NADI, Fiji—Credit unions in the South Pacific will gain greater political leverage and more educational opportunities thanks to the formation of the Pacific Credit Union Network. The new organization, sponsored by Credit Union Foundation Australia (CUFA) and facilitated by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), held its first organizational meeting last week at the Pacific Credit Union Technical Congress, a four-day educational event jointly sponsored by CUFA, WOCCU and the Fiji Savings & Credit Union League.
The network is designed to provide technical assistance, communications and advocacy support and to develop a Pacific credit union database, according to Peter Mason, CUFA's executive officer. The Australian credit union development organization began planning the network last year, which enabled its formation to take place at this year's congress.
"The distance between credit unions located on South Pacific islands has kept many of them from developing the critical mass necessary for growth," said Mason. "The new network will provide the political and technological relationships to help them better serve their members."
The network was introduced to a receptive audience of 102 congress participants from 11 countries. In addition to participants from Australia, Fiji and the United States, countries represented at the congress included Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor), Tonga and Vanuatu. In addition to the network, congress highlights included sessions on board/management relationships, strengthening credit union legislation, understanding the cost of delinquency, credit union marketing and a regulatory forum.
Organizers also named the first members to the new network's advisory committee, who will help lead the group's development initiatives. Advisory committee members include Anane Vadei, Fiji, who was represented on the committee by fellow countryman Manoa Seruvakaula; Michael Koisen, Papua New Guinea; Faataga Faataulofa, Samoa; and Penisimeni Fifita, Tonga. CUFA will serve as the network's secretariat, with WOCCU providing facilitation and resources.
The network and the congress are the latest cooperative efforts between WOCCU and CUFA designed to help develop credit unions in the South Pacific. This is a region in which CUFA's influence especially has been of great value in fostering credit union growth, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO.
"CUFA has provided critical leadership in developing and supporting Pacific region credit unions for many years," said Branch. "We are now seeing the fruits of CUFA's dedication and our collaboration as credit unions put improved management practices in place to prepare for increased regulatory oversight that is coming in the wake of the global financial crisis."
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.