Brazil is on fire economically and co-operatives are part of it wherever you turn.
I arrived here in Rio just days ago to participate in the United nations Rio+ 20 negotiations – the consummate negotiations of the global community to set priorities for sustainable development, poverty reduction and environmental protection for the coming decade. It soon became clear that co-operatives are a major player here in Brazil as evidenced by their roles in Rio life.
The traffic jams in this country are of mega size – still it is possible to thrill to the fact that the mini vans alongside of us may have a co-operative sign on them – for they are part of a growing fleet of co-operative transportation that gets Cariocas (Rio residents) to their jobs, to their schools, etc.. You may lift a glass of wine produced in a wine co-operative from southern Brazil or carry a handbag produced by one of the Brazilian craft co-operatives here in Rio. If you eat sardines as part of your meal, it may come from the co-operative that was started by a failed company, which on the verge of bankruptcy, was given over to the workers by its owner. It is viable once again.
Brazil’s commitment to co-operatives comes from the highest reaches. In these Rio negotiations, which began in January and have been deliberated month after month at the UN, the Brazilian delegation has been unwavering in its efforts to get wording into the final document that reflects the importance of co-operatives.
And back in Rio, it would not have been possible for me to manoeuvre through Rio life getting to meetings, working my way through security etc. without help from Ghislaine Dalcin who handles Markets for Sistema OCB/SESCOOP-RJ and Luis Amaral the organization’s president’s aide. Both have devoted themselves to every aspect of this week’s work to help us get into UN history. The Brazilian co-operative group based here in Rio trains, guides and educates cooperators, those who work for co-operatives and their families in Rio. Its president Marcos Diaz manages a staff of 50 who cover all the areas of Rio.
What stands out for me in Rio life is how natural co-operatives are as part of the mainstream – not an after thought where one needs to challenge the sitting government to make use of in making political and social decisions. And also how naturally co-operatives lend themselves as values base business models wherever the need arises: transportation, agriculture, handicrafts, health insurance, etc.
When it comes to co-operatives, Brazil is a model for how it should be.
Betsy Dribben is Director of Policy at the International Co-operative Alliance – the global apex organisation for co-operatives. ICA members represent one billion people worldwide. Contact Betsy at [email protected], she’s at the Rio+20 negotiations this week.