CUs often the first taste of democracy, says WOCCU
CUNA NEWS NOW
Brian Branch, WOCCU's chief operating officer, discusses international credit union development with Al Crego, a research fellow on loan to U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Hagel serves on the Senate Banking Committee.
WASHINGTON (10/22/2004)Credit unions represent
in a number of countries what some Americans take
for granted democracy. That's what congressional
staffers heard yesterday during an International
Credit Union Day gathering on Capitol Hill.
At a reception in the Rayburn Office
sponsored by the Credit Union National
Association (CUNA) and the World Council of
Credit Unions (WOCCU), Brian Branch, WOCCU's
chief operating officer, spoke about credit
unions' role beyond U.S. borders. Worldwide,
credit unions serve more than 120 million members
in 87 countries.
During yesterday's Credit Union Day reception on Capitol Hill, CUNA lobbyist Katie Herberger (left) and Legislative Affairs Vice President Gary Kohn (right) talk with Frank Davis, a senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
"We often talk of the 'credit union
difference.' Is this just talk, just slogans,
just a mythical holdover from the past? Not at
all," said Branch. "Every day, credit unions
provide people affordable access to financial
services." But the difference goes beyond that,
he pointed out.
In many countries, the credit union difference
is democratization of societies.
"During the emergence of the East European
transition economies during the 1990s, credit
unions caught-on and spread quickly, both as
vehicles for the previously unknown consumer
finance services and as local expressions of
democratic participation," said Branch.
In Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania
and Russia, credit unions led the democratization
of financial sectors by providing people with a
means for democratic participation and self-help
community organization, Branch explained.
"Credit unions provided people with an
alternative source for financing income
generation as large state enterprises downsized
and ceased operation," he said. "Credit unions
finance entrepreneurs and grew employment."
In Afghanistan, WOCCU is piloting credit
to provide community grassroots reconstruction,
as well as local community democratic
participation, Branch said. And a number of
requests have come from Iraqi communities and
business associations for setting up local credit
union systems in their communities.
As an example of success, he said, "today in
Vietnam and Uzbekistan, credit unions lead
economic democratization a step closer to
In addition to democratization, Branch said
credit union difference is demonstrated through:
· Providing financial services to those who
would otherwise not have access;
· Banking the unbanked through low-cost
· Post-conflict rebuilding of societies and
· The voluntary contribution of the U.S. CU
System to economic, social, and democratic growth
around the world.
Branch emphasized that none of this progress
would have been possible without a significant
contribution by U.S. credit unions, the leagues
"In addition to the major financial support of
credit unions through CUNA, volunteers from the
U.S. CU System do extensive overseas work through
the U.S. State League to National Association
Partnership program," noted Branch.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.