PREPARATIONS are well underway for International Co-operative Day on 5th July, but the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) says that the Movement's power is heavily underestimated.
The theme for the 81st Co-operative Day has been chosen by the ICA and the United Nations as "Co-operatives Make Development Happen" and the message being spread across the world will highlight the contribution co-ops can make to the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The ICA says co-ops can help the UN to eradicate poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.
The ICA's Co-op Day message said: "Co-operatives create and maintain employment providing income; they are responsible for producing and supplying safe and quality food and services to their members, but also to the communities in which they operate.
"Many people still underestimate the scope and size of the Co-operative Movement and how it affects national economies and society in general. 760 million people around the world are members of co-ops.
"In Kenya 20 per cent of the population is a member of a co-op, while in Argentina it is over 29 per cent, 33 per cent in Norway, 40 per cent in Canada and the US.
"Through their varied activities, co-ops in many countries are significant social and economic actors in national economies, making not only personal development a reality, but contributing to the well-being of entire populations."
The ICA statement continues: "The ICA, as the representative body of co-operatives, will be highlighting best practices of how co-ops make development happen at its General Assembly as it focuses on democratic, social and economic development.
"It will also launch a campaign against poverty and hunger to promote the co-op model of business enterprise as a means of helping people to help themselves.
"Co-ops worldwide can add their experiences and activities to the long list of ways they contribute to the MDG by celebrating this international day and sharing knowledge and best practice, by seeking out partners to further activities, and to ensure that people have the opportunity to work through their co-ops to improve their lives.
"Co-ops are making development happen on a daily basis, allowing people to make dreams of a better life a reality."
The day will be celebrated globally with support from the United Nations and various governments. Festivals are taking place all over the UK on the weekend of 5th-6th July.
Scottish Co-op has organised a day at the New Lanark World Heritage Site, on Sunday 6th July from 12 noon – 5 pm. Visit www.co-opday.org or contact 0141 304 5400 for more information. United Co-operatives is hosting a family fun day on the same day in Buxton ? call 0161 493 4569.