World leaders showed their support for co-operatives by backing the business model in the document that came out of the UN’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
The Rio+20 was attended by 190 countries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over 20-22 June and marks 20 years since the original ‘Earth Summit’.
The outcome document sets out action points to help create a sustainable future and reduce poverty and food insecurity and was signed off by nations on Friday 22 June.
“Members and supporters of co-operatives have long known - co-ops help lift people out of poverty, advance gender equality, give back to the community and address head on the critical issues of sustainable development. What nations did in Rio today was to state that case in writing,” explained Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance.
Co-operatives were mentioned three times in the document, which included the statement: “We acknowledge the role of co-operatives and microenterprises in contributing to social inclusion and poverty reduction in particular in developing countries.”
There were many problems over the course of the negotiations for the final document, Besty Dribben, the ICA Director of Policy said that despite the frustrations, at the end of the day they could all agree ‘that co-operatives build a better world’.
She said: “Just as we’ve been saying over and over again in this UN International Year of Co-operatives -—this values based business model can really make good things happen. Now country leaders at the Rio signing have made it clear ‘they finally get it.’”
The addition of co-operatives was strongly supported by the Brazilian government which was committed to making sure they were a focus as a key element in advancing sustainable development.
“We’re grateful that even when the going got tough Brazil stood tall on pressing colleague countries to keep co-operatives wording in the text,” said Ms Dribben.
She went on to say that the Brazilian co-operative movement underscored just how much co-operatives can do to improve the quality of life and she also paid tribute to the Canadian delegation which began the negotiations in January at the UN in New York City by asking that support for “agricultural co-operatives” be included in the text.
Co-operatives appear 3 times in the document:
1. We acknowledge the role of cooperatives and microenterprises in contributing to social inclusion and poverty reduction in particular in developing countries.
2. We resolve by [2020 / 2030] to sustainably increase agricultural production and productivity, including through improving the function of markets and international support mechanisms, particularly for the developing countries, with a view to increasing public and private investment in agriculture and rural development. Key areas for investment and support include: sustainable agricultural practices; rural infrastructure, storage capacities and related technologies to significantly reduce post-harvest and other food losses and waste throughout the food cycle; research and development on sustainable agricultural technologies; developing strong agricultural cooperatives and value chains; and strengthening urban-rural linkages.
3. We are encouraged by government initiatives to create jobs, for poor people in restoring and managing natural resources and ecosystems, and we encourage the private sector to contribute to decent work and green job creation for both women and men, and particularly for the youth, including through partnerships with small and medium enterprises as well as cooperatives.