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ECLOF: 60 years of micro-credit for human development

16 November 2006

One of the world's first international micro-credit institutions in the service of the poor is celebrating its 60th anniversary at a conference in Geneva this week. ECLOF, the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund, was founded in 1946 by leaders of the WCC and visionary bankers who sought to harness credit in the service of the most needy, and pioneered the system of micro-credit with the poor which today is recognised as one of the most important motors of human development.

Today, ECLOF is a renowned credit institution that seeks to promote human development through fair credit. According to its current chairperson, Rev. Dr Christoph Stückelberger, a theologian and development specialist from Switzerland, ECLOF is inspired by the gospel vision of "putting the last first". "Jesus Christ came to make the weak strong, and this is the vision that continues to inspire ECLOF," he said.

In greetings read by deputy general secretary Mr Georges Lemopoulos, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia praised ECLOF's witness to a "spirituality of empowerment" that has enhanced the dignity of the human person. In September 2006, the WCC's central committee formally approved ECLOF as a partner organization, formalizing an already fruitful collaboration, Kobia noted.

Since its creation in 1946, ECLOF has disbursed over $100 million in loans to the most needy. In 2005 alone, almost 15,000 loans worth $22 million benefited an estimated 600,000 of the world's poorest people, mainly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Up to 3 million people have been touched by the results of an ECLOF loan that empowers the poorest communities to change their situation. ECLOF works through 32 national ECLOF committees all of which continue the unique partnership between church, civil society and economic actors to transform the situation of the most vulnerable.

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