As 2015 draws to a close, we’ve picked five top international news stories from the co-operative movement to look back on.
In 2010, the International Co-operative Alliance announced the start of a co-operative decade. The vision was to implement a ten-year strategy to make co-ops the acknowledged leader in economic, social, and environmental sustainability, and make it the model preferred by people as well as the fastest growing form of enterprise.
Halfway through the decade, co-operators from around the world met in Antalya, Turkey, in November for the Alliance’s Global Conference and General Assembly, to discuss progress, exploring new challenges and celebrating successes.
2015 was also the year Dame Pauline Green stepped down as president of the Alliance after six years. During a gala dinner, she was presented with the Rochdale Pioneers Award, which recognises contributions to the movement that significantly benefit co-operative members – and she later brought the award to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, the first time the award had visited the birthplace of co-operatives.
Dame Pauline was the organisation’s first female president in its 114-year history, and in Turkey, Monique Leroux from Desjardins Group in Canada was elected the second. “It is an honour to take over as president of the Alliance,” she said. “I am highly stimulated by all the opportunities ahead of us. I think that all of us are ready for action. United, together we will succeed.”
Also in Turkey, the Alliance released updated guidance to the seven co-operative principles, and published the fourth edition of the World Co-operative Monitor. The Monitor showed that the global co-operative and mutual sectors have continued to grow, with the total turnover of the largest 300 co-operatives increasing from USD $2,205.70bn in 2012 to USD $2,360.05bn in 2013.
Looking to 2016, the Alliance announced the launch of a global marketing campaign to promote co-op identity. Speaking at the Global Conference, director general Charles Gould explained how the campaign aimed to raise awareness of the model.
“The early co-operators were visionaries, they asked an important question – what if?,” he said. “What if the world were different? We believe that question is still relevant to people across the world. We believe that these people are open to the co-operative message.”
Co-operation and the Eurozone
Europe – and Greece in particular – has been in the news a lot in 2015, as the European debt crisis came to a head and Greece became the first developed country to fail to make an IMF loan repayment. But, wrote Ifigeneia Douvitsa and Demosthenis Kassavetis, “the Greek co- operative movement is vibrant and active in a variety of economic sectors”.
With the country’s economic crisis turning into a long-term depression, this year various socioeconomic groups in Greece, based around new economic sectors and activities, have turned to the co-op model for solutions.
And the Government has been on board too. In 2011, it passed a law that introduced a new civil co-operative model, the social co-operative enterprise (SCE) – 415 social co- operative enterprises have now been formed under this law.
However Frances Coppola believes the lack of general co-operation in the Eurozone is causing harm for Greece, and others. “The fact is that the co-operative spirit that is essential for any enterprise where resources are shared has evaporated in a shower of accusations and recriminations,” she wrote in July.
“Trust – the foundation of co-operation – has broken down. There can be no winners in this ghastly situation. The abject failure of co-operation in the Eurozone has created a real Greek tragedy.”
Fairtrade Fortnight 2015 (23 February – 8 March) coincided with the organisation’s 20th anniversary, and this year highlight the fact that ‘more people choosing Fairtrade means more lives changed’.
One and half million individuals in 74 countries are now benefiting from increased Fairtrade sales, according to Fairtrade International’s 2015 annual report.
As well as increases in the sale of Fairtrade cocoa, coffee and cotton, 2015 saw sales of Fairtrade gold increase by 259% – and this has been bolstered by the news that the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize medals were made out of fairly-mined gold from a Colombian co-operative.
Fairtrade’s Global Change, Local Leadership report says producers received around €105m (£78m) in Fairtrade premium to invest in business and social projects last year – a 14% increase on the previous year.
And according to Fairtrade’s own satisfaction survey, 93% of Fairtrade producers were happy with the support services they received.
Over the summer, Fairtrade also set out a five-point agenda to reduce poverty through trade, including through the building and support of co-operatives.
In a briefing paper, titled Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through Trade, the organisation warned that trade is a “blunt tool” that can harm as well as help poverty reduction, and called on the government to ensure works better together to reduce poverty through trade,
Following the 2014 announcement of the Fairtrade Sourcing Programme, which allows manufacturers to source single commodities such as cocoa, cotton and sugar on Fairtrade terms and then carry a new specific FSP logo, Mars Chocolate UK became the first UK company to commit to Fairtrade’s Cocoa Sourcing Program. Mars Bars made from Fairtrade cocoa hit UK shelves in October.
International Day of Co-operatives
Co-operatives around the world celebrated the International Day of Co-operatives (IDC) on 4 July 2015, with the theme ‘choose co-operative, choose equality’.
In a statement, the International Co-operative Alliance said: “Equality is a fundamental value that ensures that all people can reap the benefits of economic and social development. Yet, we live in a world that remains rife with inequalities: according to recent data 0.7% of the world population holds 44% of all the wealth, while 70% only holds 3%. Everywhere there are still people discriminated against based on their gender, age, religion, or socio-economic condition, among other factors.”
To mark the IDC in Australia, the federal government announced a AUD $14m package to support farmer co-operatives, while in South Africa 1,500 co-operative members and policy makers celebrated the day with a conference focusing on equality.
The IDC has been celebrated on the first Saturday of July since 1923, but until now there has not been a co-ordinated global celebration. At the Alliance’s global conference, plans were announced for a joint celebration in 2016 – with more details expected in the new year.
Global co-operative case studies
In 2015 Cooperatives Europe released two reports focusing on co-operative case studies in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. The publications showcased best practice examples from the regions, and showed the impact of co-op businesses on economic and social development.
The reports were prepared in collaboration with the Co-operative College. “With increasing interest in the co-operative model for development, evidence of real life co-operative achievements also becomes increasingly important,” said Simon Parkinson, College chief executive and principal.
In this article
- Business models
- Charles Gould
- Co-operative College
- Cooperative principles
- Cooperatives Europe
- Desjardins Group
- Dorthy Chikwiti
- Fair trade
- Fairtrade certification
- General Assembly
- International Co-operative Alliance
- International Co-operative Day
- Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative
- Latin America
- Monique Leroux
- New Year's Day
- Pauline Green
- Rochdale Pioneers Museum
- Rochdale Principles
- Simon Parkinson
- The Alliance
- The Co-operative Group
- Top Stories