IT is impossible for me to start this greeting without mentioning the terrible natural disasters that have occurred over the last 12 months.
No sooner had we written our messages for 2005 when tragedy struck in Asia. The tsunami not only caused massive loss of life and tremendous devastation, but also caught up many co-operators whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed.
The terrific response to our tsunami appeal, which raised in excess of £ 400,000, is now helping us to rebuild communities and economies.
In the summer, tragic thoughts were reawakened with the terrible news of the hurricane hitting the southern United States, which again affected many co-operatives and co-operators. Finally, the horrific earthquake in Pakistan added to a dreadful year of natural disasters.
In all these cases we must pay tribute not only to the people and businesses that have given so generously, but also to the committed and rapid response of organisations such as the Disasters Emergency Committee and the International Co-operative Alliance. The ICA has shown itself to be ready and capable of responding to all these calamities on behalf of the worldwide co-operative movement.
Meanwhile Co-operatives UK has been focusing its efforts on supporting our members, providing new services, establishing new support networks and putting forward a unified voice to government, the media and business.
At a policy level we are seeing real results from our efforts, with greater recognition by all tiers of government for the vital role co-operation can play in today's society.
At Co-operatives UK we have taken time to reflect on our role and at a recent Board meeting we redefined our purpose as, "to promote, develop and extend co-operative enterprise".
The addition of the word "promote" is important as it means we recognise our responsibility to be more proactive in getting the co-operative message across.
We must be guided by our values, of course, to ensure that we promote the co-operative advantage in a meaningful and accurate way, as widely as possible. And surely that would be a great New Year's resolution for us all?
Between them, co-operative businesses produce large amounts of promotional literature and advertising materials, so why not make sure we use these to explain the co-operative advantage?
I know many co-operatives have started to do this but I would encourage everyone to find ways of doing it – whether on the web, in the press or in product adverts on TV. That way we can make even more people aware of the benefits of co-operation, at almost no extra cost!
On behalf of all my colleagues at Co-operatives UK can I wish you a very happy and successful 2006.
• More New Year messages are in the current edition of Co-op News (January 10).