MADISON, Wis.—World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is celebrating on behalf of the global credit union movement the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly's vote last Friday proclaiming 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. The proclamation recognizes the important role cooperatives of all types, including credit unions, play in strengthening and supporting global economic and social development. Recognition by the U.N., in turn, also strengthens the global cooperative movement itself, according to Pete Crear, WOCCU president and CEO.
"WOCCU has always been proud to be at the forefront of global credit union development, but the International Year of Cooperatives raises the stakes on the important role cooperatives play," said Crear, who was a member of the U.N. committee that drafted the recommendation. "By recognizing the value cooperatives have in social development, the U.N. is honoring the work we've already done. However, the declaration also poses a challenge to make cooperatives even more influential and effective in the work we will do in the future."
WOCCU staff participated in the development of the original recommendation that led to the declaration. Staff also contributed to the U.N. Secretary General's report, "Cooperatives in Social Development," that served as the foundation for the recommendation. In advance of Friday's vote, WOCCU worked with its members to lobby representatives at the U.N. to ensure passage of the resolution.
The recommendation leading to the General Assembly vote cites cooperatives' abilities to "promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of all people." It also recommends the promotion and growth of financial cooperatives to meet the goal of inclusive finance by providing access to financial services.
The U.N. declaration encourages all member countries and stakeholder organizations to support cooperatives by raising public awareness of cooperatives' roles in "sustainable development, eradication of poverty and (support of) livelihoods of various economic sectors in urban and rural areas." The declaration further encourages governments to create legal and social environments conducive to promoting cooperative development "by providing a level playing field for cooperatives vis-à-vis other business and social enterprises, including appropriate tax incentives and access to financial services and markets."
"Credit unions and other cooperatives will play an even greater role in social and economic development both at home and around the world in the years to come," Crear added. "Our role is to not only spread the good word, but help strengthen cooperatives' capabilities to reach and serve people who need that service most."
In the months to come, WOCCU will coordinate with the U.N. and the International Cooperative Alliance on planning and facilitating the International Year of Cooperatives.
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.