ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay—Nearly two months after visitors from the Paraguayan credit union organization Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional Ltda. (CENCOPAN) attended the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) Annual Meeting, credit union representatives from Minnesota returned the favor.
Two Minnesota credit union professionals and a representative from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) traveled to Paraguay May 27-31 to attend CENCOPAN's International Credit Union Conference and 12th anniversary celebration. Bill Raker, President of US Federal Credit Union, Dana Hofmann-Geye, MnCUN Executive Vice President & General Counsel, and Victor Corro, WOCCU's Manager of International Partnerships, spoke at the conference, met with Paraguay's credit union regulator and board of directors, and toured credit unions during their brief visit.
MnCUN and CENCOPAN were paired through WOCCU's International Partnership Program in 2004. The two credit union organizations have carried out a number of activities in the past three years, most recently conducting a credit union employee exchange program in April 2006.
"It is my honor and privilege to have the opportunity for the third consecutive year to represent Minnesota credit unions at this International Conference," said Raker, who is also a member of the MnCUN Board of Directors. "Regulation is one of the key areas in which we are able to assist the Paraguayans, and CENCOPAN and their regulator are both very appreciative of the attention and assistance we have been able to provide."
On May 29 the group met with Paraguay's credit union co-op regulator, Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo (INCOOP). INCOOP President Antonio Ortiz Guanes and the other four individuals on its board of directors attended the meeting. The group discussed the importance of the partnership and the technology assessment performed by WOCCU and Minnesota credit unions in October 2004.
Thanks in part to that assessment two years ago, the Paraguayan government applied for and is expected receive a large loan from the Inter- American Development Bank. Funds will likely be disbursed to a number of public entities throughout the country. Any money allotted to INCOOP will be used to strengthen technology and the regulation of credit unions.
The group discussed the potential of coordinating an exchange between INCOOP and the Minnesota Department of Commerce or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
"An exchange of this magnitude would be very important to the credit unions of Paraguay and is a perfect example of the great things that can be accomplished through partnerships of this sort," Hofmann-Geye said, acknowledging that the idea is still very much in a conceptual phase. "To provide a format for our regulators to exchange ideas and learn from one another could have tremendous impact."
The CENCOPAN International Credit Union Conference took place May 30-31, with 300 in attendance. All three visitors from the U.S. made presentations. Raker talked about strategic planning and its importance to credit unions. Corro spoke on WOCCU's International Partnership Program and highlighted the successes of its 23 various partnerships around the world. Hofmann- Geye discussed the role of lobbying in the success of the U.S. credit union Movement. She emphasized the benefits of a three-pronged approach to political involvement, including paid lobbyists, grassroots involvement and contributions to political action committees.
"This particular relationship between Minnesota and Paraguayan credit unions is one of the more active partnerships, as is illustrated by the great deal of activities," Corro said. "The fact that both sides have already attended and spoken at each other's annual general meetings is proof of the commitment and the progress being made."
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.