Young entrepreneurs and professionals from co-operatives across the world are meeting in Kuching, Malaysia, for the first edition of the Global Youth Forum.
Around 130 participants and 40 trainers are attending the four-day event, where they will be able to choose between a series or plenaries and training sessions to improve their skills and knowledge about the co-operative business model.
The opening ceremony featured Dato’ Abdul Fattah Abdullah, president of apex body Angkasa, who welcomed participants to Sarawak. He said the co-operative sector could be a platform for young people wishing to drive change and address global challenges.
This is the second time Angkasa is hosting an International Co-operative Alliance event. The Malaysian movement also hosted the 2017 ICA Global Conference in Kuala Lumpur.
“Use the forum as an opportunity to develop as a person with big dreams,” Mr Abdullah told participants.
ICA president Ariel Guarco talked about the role of co-ops in driving social and financial inclusion as well as acting as innovators in terms of sustainable production and consumption.
“Around the world young people are part of social movements that demand social rights, looking after the planet, the end of violence, the right to education and decent work.”
He highlighted that over 22% of world’s youth do not work or study, while in many countries the youth unemployment rate is twice the average.
Mr Guarco called on young entrepreneurs to join the global co-operative movement, which, he said, was the largest business network in the world.
“I really hope that many of you after these training days, become more convinced about the advantages of our business model. I am also hopeful that innovative ideas will emerge from here, that will allow our movement to collaborate more effectively on solving the conflicts we are facing as a generation.
“Again, you are invited to be part of the largest business network in the world, to be part of the challenge of building economy in democracy and from the interest of our local communities. You are invited to give your critical and demanding view, because there is no time for delays.”
In a written statement, Abang Abdul Rahman Johari Abang Openg, chief minister of Saravak, provided an overview of the local co-operative movement, which is almost a century old. Malaysia is home to over 14,470 co-ops with six million members.
He said it was important to promote co-ops and encourage youth to be part of co-op enterprises, which are resilient at times of crises.
Datuk Haji Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, minister of tourism, art, culture, youth and sports of Saravak, encouraged young people to explore Kuching – the capital of Sarawak state, on the island of Borneo – itself.
The forum is organised by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and supported by the European Union, within the framework of the ICA-EU partnership.