2005 International Day of Cooperatives


“Microfinance is OUR business! Cooperating out of poverty”
“La microfinance est NOTRE affaire – Coopérons pour lutter contre la pauvreté”
“Las Micro-finanzas son parte de nuestra actividad empresarial: Cooperando para salir de la pobreza”

Messages from members


This year the theme of the International Day links to the United Nations International Year of Microcredit.

Access to finance and to financial services is essential to reduce poverty. Poor people need easily accessible, trustworthy, sustainable and economically viable institutions to which they can entrust their savings, which offer loans at affordable conditions, and which provide a safety net through basic insurance services.

Amongst the most successful micro-finance institutions worldwide are are member-owned institutions and in particular savings and credit cooperatives, insurance cooperative and cooperative banks. Savings and credit cooperatives (or credit unions) were pioneered by local leaders such as Friedrich Raiffeisen and Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch in the 19th century as a means to reduce poverty and overindebtedness among small farmers and craftsmen in urban and rural areas. Today, they exist and strive in every region of the world, and have been able to adapt to very different socio-economic environments. Some cooperative banks in the industrialized world have become powerful financial institutions. In fact in many high income countries cooperative banks are often the only banking type with a braod branch network ensuring proximity to clients. Despite their commercial success they managed to stay close and committed to their original client base. Cooperative banks are also involved in the promotion of credit unions in the South. Credit unions and similar financial cooperatives have demonstrated that micro-finance services can be delivered to the poor in a sustainable way. Being rooted in local communities and managed by local people, such cooperatives can take advantage of social capital in situations where financial capital is scarce. Capacity building for the poor in money management, saving approaches and enterprise planning have proven to be essential building blocks for effective and sustainable cooperatively managed microfinance.

Cooperatively managed micro-finance institutions enable the poor to pool their resources so that they can be used for productive investments and job creation. The social control and democratic management style that is proper to cooperatives generally secure savings and ensures repayment of loans. Cooperatives thus provide the poor with appropriate financial solutions that enable them to collectively work themselves out of poverty.

Information on cooperatives and microfinance

  • Role of microfinance in the post-disaster context: Anne Gaboury, President and CEO of Développement international Desjardins (Canada) notes, “to ensure sustainable access to financial services, local financial institutions must be set up that are owned by the community they serve and which work on their behalf. As part of the community’s collective assets they help the community to progress, and in the process they contribute to strengthening local leadership and democracy. All around the globe, networks of savings and credit cooperatives and other microfinance institutions are being set up and are growing in order to reach more people and offer them financial services which meet their needs. They play a central role in increasing the accessibility of financial services throughout the world.”
  • World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU): WOCCU is the world’s leading advocate, platform for innovation, and development agency for credit unions, with the goal to reach 5.2 million poor without access to financial services by 2005
  • Swiss Development Assistance to savings and credit cooperatives: The Swiss project “CREAR” concentrates on training the management of the supported co-operatives, assisting them in developing new services for their clients, and delivering these services more efficiently. Over the past five years, the supported co-operatives have applied their enhanced know-how with great success. They not only survived the recent financial crisis in Ecuador, but managed to increase substantially their portfolios, client base and profitability.
  • New York Times Editorial: Dollars Without Borders (13 May 2004)
  • International Herald Tribune: Sending a Lot of Money Home (13 July 2001)