Brazil congress highlights sector's strength

28 Aug 2012

Brazil's 9th Congress of Credit Co-operatives gathered senior co-operative leaders at Nova Petrópolis in a three-day conference last month debating strategic directions for further strengthening credit union and co-operative sectors.

At the event, Chuck Gould, Director-General of the International Co-operative Alliance, said the Brazilian co-operative sector provides a great example of how co-operatives can build a better world by safeguarding jobs, supporting the local economy and enabling sustainable development. Brazil’s credit unions account for 17 per cent of the country’s bank branches, while Brazil’s Unimed is the world’s largest health co-operative and Copersucar S.A. is one of the world’s largest 300 co-operatives and a major global sugar player.

“From the outset, Brazil has done the groundwork to ensure co-operatives have a fertile financial system in which to grow and thrive,” he said. “Brazil is also playing an important role in lobbying for higher recognition of the co-operative model at global level, including at the United Nations, which should be emulated by others."

Mr Gould further explained how credit unions contributed to the country’s economic boom, Brazil having now the seventh largest economy in the world: “The nation which hosts the first credit union to be founded in Latin America, Sicredi Pioneira, has fostered an inclusive banking system which has granted formal credit to those who might otherwise have fallen outside the commercial banking system which has all contributed to Brazil’s economic growth.

Present at the conference, which took place 21-23 August, Ivar Pavan, a government minister of Rural Development and Cooperatives in Rio Grande do Sul, said co-operation is the best way to cope with and eventually overcome the global recession. He also said that credit unions have been less affected by the financial crisis. "This shows how this system is important and should be supported by the various levels of government," he added.

In his keynote speech at the Congress, Mr Gould also praised the role played by co-operatives in overcoming the crisis, saying they have proved to be “a serious enterprise model” ... “that can work at scale and therefore deserves attention when addressing national and international challenges”.

Mr Gould also pointed out that the International Year of Co-operatives could mark a historical shift in the history of the co-operative movement. He said: “We have a made-to-order opportunity to tell the co-operative story, to explain how we are a solution for the contemporary challenges, that people are facing today around the world. That opportunity, of course, is the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives."

The Brazilian Congress of Credit Co-operatives (CONCRED) takes place every two years, establishing itself as not only the largest, but also the most important event within the Brazilian credit union sector.

Picture: Vergilio Perius, President of co-op development agency Ocergs-Sescoop, welcomes ICA Director-General Chuck Gould to the Congress.


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