The first day of the ICA International Conference in Kigali was dedicated to the activities of #coops4dev🌎 – the ICA-EU Partnership which aims to strengthen the cooperative movement as a development actor. In the first plenary session, delegates heard how cooperatives have an active role to play in sustainable development.
The EU and UN are both looking to strengthen their collaborations with coops. In a video message at the plenary, Daniela Bas of UN DESA’s Division For Inclusive Social Development revealed the UN is working on a resolution on cooperatives.
The division will be working with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) to help governments enhance their capacity to mitigate climate change.
The challenge for coops is to ensure they are capturing all the data regarding their activities, she said, adding that “the UN stands ready to support coops in this task”. Ms Bas believes sustainable development can only be enhanced through the success of coops.
Supporting the growth of coops is a worldwide effort with a guaranteed return on investment, thinks Nicola Bellomo, EU Ambassador to Rwanda, talking about the role of cooperatives in Europe’s social market economy.
“Cooperatives facilitate economic redistribution,” he said. “There are 130,000 cooperatives in Europe, with just over four million workers and seven million members.”
He highlighted the importance of the ICA-EU partnership in addressing social and economic challenges.
The EU sees the cooperatives as a key partner in the implementation of the SDGs, he said, and the organisation “has supported and continues to support the growth of cooperatives – it is a worthwhile effort, because they empower people to take charge of their own development”.
Mr Bellomo praised Rwanda for rebuilding itself using cooperatives. In recent years the country has created a cooperative agency and national cooperative confederation, and is now home to close to 10,000 coops with share capital of RF 45bn. These operate in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, trading, housing, fishing and services.
In 2018 the EU and Africa launched an Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, which, said Mr Bellomo, is an opportunity for coops in the EU and Africa to collaborate with each other, invest in projects and improve livelihoods. Around 36% of Africa’s trade is with the EU.
ICA President Ariel Guarco told delegate: “We are here to learn what the global and African coop movement have to offer the world.”
He talked about the importance of cooperating to tackle the challenge of climate change and building economic models with human dignity at the centre.
“There will be no sustainable development if we do not have a strong business sector that is democratically governed by the community, and whose main objective is to serve the community,” he said.
Congratulating Rwanda for rebuilding with a focus on sustainable development, he added that “there is no peace without development and development without peace”.
Representing the Rwandan Finance Ministry, Dr Claudine Uwer, Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), told delegates that cooperatives were increasingly valued for bringing communities together. She highlighted their contribution to the economy and wellbeing of Rwandan citizens.