Lech Walesa kicked off the World Credit Union Conference by calling on attendees to help “achieve the revolution.”
The former president of Poland who led the Solidarity movement that helped bring down the Soviet empire spoke as the week-long conference got under way Sunday at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Hall.
"In order to lead the world into the 21st century, we need to reach for values,” Walesa told the capacity crowd. "There is great service that you can provide in helping us achieve this revolution, and you have already started it by joining us this year in Gdańsk."
The World Council of Credit Unions conference is co-hosted by the National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions, Poland's credit union trade group.
"Twenty years ago, six young men dedicated themselves to reviving the Polish credit union movement from nothing," said World Council First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, NACSCU president and CEO, also told the opening day gathering. "This year's conference gives us the opportunity to thank so many of you for the help you have given to our credit unions. It is proof that solidarity will prevail.”
The conference drew 1,400 attendees from 50 countries and runs through Thursday, the World Council said.
Meanwhile, the World Council said it has joined with the Paraguayan government to create a new legal framework for cooperatives in Paraguay.
The Inter-American Development Bank will provide funding to World Council, which will be working with the Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo, Paraguay's regulator for cooperatives, the council said.
In its review, the council said, it will be examining Paraguay’s past legal structure for cooperatives which was established in 1994. The council noted that it will draw upon two of its prior publications to help formulate the legislative proposal: Model Law for Credit Unions and Guide to International Credit Union Legislation.
The desire for change in Paraguay’s cooperative law was instigated by advocacy efforts made by the Paraguayan credit union association and World Council member, Central de Cooperativas del Área Nacional Ltda. (CENCOPAN), the council said.
It added that the initiative was further supported by the Minnesota Credit Union Network through the World Council’s International Partnerships Program.
“Paraguay's credit unions have experienced impressive growth in terms of assets and operations in recent years," said Brian Branch, World Council president/CEO. "CENCOPAN, with support from the Minnesota Credit Union Network, has been at the forefront making sure the credit unions' socioeconomic impact in the country is understood and supported. Those efforts have laid the foundation for this initiative."
The project is expected to be completed this year, the council said.
Paraguay has 47 credit unions with $718.6 million assets, according to the World Council's 2011 Statistical Report.