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."
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 105 países atienden a 217 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.