UNDP holds an International Conference to extend the frontiers of development in Turkey

13 Dec 2005

The United Nations Development Programme organised an International Conference in Istanbul aiming to explore ways to help the poor invest in the future in Turkey.

The two-day Conference provided an opportunity for Turkey's government officials, industry leaders, cooperatives and members of the banking sector to discuss the global Microfinance industry and to identify models suitable to Turkey. This was one of the initiatives aimed at helping people living in poverty gain access to much-needed financial services by UNDP in Turkey, in support of Turkey's participation in the 2005 International Year of Microcredit.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hosted an International Microfinance Conference on 12-13 December 2005 at the Marmara Hotel in Istanbul. Expert-level participants both from Turkey and abroad attended the conference, entitled "New Frontiers in Development".

The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Turkey Jakob Simonsen inaugurated the Conference while Head of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Development Section from the Regional Headquarters of UNDP Jonathan Brooks made the welcoming speech.

The Conference addressed issues such as, "How has the global microfinance sector evolved into an important dimension of financial markets globally", "What are key models and experiences in microfinance", "What key lessons can Turkey draw from regional and global experiences", "What are the experiences of microcredit institutions in Turkey". "Commercial banks' interest in Microfinance in Turkey and the importance of a regulatory framework" was discussed as well.

"We are aiming to reduce poverty by 50 percent by 2015"

In his speech, Jakob Simonsen stated that through the global practices of the Microfinance system, millions of people have access to financial sectors. Mr. Simonsen added that, in order to achieve its Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations targets reducing poverty globally by the year 2015 and that Microfinance is one of the powerful tools to reach that goal.

Jonathan Brooks said that they intended to work with governments and regulators to build and expand the outreach and success of Microfinance, wanted to help create the infrastructure of microfinance and mobilise the assets of the private sector and commercial banks in microfinance.

"95 percent of the loans we provide are paid back in time"

Director of Maya Enterprise for Microfinance, which was established in 2002 as an economic enterprise of Foundation for the Support of Women's Work, Belgin Güzaltan, also delivered a speech at the conference. She said that they aimed to provide capital support to low-income Turkish women who own a small-scale business, who want to expand their business or to establish a new business. Ms. Güzaltan said the following in regard to Maya's activities:

"We disbursed a total of 2693 loans as of 30 September 2005. These loans amount to $ 1.5 million. 95 percent of the loans we distributed to 1500 women from Kocaeli, İstanbul, Düzce and Sakarya up to date have been paid back in due time with no defaults."

UNDP's activities in Turkey to develop an inclusive microfinance sector

The issue of microfinance and its role in reducing economic vulnerability and poverty has been a key subject of discussion and debate over the past year in Turkey. UNDP, in cooperation with the Turkish government, has established a National Committee on Microfinance, comprising members of the Government, NGOs, the private sector, academics and international development organizations, to develop an inclusive microfinance sector.

The National Committee is seeking the creation of a national strategy and laying the groundwork for the adoption of the necessary legislation on microfinance in Parliament. The Committee is also working with the private sector to help establish commercial opportunities to further support and advance microfinance. A website and newsletter have been launched to support the project and help build public awareness on the role and benefits of the microfinance sector in reducing economic vulnerability.

The issue of microfinance is particularly relevant to Turkey as a means to potentially reduce the level of poverty. While the number of those living in extreme poverty is relatively low in Turkey, according to the World Bank and State Institute of Statistics, 28 percent of the population experience food and non-food poverty. A UNDP-commissioned study in 2003 found that some two million people do not have access to the basic financial services necessary to pull themselves out of poverty.