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.
El Consejo Mundial de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito es la asociación gremial y agencia de desarrollo para el sistema internacional de cooperativas de ahorro y crédito. El Consejo Mundial promueve el crecimiento sustentable de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y otras cooperativas financieras en todo el mundo a fin de facultar a las personas para que mejoren su calidad de vida a través del acceso a servicios financieros asequibles y de alta calidad. El Consejo Mundial realiza esfuerzos de defensa activa en representación del sistema global de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito ante organizaciones internacionales y trabaja con gobiernos nacionales para mejorar la legislación y la regulación. Sus programas de asistencia técnica introducen nuevas herramientas y tecnologías para fortalecer el desempeño financiero de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y profundizar su alcance comunitario.
El Consejo Mundial ha implementado 290 programas de asistencia técnica en 71 países. A nivel mundial, 51,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 100 países atienden a 196 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.