World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) International Advocacy and its partners outlined how advocacy efforts by U.S. credit unions have resulted in meaningful changes for credit unions and their members in wartime Ukraine, and why that continued advocacy support is needed, during a breakout session at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
Andrew Price, WOCCU senior vice president of international advocacy and general counsel, told those in attendance to keep international advocacy in mind when they hike Capitol Hill this week to push lawmakers to support U.S. credit unions.
“Tell them that they need to tell USAID to continue to fund what we’re doing here for the relief (in Ukraine),” Price told attendees.
Alisa Stetsyshyn, a consultant on the USAID-funded WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project, emphasized the importance of Price’s request by highlighting how WOCCU has been able to work through the CAP Project to ensure more proportional regulations for Ukrainian credit unions, especially since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country just over one year ago.
“A lot of credit unions got engaged at once in all kids of humanitarian aid in Ukraine. So, they needed more time than they actually had to help those in need—not only serving them, but as people helping their communities. And that’s why reducing the regulatory burden (and compliance paperwork) and giving them more time to help people—that was very important, especially at the beginning (of the full-scale war),” said Stetsyshyn.
WOCCU has been implementing the CAP Project since 2016 to strengthen the credit union sector in Ukraine and boost credit union lending to rural farmers and small agricultural businesses. That has continued in robust fashion even during the war, with USAID recently extending the CAP Project through September 2024.
Even the smallest acts of international advocacy can do a great deal in culmination, according to Anatoli Murha, Chair of the Ukrainian American Credit Union Association. Murha talked about some of the ways American credit union professionals can advocate for Ukrainian credit unions.
“When we call our elected officials, we make sure that we say, ‘Congressman or Congresswoman, we have X amount of members in your district, which affects 10,000 people in Ukraine.’ Right? If I have 2,500 members in the greater metropolitan Philadelphia area, and each of them has four family members in Ukraine, start doing the math and you see what the exponential impact is. That’s international advocacy,” said Murha.
But Murha pointed out that international advocacy is about more than just contacting elected officials.
“I think it’s also important to remember about media. So, if you’re a credit union in here or a vendor that has an employee that’s Ukrainian, call your local media and tell them your story,” said Murha.
Rafal Matusiak, a WOCCU Board Director and President of the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU) of Poland, also gave his perspective on seeing just how much the support of U.S. credit unions has meant to Ukraine, which borders Poland to the southeast.
“Ukraine still needs this help, unfortunately for a long time,” said Matusiak. “That is why cooperation and support from you is so important.”
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