|Flamenco dancers opened the 2009 World Credit Union Conference in Barcelona.|
BARCELONA, Spain—Overcoming the global economic crisis will require new levels of leadership and responsibility from all credit union executives so that the global credit union movement may maintain its member-service advantage. That was the message several speakers brought to participants at World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) World Credit Union Conference Monday.
"We are all leaders, each of us here and each of us out there," said conference keynoter Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico. "We need to discover our leadership within and commit ourselves to others. That's the advantage the credit union movement brings to the people it serves."
Fox, who championed credit unions and helped drive Mexico's economic growth during his term as president from 2000-2006, spoke at Monday's Barcelona conference session. Prosperity leads to democracy, and credit unions contribute significantly to increasing prosperity, especially in developing countries, Fox explained.
|Credit unions are defined by performance and purpose, Vicente Fox told Monday's general session audience.|
"Credit unions are defined by two words: performance and purpose," Fox said. "You perform well because you are a system strengthened by purpose, which is the key ingredient of the credit union movement."
Fox's message dovetailed with the morning's opening comments by Pete Crear, WOCCU president and CEO, who encouraged credit union executives and volunteers to stay true to their goal of serving members. Given the global economic situation, members have never needed their credit unions more, and there are frequent indicators that the principles driving the credit union movement also have strengthened its performance, Crear said.
"This year's conference is particularly noteworthy because, given the state of the global economy, the fact that so many of us have gathered this year is a clear sign that the credit union solution in addressing the world's financial problems is working," said Crear. "And it's working because all of you have made the commitment to support the cooperative ideal of ‘not for profit, not for charity, but for service,' even under the most challenging conditions."
|Credit unions are about people, not profits, said Pete Crear, WOCCU president and CEO.|
Crear outlined WOCCU's accomplishment during the year, citing member support and effort as key ingredients to the success of both the organization and the global credit union movement it serves. The unique parameters by which credit unions define that success has contributed greatly to progress made during what have been extremely difficult times, he added.
"Credit unions are about people, not profits," Crear explained. "Our return on investment is never fully measured in dollars earned, but in members served and, in many cases, lives saved as a result of those efforts."
Monday's session was preceded by a full agenda of activities on Sunday. A group of 80 leaders from Africa's savings and credit cooperatives (SACCO) movement gathered for the first-ever SACCO workshop held in conjunction with the conference. WOCCU's Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) program also held a day-long workshop, which attracted 34 participants under the age of 35.
Opening ceremonies for the more than 1,100 conference participants kicked off with the traditional Parade of Flags from the 62 countries in attendance, the most diverse group ever assembled for the WOCCU event on European soil, and a troupe of Flamenco dancers. WOCCU Chairman Melvin Edwards, who represents the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions on the WOCCU board of directors, welcomed attendees, admonishing them to seize the opportunity posed by the global economic crisis to change the way consumers are served by financial institutions.
"We are in service to a higher purpose of helping people worldwide gain financial strength and stability," Edwards told his audience. "Let us conspire here in Barcelona to solidify and strengthen the revolution of hope among the members we serve. Our mission going forward is to secure access to cooperatively owned financial institutions for all those who need and want it."
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, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.