In 1997, the Microcredit Summit launched a nine year campaign to reach 100 million of the poorest people in the world with microcredit for self employment and income generation, by the year 2005.
Five years on, in November 2002, the Microcredit Summit + 5 took place in New York City. This was the first global meeting since the Summit in Abidjan, Cote d' Ivoire, in 1999. After Abidjan, there have seen a series of regional meetings in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Summit+5 provided a good opportunity to take stock of the progress that has been made by the Campaign. More than 2000 delegates from 100 countries attended the meeting including heads of state, microcredit practitioners, donors, policy makers, advocates and other actors in the field.
The State of the Campaign report released at the Summit + 5 stated that 54 million poor families around the world had already received microcredit by the end of 2001. Of these 54 million families, 27 million counted among the poorest. These figures are based on verified institutional data collected from 2,186 organizations that participate in the Summit and show that the Campaign was on track till the end of 2002 to reach the 100 million target by 2005.
The purpose of the Summit was as before, to advance its agenda of promoting microcredit as a tool for poverty reduction, which is sustainable, which reaches the poorest, especially women, and which has a positive measurable impact on poverty.
The Summit highlighted some of the shifts that had taken place in the implementation and understanding of microfinance over the last five years. At the time of launching of the Summit campaign, conventional wisdom held that the very poor do not benefit from microfinance and that they need other forms of assistance, before small loans are of help to them. Conventional wisdom also held that if microfinance programs try to reach the poor, their inclusion will prevent a microfinance program from becoming sustainable, because of the high cost of identifying and motivating the poor. Similarly, it was believed that measuring impact is very costly, and therefore a drag on financial sustainability on programs that incorporate this.
In the past five years, the Summit campaign has made efforts to challenge these assumptions, which are identified as the main reasons that donors have not come forward to support microfinance for the poor in a significant way. At a plenary of the Summit +5, a paper on 'ensuring impact' in microfinance, presented findings from a research commissioned by the Summit campaign of two large programs, namely SHARE, a Grameen type program in India and CRECER in Bolivia. The research showed that these programs did reach the poor, who with help from the program were able to cross the poverty line. It showed also that both programs had attained financial self sufficiency.
These and other studies have led CGAP, the consortium of 29 donors that support microfinance, to state recently that there is strong evidence from the field that microfinance can reach and positively impact poor people, without compromising financial sustainability.
The report released at the Summit + 5 highlighted how the campaign had contributed to the dissemination and promotion of cost effective poverty targeting and impact measurement tools, enabling increasing numbers of microfinance programs to report on the proportion of the very poor in their programs and the impact of these programs on their lives.
Another plenary paper at the Summit discussed the integration of other services, such as education and health, with microfinance for the poor. The authors presented evidence from the field that microfinance programs in Bangladesh and Bolivia have been able to cost effectively integrate health and education with their programs, without sacrificing sustainability and thus ensuring greater impact on the lives of the poor.
Another plenary paper at the Summit documented evidence from the field, that microfinance programs have significantly empowered women through their improved status within the household. The paper highlighted what measures practitioners could take, such as hiring more women staff, to ensure that women are evenmore effectively empowered. Other topics of discussion included financing of microcredit programs, the creation of appropriate policy and regulatory environment for microfinance programs, and on innovations made by practitioners around the world.
Grameen Trust organized two associated sessions at the Summit + 5. At the first session on "Grameen Bank II: Grameen Generalized System", Professor Yunus presented the main features of the recent innovations in Grameen Bank which have made it more responsive to customer needs. The second session organized by Grameen Trust was entitled "Innovations: Experience of Grameen Replicators", at which six partner organizations of the Trust presented on important innovations introduced by their respective programs. Presentations were made by Professor David Gibbons, CFTS India, Mr Godwin Ehigiamusoe of LAPO, Nigeria, Dr Cecile del Castillo of NWTF, Philippines, Ms Karin Sanchez, Grameen Trust-Chiapas, Mexico, Professor Li Yiqing, FPC, China and Ms Jannat Quanine, of KGMAMF, Kosovo. The innovations discussed by the panelists included : new types of financing arrangements for microfinance programs, purchase by microfinance clients of shares in profitable companies and microfinance in post conflict situation among others.
Ms Jannat Quanine, the project director of Grameen Trust's project in Kosovo, was invited to the Summit to participate in a break-out session on "Microfinance in Challenging Environments", where she discussed the experience of implementing microcredit in post conflict situation of Kosovo.
In February 1997, at the start of the Microcredit Summit campaign, Grameen Trust pledged to reach 10 million of the world's poorest families by 2005, or ten percent of the Summit's target, through the Grameen Global Network. Every year, GT compiles the institutional action plans from its partners to track the progress of the Grameen Global Network towards this goal. In 2002 alone, Grameen Trust has received action plans from 57 partner organizations whose planned outreach is 2.7 million of the poorest families by 2005. They have, according to the reports, collectively reached 808,785 poor families, already by December of this year.
Today, GT's 112 partners reach out to one million families with microcredit worldwide and the Grameen Bank provides financial services to 2.4 million very poor families in Bangladesh. The Grameen Global Network is therefore reaching 3.4 million poor families. This represents 12% of the global outreach of 29 million poorest families reported at the Summit, putting the Grameen Global Network on track to keep its commitment towards fulfilling the Summit's goal.
Report by Grameen Trust