DURING this year's 84th International Co-operative Day, co-operators are urged to remember that the movement's principles are an important force in the cause for peace building.
Co-operatives around the world are set to celebrate the sector's day held on the first Saturday in July. This year the International Co-operative Alliance is highlighting the claim that Co-op values have helped the world become "safer and more secure".
The day is also recognised by the United Nations, which is holding its 12th UN International Day of Co-operatives.
Iain Macdonald, ICA Director General, said: "Co-operatives have at their core a set of values and principles designed to advance the cause of peace. The values of solidarity, democracy and equality have helped many millions of people throughout the world build social harmony through a secure economic future.
"Co-operatives play a role in helping to address problems, which lead to conflict. They arise out of the need for economic stability whether it is through securing employment or affordable housing, access to credit or consumer products, insurance or markets or the myriad of other needs.
"By ensuring that people have real alternatives to the failures of markets or governments, co-operatives help provide structures, which engage and involve people. By providing a path of inclusion rather than exclusion,
co-operatives empower people to help themselves and hence help eliminate many of the conditions, which can lead to conflict within and between communities."
Added Mr Macdonald: "Co-operatives offer a real alternative in helping to resolve conflict and significantly contribute to rebuilding communities after wars or civil strife by creating conditions to lessen the resurgence of conflict.
"For example, the Palestine and Israeli co-operative movements are currently working together on a range of agricultural marketing projects designed to assist Palestine co-operators improve their livelihoods and by doing so build links between people.
"Housing co-operative movements are assisting in projects in Bosnia and Serbia to help rebuild communities through the creation of co-operative housing and, with it, dialogue among peoples.
"A variety of movements have also been very active in assisting with long-term tsunami reconstruction efforts in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka including in some areas of on-going conflict.
"The ICA calls on all co-operators throughout the world to take the occasion of this year's International Co-operative Day to celebrate all that co-operatives have done and are doing to make the world a safer and more secure place for all."
Dame Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK and President of ICA Europe, told the News: "Thankfully, British co-operators do not have the need to use their co-operatives to build peace in this country, but for many people around the world the situation is very different.
"From the former Yugoslavia to Sri Lanka and the Middle East there are many people bravely working together in co-operative organisations across massive social, religious and political divides.
"And therein lies the strength of co-operation.
"One of the main reasons the ICA is so successful in bringing people together to discuss and resolve issues is its strict non-religious, non-party political stance.
"The co-operative values of democracy, international understanding and equality mean that everyone comes to the negotiating table with the same rights and responsibilities.
"How much better things would be internationally if the same values were consistently respected by those involved in the many conflicts around the world."