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GRAND SACONNEX, Switzerland – U.S. credit unions are familiar with CUNA, NAFCU and the World Council of Credit Unions, but there is an international group that represents credit union and co-operative banks around the world that many American credit union people have never heard of. The International Co-Operative Banking Association (ICBA) has been active since 1922 after co-operative banks and related financial organizations determined there was a need to research and represent them internationally on common problems. The ICBA is one of nine sectors of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) which calls itself the “the apex organization of the international co-operative movement.” It is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide. Although founded in London in 1895 it is now based in Switzerland to be near UN agencies. The other sectors besides banking that the ICA represents are: agriculture, energy, industry, insurance, fisheries, housing, tourism and consumer co-operative. Over 230 organizational members represent 760 million people in more than 100 countries. The ICBA meets each spring and fall to exchange information and to develop programs to promote co-operation among co-operative financial institutions of all types as well as to offer advice and assistance. They also research and report on topics that would be of interest to any type of co-operative financial institution such as capital formation, regulations, etc. Their members are organizations that service banks, central thrift and credit union organizations who believe in co-operative banking. North America is represented by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the Confdration des Caisses Populaires et d’Economie Desjardins du Qubec, and the National Co-operative Bank (NCB). A European representative is the International Raffeisen Union (IRU). The IRU, the American and Canadian credit union movements were all based on the work of Frederich Raffeissen, although the three groups have followed slightly different paths. The ICBA is overseen by an Executive Committee with members serving a four-year term. The Executive Committee elects the president. Work and projects are also overseen by five Regional Committees serving Europe, East, Central and South Africa, the Americas, Asia & the Pacific and North Africa & Middle East. The Regional Committees meet three times a year while the Central Executive Committee meets in Spring and Autumn, although it can convene The current ICBA president is Eugeniusz Laszkiewicz of Poland, a country which in the past 15 years has seen a surge of credit union activity. Laszkiewicz has been instrumental in pushing pro-co-operative legislation through the Polish parliament. Although trained as a historian he has been part of co-operative banking since 1977 and was Chair of the Supervisory Board of Co-operative Bank in Legnica (Poland). Because he was professionally active in farming, he has also been active in social and agricultural organisations. -

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