Washington, DC – Congress has offered its strongest endorsement yet of increased funding for a key government program that supports international economic development through credit unions and other cooperative organizations.
Acting on its annual foreign aid bill, Congress made up to $10 million available to the Cooperative Development Program (CDP). The bill, passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 4 and by the Senate on Nov. 10, now goes to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.
Until now, funding for CDP has been left to the discretion of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the government's foreign assistance agency. Despite previous requests from Congress that the program receive at least $8 million annually, CDP usually receives much less. This year, it will receive only $5.2 million.
The program provides grants to U.S.-based cooperative development organizations, including World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU), to build and strengthen credit unions and other cooperative businesses in developing countries. In addition to boosting the incomes of individuals, these cooperatives affect issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to fostering democracy.
Through its work with overseas credit union systems, WOCCU creates greater opportunities for poor people to access safe and sound financial services, including savings, credit, insurance and remittances. WOCCU focuses its current $3.7 million, five-year CDP program in Afghanistan, Kenya, the Philippines, Ecuador and Nicaragua, where it works with credit unions to build networks – expanding low-cost transaction services for members, including remittances, creating enabling regulatory environments, training credit union managers and board members, and extending credit union operations to difficult operating environments, including HIV/AIDS-affected communities, conflict-prone zones and poverty-entrenched rural areas.
"This is a very significant step by Congress to show support of the kind of international cooperative development work World Council does," said Pete Crear, World Council CEO. "We can now look to USAID for opportunities to expand the scope of our own cooperative development program with the increased resources mandated by Congress."
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, 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries serve 217 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.