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 Ariel Guarco, who is standing for president – nominated by Confederación Cooperativa de la República Argentina (Cooperar). The incumbent, he is standing for re-election against Melina Morrison (Australia) and Jean-Louis Bancel (France).
How did you get involved in cooperatives?
Since I was a child, accompanying my mother – who has developed her entire personal and professional life in the Electric Cooperative of Coronel Pringles, a small town in the south of the Argentinean Pampas. It is a company that provides electricity and multiple services to the whole community. Since I was a child I also knew the Cooperativa Obrera, a consumer co-operative with almost 150 supermarkets where my parents used to buy everything necessary for our daily life and of which I am still a member. In my city there is also a co-operative responsible for the improvement of rural roads, which are so necessary for transportation and agricultural production. I saw from a very early age that the whole life of my city and its surroundings moved around co-operatives. Finally, throughout my career as a co-operative member and leader of several entities, I have been able to verify the effectiveness and value of this model throughout my country and the whole world.
What cooperatives are you involved with?
At the end of the 1980s I started to actively participate in the electric co-operative of my city. In 1997 I was elected president and promoted the strengthening of the federation (Fedecoba) that integrates electric co-operatives in the province of Buenos Aires, where there are more than 135 localities whose public services are provided by a co-operative. In 1998, I was elected president of the federation and became its representative in Cooperar, where my colleagues elected me to lead it in 2011. Cooperar is the Argentine apex and from there I started my participation in the ICA at regional and world level.
What is your co-operative experience at the international level?
In 2011, as president of Cooperar, I started to link with co-operative entities from different parts of the world. In 2014, my colleagues in the Confederation proposed that I become a member of the board of Cooperatives of the Americas, and I was elected to serve as second vice-president. In 2013, I was elected to the board of the International Cooperative Alliance. Convinced that we had a good proposal for ICA, we ran for the presidency in 2015, where we obtained the second place. Finally, in 2017, members from all over the world elected us to chair the ICA, at the General Assembly held in Kuala Lumpur. In these four years I could really live what “co-operative” means for millions of people around the world, and the value of our movement and the ICA – which is our common house –for international organisations and other relevant actors on a global scale.
How do you plan to help the ICA promote the co-operativeidentity?
We are going to continue working on the letter of our Identity, debating and reaching agreements that will allow us to document everything that we understand represents us as an economic and social model at the service of the communities. This was the proposal that we carried out at the 33rd World Cooperative Congress and that continues to be implemented. Now, the Co-operative Identity is not simply a declarative issue, but it is also the lighthouse that guides our day-to-day work with our members, with our communities, with governments and other actors of society with whom we have to develop alliances to build a fairer, more inclusive and peaceful world.
How do you plan to help the ICA grow the co-operative movement?
We will deepen the economic, cultural and institutional integration of the diversity of sectors and regions, which we are translating into changes in ICA governance. We are promoting that each sector can assume the responsibility of deepening the dialogue with the international organisations that understand different matters. We are going to consolidate instruments such as ICETT and World Cooperative Monitor based on the economic, social and environmental impact of co-operatives. Another major step forward that we will take advantage of is the recent signing of the International Social and Solidarity Economy Coalition, which helps us to consolidate ties with public and private actors committed to the co-operative model.
How do you plan to enable greater co-operation among co-operatives?
We must continue to move forward with proposals that reflect in the ICA’s own structure and governance the natural capacity for inter-co-operation that our organisations have. The empowerment of women and young people in our movement is today expressed in concrete changes that improve their representation on the board, where we also project an increasing participation of all sectors and where regional authorities through the vice-presidencies have a clear voice. With an ICA based on the contribution of each of its members, we will move steadily towards that goal.
How do you plan to help the ICA contribute to global sustainable development?
ICA must continue to strengthen its position as a leading player on the international scene and continue to proclaim that there can be no sustainable development without a business model based on the qualities of this type of development. Based on this conviction, in recent years we have strengthened our ties with the ILO, FAO and other United Nations agencies and bodies, just as we have carried out a successful partnership with the European Union. These and other alliances in the regions and sectors give us an indication of how governments and supranational organisations value us when it comes to finding allies to make sustainable development a reality. In the coming years we will continue to move forward in this work of global, regional and national advocacy with each of our members so that this agenda is reflected in each territory, in each community, with more and better opportunities to have a decent life for those who today inhabit our planet and ensuring these same opportunities for future generations.
What do you think the global movement can learn from co-ops in your country?
The trajectory of the Argentine co-operative movement dates back to the end of the 19th century and, although it is younger than others, it has managed to penetrate practically all sectors of the economy and society and has expanded throughout the length and breadth of the national territory, being largely responsible for development in small towns and in almost all rural areas. Much of its strength is due to its capacity for integration, expressed in the joint work of its second and third degree entities, to which must be added the mechanisms of co-management of public policies with governments at the national, provincial and municipal levels.
What changes would you like to see at the ICA during your term?
I believe that we must continue to carry forward together the transformations we have been undertaking in terms of governance, closeness to our members, deepening our identity and advocacy. This implies continuing with some proposals that we have already discussed with the current board and that we will surely be able to ratify during our Assembly in Seville and put into practice with those who are elected to join the board.
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