July 7 is the the 90 ICA International Co-operatives Day and the 19 UN International Day of Co-operatives. The day has a significant importance this year, as the United Nations General Assembly has named 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives.
Co-operatives are key to economic and social development in the 21st century. The International Year has provided co-operators all over the world with the chance to raise awareness about the important role co-operatives have in building a better world.
Dame Pauline Green, President of the ICA, described co-operatives as a “huge and inspiring movement". She described how co-operators across the world have been celebrating the International Year of Co-operatives, from the Nepalese co-operators who took the ICA flag to the top of Mount Everest to the release of four children’s books on co-operation in Singapore.
“The critical thing for us this year is to raise the profile of our inspirational movement, and tell the stories about these wonderful co-operatives,” she said. “We hope that at the end of this year, we will pivot and transition from a really successful exciting International Year to a decade of co-operative growth.”
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon also marked the International Day of Co-operatives by issuing an official message to co-operators across the world:
“In this International Day of Co-operatives we celebrate how co-operatives build a better world, by advancing sustainable development, social integration and decent work.”
“Co-operatives empower their members and strengthen communities. They promote food security and enhance opportunities for small agricultural producers. They are better turned to the local needs and better positioned to act as engines of local growth.
“The global crisis has also proved the ability of regeneration of the alternative financial institutions such as co-operative banks or gold and credit union co-operatives.”
Ban Ki-moon also said that co-operatives play a fundamental role in sustaining the local communities by offering employment opportunities for women, young people across the world.
“By pooling resources they enable access to finance, information and technology.
“In this International Year of Co-operatives, I encourage all stakeholders to continue building awareness and pursuing policies to strengthen co-operatives elsewhere. By contributing to human dignity and worldwide solidarity, co-operatives indeed build a better world.”
A message from Juan Somavia, the International Labour Office Director-General, saluted co-operators around the world. He said: "Co-operatives are engines of economic growth offering a dynamic and flexible business model in production, marketing and service delivery.
"Guided by the compass of social justice, cooperatives are vehicles for promoting decent work and decent lives for all. As democratic, value-driven and locally-controlled organizations, they foster social inclusion. Organisation brings strength and the organization and solidarity of the cooperative movement have been highly effective in enabling disadvantaged groups to gain voice, mobilize to pursue their economic interests and to secure social protection.
"Indigenous people, refugees, migrants, women in rural and urban areas, unemployed persons, the elderly, and the disabled have all found possibilities for social and economic participation and advancement through cooperative action and enterprise."
He added: "Rooted in the people and communities they serve, cooperatives are well-placed to serve as guardians of the environment and the conservation of ecosystems for the benefit of future generations. Agricultural and other rural cooperatives can play a key role in preventing ecosystem degradation and assuring food security."
To mark the 90th ICA International Co-operative Day The ICA released a statement with the theme: ‘Co-operative enterprises build a better world’.
Chuck Gould, Director of the ICA said the year "is the time to tell the co-operative story to a wider audience. Co-operatives are a key part of the way forward for the 21st Century economy.”
The statement describes the role of co-operatives in the global economy, stating that the 300 top co-operative companies have a combined annual turnover of USD 1.6 trillion and that they provide over 100 million jobs worldwide.
In Kenya, co-operatives contribute 45 percent of GDP and in the US 30,000 co-ops employ two million people. “Co-operatives are values-based enterprises. The co-operative has the greatest degree of participatory governance of any of the major enterprise models. Because of this member engagement, co-operatives reflect the values of the community,” Mr Gould said.
He continued by saying that co-operatives cover every sector from agriculture and fisheries to banking and credit unions, “they are building a better world,” Mr Gould added.