How has 2022 been for co-ops in the Asia-Pacific region?
It has been a year of hope and new beginnings! 30 November 2021 was a historic day for the Indian co-op movement with my election as president of International Cooperative Alliance Asia-Pacific. Indian representatives had been part of the ICA global board earlier. But this was the first time a leader from the Indian co-op movement was elected as the highest authority. The past year has enriched my knowledge and experience to serve the national and regional co-op movements.
With Covid restrictions starting to ease, co-ops in the region have been carrying out regular activities, though still in hybrid mode. The ICA-AP regional office for the first time hosted a side event at the UN NGO Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 66 forum. The event, with representation from nine countries in the region, deliberated on the impact of natural disasters on co-ops and women members, and the climate change initiatives taken by them. Led by the Japan Workers’ Co-operative Union, engaging discussions were held on the status and issues of worker and service co-ops within the newly established Cicopa Asia and Pacific network.
The regional office established a new partnership with the Ministry of Economy in the United Arab Emirates to develop and strengthen its co-op sector and increase its contribution to the country’s GDP. It partnered with international agencies to support the development of a green, low-carbon, resource-efficient coffee value chain while contributing to poverty reduction in Lao PDR.
In India, the government established a Ministry of Cooperation in 2021 and is working to develop a National Cooperative Policy. We co-operators have been participating in the discussions and advocating the interests of co-operatives. The ICA-AP office organised a multi stakeholder consultation on Autonomy and Independence of Co-operatives in India. The stakeholders comprising a group of professionals, individuals and co-operative representatives presented their views and inputs to be considered while framing national policy, regulations, and legal reform.
The ICA-AP Thematic & Sectoral Committees showed an enhanced focus on climate change and environmental issues and organised webinars and knowledge exchange sessions. The Women Committee has launched a Training of Trainers programme on Climate Action. The office released two issues of its bi-annual publication COOP Dialogue focusing on Innovations in Cooperatives and Climate Action by co-ops in the region.
Our members actively collaborated and participated in the activities, and we hope to continue working with them to strengthen the co-op movement in the region.
What are your hopes for the future?
The Asia and Pacific is the largest and most diversified region among all four ICA regions with the maximum number of countries. Co-operatives are needed to meet the economic and social aspirations of people in the region, as a large number of people are engaged in farming and related industries. Governments alone cannot create job opportunities for everyone.
Co-ops have potential to fill this gap and work towards employment generation and poverty reduction. In the future, we hope to reach out to all our members and increase the development of co-operatives by:
• Building a shared and inclusive sustainable co-operative economy,
• Building capital for co-operatives,
• Including more youth and women in co-operatives by promoting skill-based training and education,
• Adopting digital and emerging technologies, and
• Strengthening the co-operative bonds in the Asia and Pacific region among ICA networks.