Uniting, promoting and developing co-ops: updates from the Alliance general assembly

Uniting, promoting and developing co-operatives is the focus of the International Co-operative Alliance. Speaking at its General Assembly in Quebec City, director-general Charles Gould talked about the ways the...

Uniting, promoting and developing co-operatives is the focus of the International Co-operative Alliance. Speaking at its General Assembly in Quebec City, director-general Charles Gould talked about the ways the global co-op body is achieving this.

“We have been focusing this year on positioning co-ops at the centre of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. “This will define the geopolitical social agenda for the next 15 years.

“Sustainability is something you’re already doing. We have launched a platform – coopsfor2030.coop – that hosts sustainability pledges from co-ops in different countries.

Charles Gould, International Co-operative Alliance director-general
Charles Gould, International Co-operative Alliance director-general

“This is something that is consistent with business activities. We can show the kind of work that co-operators are doing to media and policymakers. When they think of sustainability, we want them to think of co-ops because we have a legitimate claim to that space.

“It’s an opportunity for us to quietly tell the co-op story to those with influence. We’re not talking about something speculative, we’re already able to demonstrate what we’re already doing in sustainability.”

On uniting co-operatives, Mr Gould talked about the special relationship with United Nations and its agencies (International Labour Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation) through the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC). “We are the place where co-operatives are represented around the world,” said Mr Gould. “We have access to these corridors through the UN. And quite recently we made a breakthrough in that we now represent over 100 countries.”

Related … Ben Reid and Dmitry Zubov elected to the International Co-operative Alliance board

Two new initiatives have also been launched to help with the development of co-operatives.

Mr Gould gave more details behind its partnership with the European Commission to help develop co-operatives. The ‘Co-operatives in development – people-centered businesses in action’ framework, which was signed in March, will strengthen the capacity of the Alliance to develop co-ops over the next four years. The €10m deal will see €8m being awarded to the Alliance from the Commission, with a further €2m to be provided by the Alliance.

A partnership with COPAC committee members will also see UN agencies collecting data on co-operatives over the coming years. Mr Gould said the Alliance needs “macro-level intelligence” from national databases that the UN helps control.

Mr Gould also said that its partial ownership of the .coop domain is helping to promote co-operatives. It was gifted part ownership of .coop from the UK’s Midcounties Co-op; the other part is owned by the National Cooperative Business Association in the United States. Both the NCBA and the Alliance will be joining forces later this year and linking up the two parts of the business in a joint venture.

He also reported that the COOP marque, an identity for co-ops to use, has been adopted by over 3,000 co-operatives.

coop_turqMonique Leroux, president of the Alliance, outlined the importance of the co-operative model. In reference to the Syrian war, and the resulting refugee crisis across Europe, she said co-ops could be used to help with “tensions and conflicts in many countries”.

“When I look at the situation, it brings me to think the co-op model is so important and so pertinent. But on the other hand, it’s a big challenge and a big responsibility. This is why the International Summit of Cooperatives is so important.”

She added that co-ops are an “important pillar in our society and our economy”, and it is up to co-ops to talk about the good the sector achieves. Co-ops around the world should “pass the word to governments, policy makers and regulatory authorities”.

“Our capacity to work together can achieve a lot,” said Ms Leroux. “Essentially there are three verbs I can share with you; we are uniting, developing and promoting the co-op movement.”

  • For more of our coverage of the International Summit of Co-operatives, visit thenews.coop/summit.
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