The present report has been prepared in response to a request contained in General Assembly resolution 52/194 of 18 December 1997. This is the first time the Secretary-General has been requested to prepare a report on the question of microcredit and the eradication of poverty. The prominence given to the matter reflects the recent success of small-scale lending programmes such as the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. These rely on lending (usually a few hundred dollars) to small enterprises in agriculture, distribution, crafts, trading and similar activities. The participatory nature of these projects, together with the emphasis on women entrepreneurs and employment creation, have raised hopes of reducing poverty through this approach.
The present report surveys current experience and highlights the strengths and weakness of the microcredit approach, including the administrative difficulties and limited linkages with other services for the poor. The report also contains suggestions for strengthening operations, and makes a particular plea for ensuring that microcredit projects are established in a broader context of support to the small enterprise sector. Responsibilities of donor countries in this regard are emphazised.
Finally, the report highlights the activities of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations in support of microcredit, giving special emphasis to the World Bank-led Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest.