The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 least developed countries. UNCDF uses its capital mandate to help these countries pursue inclusive growth, ensuring that economic growth does not translate into leaving the poorest behind. UNCDF uses ‘smart’ official development assistance (ODA) to unlock and leverage public and private domestic resources; it promotes financial inclusion, including through digital finance, as a key enabler of poverty reduction and inclusive growth; and it demonstrates how bringing financial services, especially in rural areas and outside capital cities, can accelerate growth in local economies, promote sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure development, and empower local communities. Using capital grants, loans, and credit enhancements, UNCDF tests financial models in inclusive finance and local development finance; ‘de-risks’ the local investment space; and paves the way for larger and more risk-averse investors to come in and scale up.
In May 2014, UNCDF launched an initiative called Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations, or SHIFT. Through SHIFT, UNCDF seeks to connect the poorest and most vulnerable—especially women and small businesses owned, managed or predominately serving women —to formal financial services in the South East Asian countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam. SHIFT will do this in part through strong coordination with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
By 2020, SHIFT aims to transition at least six million low-income people, micro-entrepreneurs and owners of small- and medium-sized businesses from using informal financial services to formal, well-regulated and low-cost financial services. At least 65 percent of these people will be women and 100 percent of the businesses will be owned or managed by women, employ women or predominantly serve women.
UNCDF's SHIFT programme is jointly co-funded by UNCDF and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) provides earmarked funding to UNCDF’s Making Access Possible (MAP) programme in Cambodia.