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International Outlook

WOCCU Leaders Stress SACCOs Resilience

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WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde speaking during the WCUC

World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) executives stressed the resiliency of credit unions in the face of high inflation, regulatory challenges, migration, and even war.
“These challenges test our resolve, but they also offer us an opportunity to meet those challenges and show our commitment to a shared purpose of putting people over profit. That is the credit union way,” WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde.

Speaking during the World Credit Union Conference, she laid out the ways credit unions and financial cooperatives have helped their members stay resilient during a war in Ukraine, after an earthquake in Turkey and during an upswing of migration in Latin America.

“In one example, in Peru and Ecuador, where World Council has been working for almost five years now, credit unions are part of a national ecosystem, working with government, working with tech companies and municipalities to try to advance the economic inclusion of the most vulnerable citizens in those communities—working with migrants, especially with women, who have been forced to flee their home countries,” said McCarter LaBorde.

“And this is a remarkable program, because it shows that even in the face of disruption, credit unions are part of bridging that gap and driving inclusive growth, even with those who are very hard to reach and often left behind.”

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International Outlook

UN Secretary-General Urges Governments to Foster Cooperative Entrepreneurial Ecosystems for Sustainable Development

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called on governments worldwide to support and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems for cooperatives

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By Sharon Makiti

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called on governments worldwide to support and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems for cooperatives, citing their significant potential in accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The call comes in the wake of the release of the 2023 UN Secretary General’s report on cooperatives in social development, which underscores the importance of an entrepreneurial approach to empower cooperatives and enhance economic and social well-being.
The report, which follows the 2021 General Assembly Resolution 76/135, outlines key policies and actions to assist cooperatives in realizing their full potential in supporting Member States to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These actions include providing decent jobs, eradicating poverty, and promoting environmental sustainability.

The UN’s cooperative entrepreneurial ecosystem approach encompasses five pivotal actions aimed at bolstering the role of cooperatives in global development.
Firstly, it emphasizes the importance of establishing a robust policy and regulatory framework that creates an enabling environment for cooperative enterprises. Additionally, the approach focuses on empowering cooperative members through education and skills development, ensuring they are well-equipped to contribute effectively.
Cultivating a cooperative mindset and values is another key aspect, fostering an atmosphere of trust, fairness, and solidarity within these organizations. Access to financial resources is also prioritized, ensuring that cooperatives have the means to invest and grow.

Lastly, the UN encourages cooperatives to strengthen collaboration by building networks and partnerships, enabling them to pool resources and collectively address shared challenges, thereby enhancing their overall impact on social and economic well-being.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the role of cooperatives in promoting sustainable development across three dimensions social development, economic development, and environmental protection. However, he notes that despite being recognized as key partners for sustainable development, cooperatives still play a relatively small role in overall economic and social policies, given their vast potential contribution.

The report further offers four essential recommendations for Member States to enhance their support for cooperatives and promote sustainable development.
First, it advocates the adoption of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Approach, emphasizing the importance of evidence-based policies and fostering an environment conducive to cooperative growth.

Secondly, the report underscores the significance of comprehensive and internationally comparable Data Collection to gauge the impact of cooperatives on economic and social development, especially in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Furthermore, it encourages Member States to integrate cooperatives into their National Development Plans, SDG reporting processes, and consultations on social and economic policies, thereby ensuring that cooperatives are an integral part of the nation’s development strategy.

Lastly, the report recommends that governments extend Policy Support by offering policy analysis, technical assistance, and capacity-building initiatives to facilitate the sustainable expansion of cooperatives, thereby advancing their role in promoting equitable and enduring development.
For decades, the United Nations has recognized cooperatives as vital partners in enhancing social development and achieving the SDGs. Since the 1950s, the UN General Assembly has adopted resolutions addressing cooperatives’ role in social development, with a systematic review every two years since 1992.
The 2023 report serves as a comprehensive examination of the implementation of these resolutions, emphasizing the continuing importance of cooperatives in fostering economic resilience and social well-being. Notably, it builds upon the 2021 report in which the UN Secretary-General acknowledged the instrumental role of cooperatives in the global recovery strategy following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a historic move in April 2023, the United Nations approved its first-ever resolution focused on promoting the social and solidarity economy for sustainable development. This resolution underscores the UN’s commitment to harnessing the power of cooperatives to address pressing global challenges, such as poverty reduction, climate action, and inclusive economic growth.

