On 8 July, the International Day of Cooperatives, a panel discussion was held at UNHQ in New York, entitled "Cooperative Enterprises Remain Strong in Times of Crisis." The speakers advocated for the adoption of the cooperative model as a framework for sustainable development. Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), delivered a message on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General indicated that cooperatives can help build resilient societies since they have shown their ability to mobilize solidarity for reconstruction after disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods.
The experts asserted that the role of cooperatives in the socio-economic development process is significant because they bring together approximately one billion people consisting of major groups and marginalized people, across all sectors of the economy. To build resilient societies in times of social and economic crises, we need to plan and strategize for these cooperatives and most importantly outline their role in the post-2015 agenda, suggested one of the panelists. In her remarks, Ms. Bas asserted that some of the most pressing issues facing our world today are migration, information and communication technology, and labour and employment. She asked, how do we help young people and the next generation to address these issues over the next 15 years to come? We need to equip them with the right tools by empowering cooperate enterprises in our countries, she asserted.
According to Ambassador Od Och, Permanent Representative for Mongolia, cooperatives can work towards reducing corruption, as they foster good governance and sustainable development. He added that in Mongolia as a case study, cooperatives are strong in the rural and agricultural sector; however, the state has recognized cooperatives across all the sectors of the economy. Kevin Cassidy, Senior Communications and External Relations Officer of the International Labour Organization (ILO), highlighted that these achievements could be attributed to the fact that cooperatives are resilient and risk averse.
But how resilient are cooperatives? Javier Molina Cruz, Liaison Officer for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), explained that cooperatives have the ability to prevent crises and disasters, and they can also resist shocks. In his remarks, Mr. Molina outlined the characteristics of cooperatives: 1) voluntary and open membership, 2) democratic member control, 3) concern for community and not profit oriented, 4) independent and autonomous, 5) cooperation among cooperatives, 6) commitment to providing education, training and information, and 7) members’ economic participation.
In her presentation, Elizabeth Philippe, Corporate Communications Manager at the UN Federal Credit Union, acknowledged that cooperatives have financial constraints; however, Besty Dribben, Director of Policy, International Cooperative Alliance reminded the panel that the cooperative model is built on community development and not profit-making. The event concluded with some policy recommendations, which include the development of a legal framework to support cooperatives, the creation of a business environment and supporting cooperatives with economic incentives, and promoting policy dialogue platforms that bring on board both policy makers and cooperatives.
For more information, please see the official webpage of the International Day of Cooperatives, which includes links to the speakers’ presentations, a video by the Director General of the ILO, and other resources related to cooperatives and development.