Ariel Guarco from Argentina has been elected president of the International Co-operative Alliance.
The election took place at the Alliance’s General Assembly, a biennial event, held this year in Malaysia.
Mr Guarco is president of Cooperar, the Co-operative Confederation of Argentina, and has been a board member of the Alliance since 2013. Cooperar works with 67 co-operative federations, 5,000 co-operatives, and ten million members.
Mr Guarco comes from a family of co-operators, his mother had worked for her local village’s electric co-op. After joining the co-op and holding various positions, Mr Guarco was elected president. He continued to progress and later became president of the federation of public service co-operatives of Buenos Aires (Fedecoba). He still presides over the Buenos Aires Electric Cooperative Federation.
He says his priorities at the Alliance will be to strengthen the interactions between its regional and sectoral organisations, as well as consolidating youth and gender spaces. He also wants to improve the quality and quantity of information given to members on income, balance sheets, and projects – and in doing so, empower organisations when it comes to decision-making. All his proposals are explained on his website.
Mr Guarco takes over from Monique Leroux, who led the Alliance since 2015. During her leadership, the Alliance sought to make the co-operative movement’s voice heard in international forums and at major economic gatherings. Co-ops were represented by the Alliance at various events including B20 meetings, the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ Conference in Montreal and high-level events at the United Nations, the Business 20 (B20). A full report on her term is available here.
Ms Leroux said: “It was my great privilege to spend the past four years working with a devoted and committed board of directors that feels so strongly about advancing co-operative businesses. The Alliance is certainly in a decent position to continue moving towards objectives that, ultimately, will help make our world a better place.”
She said it had been a difficult decision for her not to stand for re-election but that the diversity of the business more also meant that co-operators from different regions with different experiences convictions would be represented.
She said, at a time of rising inequality and populist movements, “trust must be restored” to social and economic systems and the co-op movement had a role to play in this.
Mr Guarco was the only candidate in the election after Yogeshwar Krishna from Fiji withdrew his candidacy. The second co-operator from the region to lead the organisation, he received 671 votes.
Mr Guarco said: “It is a tremendous honour to be elected president of the Alliance. Our movement includes one billion people across the world. The Alliance needs to be the lighthouse that guides them.
“The global context requires us to go out on the pitch wearing the co-operative shirt and confront warmongering, speculators and those controlling the economy, who are taking humanity on a road without return, with our coherence, trajectory, and diversity.”
Thanking his family, colleagues, and predecessors in the role of president, he said. “I am convinced that the global co-op needs a movement that is closer to its members.”
He said co-op principles were important “the construction of more just, inclusive and peaceful society” and wanted the Alliance to make an impact on decisions being made at a global scale, on the issues facing the world.
Speaking at the Alliance’s General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mr Guarco described himself as “a simple person” with a high level of social responsibility.
The event brought together more than 1,500 co-operators from around the world to discuss the role of the sector in placing people at the centre of development. Keynote speakers included sustainable development pioneer and former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, and economist Linda Yueh.
A full new board was also elected at the General Assembly. The board members elected are:
AUSTRALIA – Gregory WALL – Nominated by Capricorn Society Ltd
BRAZIL – Onofre Cezário De Souza FILHO – Nominated by Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras (OCB)
CANADA – Alexandra WILSON – Nominated by Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC)
DENMARK – Susanne WESTHAUSEN – Nominated by Kooperationen
FINLAND – Marjaana SAARIKOSKI – Nominated by SOK Corporation
FRANCE – Florence RAINEIX – Nominated by Coop FR
INDIA – Aditya YADAV – Nominated by Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO)
ITALY – Carlo SCARZANELLA – Nominated by A. G. C. I. – Associazione Generale Cooperative Italiane
JAPAN – Toru NAKAYA – Nominated by JA Zenchu (Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives)
MALAYSIA – Kamarudin ISMAIL – Nominated by Malaysian National Cooperative Movement (ANGKASA)
NEPAL – Om Devi MALLA – Nominated by National Cooperative Federation of Nepal
SINGAPORE – Kok Kwong KWEK – Nominated by Singapore National Cooperative Federation (SCNF)
SWEDEN – Anders LAGO – Nominated by HSB
UNITED KINGDOM – Ben REID – Nominated by The Midcounties Cooperative
UNITED STATES – Martin LOWERY – Nominated by National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
The Assembly also increased the number of sectoral representatives to four and the inclusion of the Gender Equality Committee chair on the board. The board has been ratified with vice presidents Stanley Charles Muchiri (Africa); Ramon Imperial Zúñiga (Americas); Chunsheng Li (Asia-Pacific); Jean-Louis Bancel (Europe). Sectoral representatives Kim Byeongown (International Co-operative Agricultural Organisation); Isabelle Ferrand (International Co-operative Banking Association); Manuel Mariscal (CICOPA); Petar Stefanov (Consumer Cooperatives Worldwide). From the Gender Equality Committee, Maria Eugenia Pérez Zea; youth representative, Sébastien Chaillou.