ASUNCION, Paraguay—For the second step of the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnership between Paraguay's credit union organization, the Central de Coopertivas del Area Nacional (CENCOPAN), and the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MCUN), four MCUN leaders visited Asuncion, Paraguay May 23-29 to attend CENCOPAN's annual international conference and 10th anniversary celebration.
International Partnerships, (formerly known as the People to People Partnership Program) a World Council of Credit Unions program, pairs U.S. credit union networks with those of developing nations to promote mutual growth and knowledge exchange. WOCCU vice president and chief operating officer Brian Branch, program specialist Victor Corro, and Credit Union National Association (CUNA) manager of legislative affairs Katie Herberger joined the Minnesotan credit union leaders to observe the partnership in action.
MCUN board chair Bill Raker opened the international conference with a speech on the importance of legislative and regulatory support for credit unions, including a credit union tax exemption. Raker toke advantage of the opportunity to educate the 450 attendees on the similarities between credit unions in the U.S. and Paraguay. He also discussed the need for legislators and regulators to support credit unions because of the benefits they provide to their members, communities and countries.
"There is strength in unity; therefore, it is essential that you all join together and continue to work together for the common good," Raker said in his address. "We are committed to the social aspect of our mission to serve the underserved and to help them improve and sustain their financial well-being. We witness your commitment to this mission, as well."
MCUN executive vice president and general counsel Dana Hofmann-Geye also spoke, in Spanish, on the U.S. credit union system, its structure, legal and regulatory framework. Board secretary and treasurer Dick Nesvold, along with board member Dean Nelson were also present.
In the days prior to the conference, MCUN members had the opportunity to inform government officials directly about the importance of supporting the credit union movement and the International Partnership. On May 25, they presented a letter to vice president Luis Castiglioni from Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, expressing Pawlenty's belief that the partnership between MCUN and CENCOPAN "can have a positive and lasting effect on the lives of Paraguay's credit union members."
The following day, the Minnesotans discussed with President of Congress Mateo Balmelli the significance of cooperatives to the economy and individuals. MCUN members also met with credit union regulator Antonio Ortiz, President of Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo (INCOOP), experiencing the mutually informative potential of the International Partnership program firsthand. As Nesvold remarked, "being able to meet with regulators from Paraguay allowed me to look at our own regulators in a different light."
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 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.