WOCCU Introduces CU Concept at Destination Baghdad Expo
Madison, WI-When the idea for the Destination
Baghdad Expo (DBX), a trade fair centered on
reconstruction and security, was conceived in
December 2003, it was to be held, naturally, in
Baghdad itself. But escalating violence and
security concerns forced it to be relocated
twice, finally occurring 400 miles from Baghdad,
in the ancient city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. The
culmination of more than a year's efforts, which
drew 200 exhibitors from 24 countries, proved as
unpredictable as its planning process.
"It started slow but came out great," said
Chavez, technical development regulatory systems
officer for the World Council of Credit Unions
(WOCCU), of the mid-May event. WOCCU attended as
an exhibitor with the intent of educating
participants on the credit union difference.
The expo opened new doors. As Chavez
explained, "there are no credit unions in Turkey
either, so we had a lot of inquiries from the
Turkish as well."
WOCCU's most important task during DBX,
was to lobby for a credit union exemption from
current banking legislation in Iraq that would
allow credit unions to operate in that market.
In February, the Coalitional Provisional
Authority (CPA), Iraq's U.S.-led interim
government, passed a law requiring all Iraqi
banks to hold a minimum of 10 billion dinars, the
equivalent of US$7 million, at all times. This
law arose as a response to the dire banking
situation the country currently faces.
Essentially, Iraq operates with a cash
Many restaurants and hotels will not accept
credit cards, and moneylenders operating from
street corners are the only "financial
institutions" most Iraqis recognize. But in
their effort to legitimize the failed industry,
the CPA barred entry to smaller scale financial
institutions, even though they possess the
ability to provide safe and sound financial
services to all Iraqis.
Chavez pointed out that because we are nearing
the June 30 handover of power from the United
States government to a fully autonomous Iraqi
governing body, it is not possible to change
legislation immediately. Instead, he hopes to
work within the current framework and continue to
impress upon government officials the importance
of allowing credit unions to participate in
WOCCU will continue to push until these
are eliminated, with the driving goal of
providing hope of self-sufficiency for the Iraqi
people. "We have to get the banking law
changed," said Chavez. "That's really the bottom
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, 60,500 credit unions in 109 countries serve 223 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.