Co-operators attending the General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance in Kigali, Rwanda, were given an update on the situation of co-operatives in Northern Syria.
During its general assembly meeting on 13 October, Cicopa, the International Organisation of Cooperatives in Industry and Services, sent greetings to the co-operative movement in Syria.
Cicopa also published a statement repeating its commitment to the cause of peace around the world.
“We note the extraordinary achievements of the co-operative movement of Northern Syria in collectively building a new society based on principles of popular democracy, ecology, women’s liberation and solidarity, where co-operation plays an important part in rebuilding civil society during the past years of armed conflict and displacement, meeting the needs of the people without discrimination on the basis of nationality or religion,” read the statement.
The text added that Cicopa members were “shocked” and “saddened” by the latest upsurge of violence threatening the towns and villages of Northern Syria.
“We call on co-operatives, co-operative associations and people of good will around the world to respond to our call for solidarity with our co-operative sisters and brothers, with the people of Syria, and those suffering in conditions of conflict everywhere; and to use their best endeavours to work for a lasting peace based on the values of mutual aid, equality and economic democracy,” said the statement.
After reading the statement to the ICA General Assembly, CICOPA board member Siôn Whellens told delegates about an open letter the Rojava co-operative movement had sent to the Global Conference. The letter warned that the movement was at risk of being destroyed in the Syrian war.
Around five million people live in this region, including Kurds, Arabs, Syrians, Turkmen, Circassians and Armenians.
Mr Whellens said: “Although a number of delegates at the ICA conference made the point that there are armed conflicts and refugee crises going on everywhere, the Rojava situation is particularly important for the co-operative movement because it’s a very advanced example of a true co-operative system. It is not just a business sector. It’s part of their civic society. It’s an integrated economic and civic system.”
Responding to the statement, Unal Ornek from the Central Union of Turkish Forestry Cooperatives called for peace. He highlighted that his country had welcomed a large number of refugees from Syria and argued the Turkish government was fighting against terrorism in the region.
Co-operatives UK also backed the Cicopa statement. Secretary general Ed Mayo said it was important that co-operators representing different countries continue to engage on the issue.
“Peace comes from talking and not from silence,” he said. “I welcome the call for peace and solidarity with co-ops in Syria.”