The 2022 ICA elections are taking place at the ICA General Assembly on 20 June in Seville, Spain. Three candidates are standing for the ICA president position and 22 candidates are standing for 15 seats on the board. Co-op News presents Q&As with each of the three presidential candidates and the board candidates.
Here, we hear from Jean-Louis Bancel (France), the current vice-president of the ICA, who is standing for president (nominated by Coop Fr, France). He is standing against Melina Morrison (Australia) and incumbent Ariel Guarco (Argentina).
How did you get involved in co-operatives?
I was a civil servant at the Ministry of Finance; in 1993, I was secretary general of the Groupement des Mutuelles d’Assurances. In this capacity, I was involved in the construction of ICMIF and the relaunch of the ICA which was in a critical situation. Since that time I have constantly engaged in the defence and promotion of cooperatives in my country and in the world.
What co-operatives are you involved with?
After managing mutuals, for 16 years I was manager of the benchmark bank for players in the social and solidarity economy in our country.
I am president of our national [co-op] federation (CoopFR); I created the Coop des Communs, a structure to bring together the world of the commons and that of co-operatives; and I am co-founder of the Global Innovation Coop Summit (GICS) to promote international meetings between co-operators of all ages to reconcile co-operatives and modernity.
What is your co-operative experience at the international level?
I have a long experience in the sectors: president of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), then president of the International Association of Cooperative Banks. I was president of Cooperatives Europe. Finally, [I am a] member of the ICA Council with different positions: vice-president, president of the principles committee.
I participated in all the ICA conferences and international summits and intergovernmental meetings to promote the place of co-operatives: launch of the international year at the UN, Addis Ababa conference on development, G20 summits.
How do you plan to help the ICA promote the Co-operative Identity?
By helping “real” co-operatives to fight on equal terms against “false” ones. Structures use the co-operative name without being one. It is necessary to use means such as labels or certifications so that the public perceives the concordance between the label and the content. We will need all co-operative leaders to lead this collective action.
This does not, on the contrary, prevent us from reflecting on the ways of expressing our co-operative values and principles today in order to adapt to changes in the world. This is the subject of an article that I have just published in RECMA.
How do you plan to help the ICA grow the co-operative movement?
From experience, I know that it is necessary to gather human and financial resources. As a European, I would contribute to working with the European Commission to obtain a second multi-annual partnership of several million Euros. By increasing our capacity for action with intergovernmental development operators, such as the World Bank. In these institutions, co-operatives are no longer in the front line as a tool for social progress and ecological transition. I will also put my experience as a banker to mobilise financial resources contributing to this necessary development.
How do you plan to enable greater co-operation among co-operatives?
Concrete actions are worth more than fine words. First of all, by reinforcing a better knowledge of the co-operators among themselves. Hence the desire to recreate the equivalent at the Quebec International Summit of Cooperatives with the GICS. I’ll meet everyone on September 26 and 27 in Paris or on our platform. We are already preparing for the year 2023 in Montreal.
How do you plan to help the ICA contribute to global sustainable development?
It is not for the ICA to set a limit of action to co-operatives among the SDGs. Each co-operative must follow its own path by exchanging with its partners from other countries. I think we should create circles of exchange of good practices between co-operatives. All of this work would be open source and disseminated among ICA members.
What do you think the global movement can learn from co-ops in your country?
Co-operation is a living process, it is necessary to adapt the legal, financial and management tools to the needs of women and men. The diversity of co-operatives by their seniority, size, their sector of activity is a wealth when we know how to create a climate of co-operation between them. France is a country of innovation with multi-stakeholder co-operatives, with fruitful exchanges between mutuals and associations within the SSE. It is no coincidence that French co-operatives represent 25% of the “global 100”.
What changes would you like to see at the ICA during your term?
First of all, it will be necessary to carry out the mandate of the General Assembly of Kuala Lumpur on the revision of the ICA. I want to give the floor back to the members to ensure that “unity is strength”.
The concrete project that I would like to see carried out in the field of education would be an international training of leaders, in particular the younger generations to ensure transmission. I dream of a co-operative “INSEAD”. Good bases exist to carry out, with the help of all, this project.
The General Assembly in Seville will be preceded by an international gathering from 19-22 June, hosted by the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives. For the full programme and to book, visit seville2022.com
This article was amended on 5 June.