Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima is an active global voice on the importance of inclusive finance for reducing poverty and achieving development goals. Designated in 2009 by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon as his Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, Princess Máxima works with government leaders, financial regulators and supervisors, intergovernmental organizations, parliaments, civil society, the private sector and the media to raise awareness and foster action.
As Special Advocate, Princess Máxima plays a leading role in promoting best practices and policies that increase access to finance, advance consumer protection and enhance financial literacy. The Princess advocates access for both individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), often the engines of growth in local and national economies. Inclusive financial systems are critical infrastructure, just like roads. Princess Máxima highlights how financial integrity, inclusion and stability are mutually reinforcing in vibrant financial systems, and encourages increased collaboration among global standard setters and national regulators. She addresses these issues during her visits to countries and in international fora such as the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the G20, FATF and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.
Princess Máxima encourages universal access, at a reasonable cost, to a wide range of financial services, provided by a diversity of sound and sustainable institutions. Such financial services include savings accounts, loans, insurance, payment services, pension plans, and remittance facilities that can help people generate income, build assets, manage cash flow, invest in opportunities and strengthen resilience to setbacks. Access to savings is especially important. As Special Advocate and Honorary Chair of the G20 SME Finance Data Working Group, the Princess emphasizes the need for high-quality data that will shed light on the use and impact of financial services on households and small business development.
Princess Máxima underscores the need for a common approach to micro and SME finance that creates a continuum of access across the entire value chain, rather than separate silos. She champions innovations in financial products, service delivery and partnerships that reach many of the world’s rural poor, who account for more than 70 percent of global poverty. Strong banking institutions, coupled with new technologies like smart cards, ATMs and mobile phones, hold promise of expanding financial access by dramatically reducing costs for providers and clients alike. This requires coordination and leadership among diverse stakeholders within a country, and the right enabling environment.
In all this, Princess Máxima believes that financial inclusion is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Financial services can have powerful impact when they are combined with access to basic needs and services such as shelter, medicine, food, and education. Credit and savings, for example, can help poor people obtain water purifiers, improved cooking stoves, solar panels, safer housing, and connections to water systems. Insurance can help with both preventive and emergency health care. The money and time thus saved can be used to generate income, go to school and pursue other life goals. Princess Máxima and her husband, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, heir to the Dutch throne and Chair of the UNSG’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), collaborate on this integrated approach.
Main Partners and Office
An international reference group supports the Special Advocate in her work: the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP); the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI); and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Princess Máxima and the members of the reference group work closely with many national and global partners.
A small Office of the UNSGSA, housed at UNCDF in New York, works closely with the Secretariat of the Princess in The Hague to coordinate her UN activities in the field of inclusive finance.
Financial Inclusion in the Netherlands
Princess Máxima also raises awareness of the importance of inclusive finance in her own country. The Princess has served on the Dutch Council on Microfinance since 2006 to support entrepreneurship in the Netherlands. She encourages expanded coaching support for new entrepreneurs as well as credit facilities, which are the mainstays of microfinance in the Netherlands.
Since 2008, Princess Máxima has engaged in advocacy for financial education in the Netherlands, most notably for children and youth. The Princess became Honorary Chair in 2010 of ‘CentiQ, Wiser in Money Matters’, a national partnership of banks, schools, government, consumers’ organizations and research institutions.
Prior UN experience
Drawing on her professional experience in banking and emerging markets, Princess Máxima served as a member of the UN Advisors Group to the 2005 International Year of Microcredit. She traveled widely to observe microcredit programs in action. From 2006 to 2009, the Princess served on the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors, which sought to address the broader agenda of financial inclusion. She was a member of the Group’s Executive Committee and chaired its Working Group on Advocacy. In 2008, the Princess presented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the Group’s recommendations. Its key messages were designed to serve as guidelines for legislators, supervisory bodies, development partners and the private sector. Important themes included the need to encourage people to save, to strengthen systems of lending, to simplify financial transactions, and to educate consumers about and protect them against financial risks.