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CUNA helps kick off Intl Year of Co-ops in N.Y.

NEW YORK (10/31/11)--Two days of meetings and events starting today in New York City will launch 2012 as the United Nations' International Year of Cooperatives.

The International Year of Cooperatives marks the first time the United Nations has awarded a business model an "International Year" designation. To commemorate the event, more than 150 leaders from some of the world's largest cooperatives have gathered in New York for the official launch, where they will consider how to foster conditions that will ignite cooperative enterprise growth throughout the decade. The leaders come from all sectors of the economy, including financial services, housing, health, retail and agriculture.

"I am looking forward to participating in International Year of Cooperatives events," said Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association. "I see this as an opportunity for credit unions to build on all the great attention we've been receiving in media across the country in recent weeks. It is exciting to be launching an international celebration of cooperatives at a point in time, today, when people are particularly receptive to the benefits of the cooperative business model."

"In naming 2012 the U.N. International Year of Cooperatives, the United Nations has both recognized and honored the important role that credit unions and other cooperatives play on the global stage," said Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) president/CEO and one of 20 global leaders invited to serve on the International Year of Cooperatives Advisory Group. "Now it is up to us to advance the good work we have already started."

Today's events at the United Nations begin with a roundtable discussion involving some of the world's top cooperative leaders, including Maria Aranzazu Laskurain, secretary general of Mondragon; Li Chengyu, president of the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives; and Piet Moerland, chairman of Rabobank.

After the roundtable, Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)will address the U.N. General Assembly. In her address, she will emphasize the important role cooperatives play in global sustainable development and financial stability.

She will be followed by former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who will discuss cooperatives' contribution to the global economy.

On Tuesday, leaders of some of the world's largest cooperatives will meet at the ICA Leadership Forum in New York to identify the conditions needed to incite dramatic growth and make cooperative enterprise the fastest-growing business model by the end of the decade. Hosted by Green, delegates will hear keynote presentations from Peter Marks, CEO of the Co-operative Group, U.K., and Monique Leroux, president/CEO of Desjardins Group, Canada. Marks also spoke at WOCCU's July conference.

The Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, based in New York and operating in support of credit unions serving low-income populations, is holding its own kickoff event Tuesday at the Ford Foundation. The event, "New York: Building a Cooperative City," will host speakers from local government and the cooperative sector.

Some of the other national leaders attending the event are Mary Martha Fortney, CEO of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors; Charles E. Snyder, president/CEO of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank (NCB).

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will issue a proclamation recognizing the contribution of cooperatives to the life of the city, to be followed by presentations by representatives of credit unions, food, housing and worker co-ops. 

Co-sponsors of the event include the Council of New York Housing Cooperatives and the National Cooperative Bank, along with the federation.
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