CUNA News Now
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 Building 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.
"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 unions 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 political democratization."
In addition to democratization, Branch said the credit union difference is demonstrated through: · Providing financial services to those who would otherwise not have access; · Banking the unbanked through low-cost remittance services; · Post-conflict rebuilding of societies and economies; 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 and CUNA."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, 57,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 103 países atienden a 208 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.