It was a night for celebration; a night for praising the achievements of the global co-operative movement; a night for looking ahead to an exciting International Year of Co-operatives. And it was probably the largest gathering of co-operators from all over the world in the history of the International Co-operative Alliance.
The official opening ceremony of the ICA General Assembly in Cancun, and the global co-operative sector’s launch of the Internatonal Year, took place this evening. And though it was impossible to do a head count, some estimated that as many as 2,000 people filled the enormous convention halll.
On a stage that was decorated with faux Mayan towers, palm trees and other decorations reminiscent of Mexico’s distant past, more than a dozen dignitaries presided over the event. They included ICA’s Dame Pauline Green and Charles Gould, ICA vice-presidents and directors from the various regional sections of ICA, and representatives of both the Mexican co-op movement and the Mexican government.
But the best-known dignitary was not on the stage — he was on two enormous video screens, bringing virtual greetings to the event. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, was effusive in his praise of co-operatives.
“Co-operatives are a unique and invaluable presence in today’s world,” he said. “They help to reduce poverty and generate jobs,” he continued.
In his message, Moon emphasised the role that co-operatives play in strengthening communities socially and economically. He recognized that co-operatives are value-based businesses and are rooted in their communities because they are owned by their members.
Another video message came from Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Somavia probably had the best line of the night when he described co-ops as “effective entrepreneurs of a better world.”
Dame Pauline, without doubt the world’s most articulate spokesperson for co-operatives, described the International Year as a “gift” to the co-operative movement and made the link between the frustration with existing economic models shown by the Occupy movement and the alternative that co-ops offer. She suggested that co-operators must maximize the value of the International Year and “drive awareness of co-operatives up the political agenda.”
After the speeches, representatives of the Mexican co-operative movement presented Dame Pauline with a plaque in honour of the International Year. A significant number of participants in the week’s events come from the host country, and their pride at hosting the Cancun meeting was very much in evidence.
It was equally in evidence during the festivities that followed the ceremony: an enormous party on the terrace around the Moon Palace Resort’s even more enormous swimming pool.
Tomorrow, a full day of events, including a speech by Sam Graham-Felsen, the Barack Obama strategist who masterminded his social media campaign during the last presidential election
In this article
- British co-operative movement
- Charles Gould
- Co-operatives UK
- Consumers' cooperative
- Human Interest
- International Co-operative Alliance
- Juan Somavía
- Mayan towers
- Mexican government
- Pauline Green
- Person Career
- Rochdale Principles
- Social Issues
- The Co-operative brand
- The Co-operative Group