. Roberto Gualtieri, Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance. He further stressed to the UNSGSA the commitment of the Italian Presidency to financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.
The Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) is an inclusive platform for all G20 countries, interested non-G20 countries and relevant stakeholders to carry forward work on financial inclusion, including implementation of the G20 Financial Inclusion Action Plan, endorsed at the G20 Summit in Seoul.
As the UNSGSA, Queen Máxima is the Honorary Patron of the GPFI. She was invited to this role in June 2011. As Honorary Patron of the GPFI, the Special Advocate’s main task is to advocate for financial inclusion and promote the GPFI's work in the international arena.