The United Church of Canada (UCC) is one of more than 500 church-related members of Oikocredit International. Each of those members holds a financial investment in Oikocredit ranging from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars. The UCC’s investment is about one million dollars (Canadian). Globally, Oikocredit holds more than one billion euros of investments which includes investments from church related member organizations as well as thousands of individuals mostly residing in western Europe.
Oikocredit was created in 1975 as the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, an offshoot of the World Council of Churches. Against the backdrop of world unrest over issues including Apartheid in South Africa and the Vietnam War, church members wanted assurance that church investments were promoting peace and positive development. The EDCS pool of funds from the churches would be used to invest directly in disadvantaged people in the global south, thereby complementing and enhancing the traditional global ministries of the churches.
As the UCC divested from some of its traditional global missions, some of the funds that had been used for these missions went into the Oikocredit investment. Instead of sending money and personnel into global mission fields, a more effective way of supporting needy people around the world was achieved by investing in their own efforts to pull themselves out of poverty through the work of the EDCS and Oikocredit.
Although the UCC financial investment is relatively small compared to some of the European churches, we have participated in various aspects of Oikocredit’s volunteer administrative structure and we have actively participated in the Oikocredit Members’ Council and making decisions at the Annual General Meetings.
UCC congregations, members and leaders have played key roles in the evolution of the Oikocredit Canada Support Association, participating as individual investors and Board members from the start in the early 1980’s here in Canada. We have a 40 year history of commitment to Oikocredit’s efforts to promote sustainable development by providing loans, investments and capacity building to the financial inclusion, agriculture and renewable energy sectors in the global south, guided by the principle of empowering people to improve their lives and livelihoods.
The UCC continues to hold its national church investment in Oikocredit. Canadian regulatory requirements are making it increasingly difficult to provide opportunities for individual and congregational investments but we are working with Oikocredit Canada and Oikocredit International to find creative solutions to this challenge.