The report’s findings highlight the capacity of cooperatives to empower marginalized communities, stimulate entrepreneurship, and contribute to the realization of the SDGs. Furthermore, it calls for increased investment in cooperative enterprises, policy support, and global partnerships to unlock their full potential.
This report not only reaffirms the UN’s recognition of cooperatives as catalysts for social progress but also signals a renewed commitment to harnessing their collective strength in pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable world.

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International Outlook

ACCOSCA promoted to WOCCU full member

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George Ombado, ACCOSCA Executive Director, with WOCCU President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde

The World Council of Credit Unions announced the addition of the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) as a full member.

The announcement was made at the 2023 World Council of Credit Unions Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The WOCCU Board approved ACCOSCA’s promotion from an associate to a direct member of WOCCU.

As the only pan-African credit union association representing national associations from 20 countries, direct membership will give ACCOSCA a significant number of votes at future AGMs and also qualifies the organization for a seat on the WOCCU Board—resulting in a stronger voice for Africa in WOCCU governance.

ACCOSCA becomes WOCCU’s sixth direct member organization from Africa.
According to ACCOSCA’s Executive Director Mr George Obado, the elevation from Associate to Direct membership gives ACCOSCA significant impetus in its towering quest to advocate for SACCOs in Africa as it strives to empower people living in the continent.
Speaking during the ceremony, Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Hon Simon Chelugui emphasized the need to promote collaboration, uphold professionalism, embrace inclusivity, and enhance cooperative integrated methods when serving the members of the movement.

World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde made a passionate call for action to the Leadership in Africa to effectively transform the Co-operative Business Model to be more inclusive than its current state.

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International Outlook

Kenyan Women Among 12 Recipients of Global Women’s Leadership Network Scholarships

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By Samwel Mwangi

Kenyan women continue to make strides in leadership and professional development as two women from the country are among the 12 recipients of the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) scholarships for 2023.

The program, which is open to women in the Credit Union industry globally, officially inducted the recipients into its network, providing them with opportunities for professional development, networking, and skill diversification.

Evelyn Olunja and Jane Ndambiri, both from Kenya, were awarded scholarships to attend the year-long virtual engagement program. The program will focus on leadership growth, and the scholars will have access to eLeaderHUB by eLeadership Academy, semi-annual EVOLVE Workshops, monthly live webinars and micro-trainings, as well as the Women in Global Development Leadership Forum (WILD Network), among other events. The scholarship will enable the recipients to expand their skill sets and grow their leadership abilities through a global network.

Additionally, Naddian Abraham-Damier and Mercy Tumukunde from Dominica and Uganda, respectively, will attend the in-person engagement program. They will attend the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) in Vancouver, Canada, in July, co-hosted by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA). The event will include travel, hotel accommodation, and a stipend.

Lena Giakoumopoulos, the GWLN Director, noted that the organization was excited to offer a larger number of scholarships in 2023, and 12 scholars were selected from a record number of more than 60 applicants. She added that the new synergies have proven beneficial for the growth of the scholarship program and the organization’s effort to engage more women through the global credit union system.

The scholarships and empowerment grants are made possible through funding from annual memberships and corporate donations from Co-op Solutions, CUNA Mutual Group, PSCU, and the Susan Adams Scholarship Fund supported by One AZ Credit Union. Since 2009, GWLN has awarded 100 scholarships to women from 30 countries.

The GWLN scholarship program has been instrumental in promoting gender equity in the credit union industry by supporting women’s professional growth and leadership. The scholarship program is not only an opportunity for the recipients to develop professionally, but also for the credit union industry to support gender equity, a crucial factor in promoting diversity, inclusivity, and organizational success.

The recognition of Kenyan women in the 2023 GWLN scholarship program is a testament to their dedication to professional growth and leadership in the credit union industry. The program offers them a platform to network, diversify their skills, and learn from other professionals globally. The program is expected to boost the recipients’ careers and position them for more significant leadership roles, ultimately promoting gender equity in the industry.

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