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B.United Nations funds and programmes
1. United Nations Capital Development Fund
53. Since its creation in 1966, as a capital funding window under the UNDP umbrella, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has been the channel for UNDP to fund microfinance interventions. It has so far approved more than US$ 100 million of investment credit activities, the majority being microfinance related, with the balance to small and medium-sized enterprises. At the present time, UNCDF has an active microfinance portfolio of about $40 million, of which 70 per cent is in Africa, 20 per cent in Asia and 10 per cent in Latin America. UNCDF has implemented microfinance projects through a variety of partners, ranging from state-owned financial institutions to credit unions and non-governmental organizations. It has also used several financial mechanisms in support of those projects, including grants to fund start-up costs and operational expenses, provision of capital for lending, and guarantee facilities that have been used as incentives for banks to refinance "retailing" microfinance institutions. In 1996, UNCDF published a policy paper entitled "Microfinance and poverty strategies" that underlines both the policy and instruments used by UNCDF in helping restore basic financial intermediation through the provision of credit and savings services,especially in rural areas. In preparation of the Fund's 1999 evaluation by its donors, UNCDF has commissioned a mid-term assessment of its programmes, including local development funds,economic development projects and the microfinance portfolio. Started in November 1997, the portfolio's assessment has been carried out in close cooperation with CGAP.It focuses on seven microfinance projects selected from UNCDF major interventions, of which four are in Africa (Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and a regional project in West Africa), two are in Asia (Bhutan and Laos) and one in Latin America (Bolivia).
54. UNCDF has been actively supported by the Special Unit for Microfinance, which was created in September 1997 and given the task of building synergy between the established UNCDF experience in microfinance and the growing demands from the global network of UNDP country offices. The Unit also provides quality technical support to the MicroStart programme, which was launched in February 1997 at the Microcredit Summit held in Washington,D.C., and given the task of helping start-up and fledging initiatives. The Unit has initiated or supported project formulation exercises in Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania and Mozambique, and the Palestianian territories. It also helped re-engineer the regional microfinance project with the West African Development Bank to improve its impact and sustainability. The Unit also provided key support to the preparation of the portfolio evaluation with CGAP. Finally, it has helped UNCDF with the identification of expertise, the elaboration of standard terms of reference for audit and evaluation and the definition of standard monitoring and impact evaluation tools that will also be used by the MicroStart unit, thereby helping to improve and streamline microfinance practices within UNDP.
2.United Nations Children's Fund
55. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) integrates microcredit into its programmes in countries where lack of access to small loans is identified as an obstacle to the improvement of the situation of women and children. In those countries, UNICEF works with communities, non-governmental organizations and Governments to (a)stimulate national efforts to expand microcredit for women; (b) strengthen national and local capacities to deliver small loans and basic social services; and (c) monitor and evaluate its support to microcredit to improve its effectiveness and efficiency and contribute to the dissemination of best practices with a view to ensuring sustainable reduction in poverty. In this connection, UNICEF has supported microcredit programmes in such countries as Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam. Recent evaluations and impact assessments conducted in two countries, Egypt and Viet Nam have shown that microcredit can improve the well-being of the borrowers and that the impact is greatest when credit is combined with support for access to basic social services.
3. United Nations Development Fund for Women
56. As part of its core strategy, UNIFEM recognizes the need to provide credit to women as a way of strenghtening women's institutions at the grass-roots level. In that connection, UNIFEM has invested in a series of projects in Western Asia to ensure that women's capacities and skills are developed and to enable them to run small-scale businesses successfully. These initiatives include developing business counselling services within national institutions, establishing networks of credit programmes and supporting business skills training sessions on business and financial management for several hundred women entrepreneurs in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. Working in partnership with several United Nations agencies and other organizations, UNIFEM has facilitated the creation of women's business networks in a region where women have limited economic power. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, UNIFEM, in association with Accion Internacional, worked to gain private sector support for the launch of gender-sensitive initiatives and helped broker a partnership between Latin American microlending organizations and banks to leverage a $1,2 million line of credit to support women's microenterprise in Colombia and Chile. In Africa, in association with UNDP and the Special Unit for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries, UNIFEM brokered the establishment of MICROFIN-Africa, a network of 42 enterprise non-governmental organizations that deliver small credit to women in 17 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. On the global level, UNIFEM has also facilitated the formation of the International Coalition on Credit, which consists of 32 of the world's leading microcredit and business non-governmental organizations with more than 200 affiliated organizations.