The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has urged member states and international organisations to recognise the fundamental role that co-operatives play in improving the functioning of global food systems.
The ICA released a series of recommendations ahead of Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, which took place on 26-28 July. The UN Food Systems Summit will take place on 23 September 2021. These included calling on governments to hold sufficient consultations with a wide range of parties concerned, including co-operatives when establishing and promoting basic policies that focus on food security.
“Co-operatives in food systems were born out of the desire to empower producers and consumers as well as to shorten supply chains by eliminating unnecessary intermediaries,” says the document. “Throughout their history, co-operatives have been important players in food systems, using a value-based and people-centred business model that promotes sustainable production and ethical consumption.”
The recommendations highlight how the co-operative business model allows organisations to contribute to sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) – and how this also applies to food systems. “The ICA believes that co-operative members and co-operatives at large are essential for the successful functioning of the food systems, ranging from production to consumption.”
The ICA argues that co-ops are a vital part of this conversation as they are involved in all stages of food chains (production, processing, consumption) and in all related economic sectors in food systems around the world, and because they are innovators.
“[Co-operatives] have significantly innovated in the fields of sustainability, circular economy, pesticide reduction, risk management of natural and men made disasters. Their contributions in the food systems have been further highlighted recently, as they have had a key role under the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular in limiting the disruptions in the food systems.”
The ICA suggested that governments should enhance the role of cooperatives in scaling up production and ensure a better position of the individual farmers and fishermen in the supply chain; as well as promote the role of co-operatives in the role of local and international food distribution, fostering dialogue with agricultural co-operatives.
Furthermore, argues the ICA, governments should actively promote the role of cooperatives in the ecological transition and provide policy support to ensure that co-operatives are able to work in stable partnerships with a wide range of other stakeholders.
The apex also asks governments to strengthen domestic food production infrastructure and food supply chains in co-operation with co-operatives and other stakeholders.
This article has been amended to clarify that the statement was released ahead of the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, not the actual Summit, which is due to take place in September.