8 October 2019, Geneva, Switzerland - The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) had the honor to co-host, in partnership with the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND), the “VIII AGFUND Development Forum”. The Forum included a one-day Symposium on 8 October and a Prize Ceremony for the US$1 Million Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development on 9 October. 

AGFUND utilizes the annual AGFUND Development Forum to gather experts in development to discuss the most up-to-date critical issues of development while maintaining focus on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also highlights successful models and experiences in drawing innovative solutions to address economic and social problems.This year the Forum was dedicated to a global Symposium on Empowering Women through Financial Inclusion. Its objective was to find concrete ways to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by empowering women to make them part of the formal economic system of their countries. The Symposium hosted dialogues with key experts and influential leaders across business, government, civil society, and academia. Sessions focused on challenges and opportunities for women’s financial inclusion, success stories from the field, innovative digital services, and the role of donors and the private sector, considering the integral and multi-actor character of the 2030 Agenda. 

Speakers highlighted the barriers to progress, particularly because of institutional forces hindering women’s financial inclusion. Gender gaps are extremely prominent, especially in developing countries. Often, women cannot obtain financial support because of their socio-economic roles. In the average developing nation, an increase in the proportion of women accessing microfinance services by just 15% could potentially reduce gender inequality by half, as measured by the Gender Inequality Index.

The Symposium featured two winners of the AGFUND Prize, who highlighted how they were able to transform women’s lives, particularly in developing countries. We also heard from Dr. Mary Hodges about the Helen Keller Foundation, which was established to provide support for the prevention of blindness and malnutrition. Having a foundation that is almost entirely employed by women is a great representation of a foundation striving to close the inequality for females. The AGFUND FORUM was held in the presence of HRM Queen Sofia and HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It was attended by representatives from 25 Permanent Missions and an additional 137 participants. 

The second day of the Forum was dedicated to the Award Ceremony of the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development. Established in 1999, the Prize is a strategic instrument for developing countries to successfully reach the SDGs. The 2018 Prize, awarded at this Symposium, focused on SDG 1 on No Poverty. The Prize bursary of US $1Million was awarded to four ambitious projects addressing this SDG. Next year’s prize topic is SDG 6on “Ensure Access to water and sanitation for all”. AGFUND invites individuals worldwide to nominate projects that best contribute to achieving all, or some of the targets of this SDG.

UNITAR is looking forward to continue its collaboration with the AGFUND.

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