WASHINGTON, D.C. and SAN DIMAS, Calif.—World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) celebrated International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) on Thursday, Oct. 16, by co-sponsoring a worldwide webinar to talk about WOCCU's service to its members and through its programs in developing countries worldwide. The event introduced to new audiences credit unions' attempt to fight world poverty. The effort dovetailed today's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which is an annual day of recognition supported by the United Nations to spread awareness about poverty and its violation of human rights.
On Thursday, credit union executives and volunteers met with legislative staffers during a late-afternoon reception at the Cannon House Office Building to share news of the credit unions' international accomplishments and the benefits they bring their members.The reception was co-hosted by WOCCU and Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
"Since 1948, credit unions have celebrated the services they provide members worldwide on the third Thursday of October each year," said Catherine Roberts, WOCCU board secretary and former CEO of Community Choice Credit Union in Livonia, Mich. "The date is arbitrary because, no matter what the day of the week or hour of the day, a credit union somewhere in the world is helping its members build better lives for themselves and their families."
Roberts also displayed a copy of Crain's Detroit Business with a lead story on the ways credit unions benefit Michigan, one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis. National Credit Union Administration board member Gigi Hyland and Ryan Donovan, CUNA & Affiliates' vice president of legislative affairs, also spoke to reception attendees about the important role credit unions have in the lives of their members.
At the same time in San Dimas, Calif., Pete Crear, WOCCU's president and CEO, was the subject of an in-depth interview during a global webinar broadcast live from WesCorp, California's corporate credit union. In his interview with Paul Berry, host of CUNA's Home & Family Finance Radio, Crear described the opportunities and challenges the global credit union movement faces, explaining the credit union difference when it comes to microfinance.
"Credit unions are owned by the people in the countries in which they are established and have a sustainability other microlenders don't have," Crear told the international audience. "Eventually, microloan funds may dry up, but the credit unions will be there, and their savings component will offer an extra advantage for members."
An estimated 450 listeners tuned into the hour-long broadcast from 14 countries, including Brazil, Fiji, Ireland, Kenya and Russia. Studio audience members and online participants submitted questions during the formal interview. Rick Grady from the Texas Credit Union League asked via the Internet how credit unions worldwide should position themselves in light of the current financial crisis. Crear stressed the need to inform members how strong credit union capitalization and member ownership played into the credit unions' success.
"Credit unions worldwide have a great story to tell, and you're in good position to make things happen for your members," he added.
Today, WOCCU hosted a workshop for participants of its International Partnerships Program, an effort that matches U.S. state leagues, U.S. corporate credit unions and Canadian central credit unions with credit union organizations in developing countries. Participants shared experiences about the challenges they face in supporting credit unions in developing countries.
"The International Partnerships are helping WOCCU strengthen credit unions around the world," said Victor Miguel Corro, manager of the International Partnerships Program. "We encourage everyone who wants to do good work to get involved in international credit union development."
WOCCU's global efforts to establish credit union systems in developing countries falls in line with the goals of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. First observed in Paris in 1948 with the signing of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. General Assembly sanctioned the event in December 1992. It is celebrated each year on October 17. The U.N resolution invites all countries to devote the day to presenting and promoting, as appropriate within their national contexts, concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution.
"In a world where nearly half the population lives on less than $2 a day, there is a dire need for credit unions to provide global development support," Crear said. "Our goal is to raise the standard of living through credit union development, which enables members worldwide to have a hand in developing their own financial future."
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.