Cancun 2011: Launching the International Year of Co-operatives

The General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is the parliament of the global co-operative movement. Every two years, co-operators from 96 countries gather somewhere in the...

The General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is the parliament of the global co-operative movement.  Every two years, co-operators from 96 countries gather somewhere in the world to hear speakers, attend panels and workshops and vote on issues of importance to the co-op sector.

But this year’s ICA  General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico, which is taking place from November 14-18,  is one like no other. It marks the international co-op sector’s launch of the 2012 United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.  Co-operators around the world have been awaiting this special year since the United Nations adopted a resolution proclaiming it in December 2009.  The United Nations officially launched the year a few weeks ago on October 31, with a full day of discussions related to the contribution co-ops make to economic and social development.  Canada’s co-op movement is planning simultaneous launch events across the country on January 12.

The Cancun meeting is also a landmark event in this season of launches because it will highlight the global nature of the co-operative sector. When you are a co-op member, director or employee — or even when you work for a co-operative association like I do — it’s often easy to forget that you are part of a worldwide movement that has more than a billion members and the economic clout of the ninth largest economy in the world. Some 2,000 co-operators from around the world will gather there;  they speak different languages, have different cultures, and come from countries with different political and economic systems, but they have one thing in common: their commitment to co-operation.

For co-op communicators, the people whose job it is to spread the word about co-ops,  Cancun promises to be particularly exciting. Since one of the main objectives of the International Year is to generate public awareness about the co-op business model, that is also an important theme of the Cancun meeting.

To quote Dame Pauline Green, president of the ICA: “If we can together raise our global profile by using 2012 to create common global messages and a common global presence, we will maximise our influence on key decision-makers and, with their active support and help, we will grow more and new co-operative businesses across the world in the coming decades.”

How we do that will be one of the main topics that will be explored in Cancun this week.

– Donna Balkan

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