United Nations declares 2012 as Year of Co-operatives

The United Nations has declared 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives.

UN Member States approved the resolution during the 64th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, which will further promote the co-operative cause across the world.

The UN resolution recognises the co-operative business model is a major factor of economic and social development, promoting the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of people in both the developed and developing world, and that, in particular, co-operatives contribute to the eradication of poverty. The resolution also encourages all governments to create a more supportive environment for co-operative development, particularly when it comes to securing finances for capacity-building. 

Newly-elected President of the International Co-operative Alliance, Pauline Green said: “The International Year of the Co-operatives is a well timed event that represents the depth of understanding of the entire co-operative movement. The co-operative model is a better choice and offers the basis for a more sustainable way to do business when compared to traditional capitalist models now under scrutiny. 

"What sets this model apart from others is that all co-operatives, whether they are small farmers or large consumer-owned entities, share the values of democracy, solidarity, equality, self-help and self responsibility, creating businesses that serve the greater good as opposed to maximising profit for the very few.” 

Iain Macdonald, Director-General of ICA, who is set to retire within the next six months, said: "The International Year of Co-operatives is well timed to remind the world that there is more than one way of doing business and that in a global economy we all have to work together. Whether it is in tackling the economic crisis, the threat of climate change, or food security issues co-operative enterprise offers real hope of solutions to these problems, and I have no doubt that the increased profile offered by an International Year will achieve great things.”

In its 2008 Global 300 report, the ICA noted that the top 300 co-operatives alone are responsible for an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, which represents the size of the 10th largest economy in the world — equivalent to the size of Spain alone. The International Year will provide an opportunity to further document the impact of the largest, but also of the small and medium sized co-operatives that significantly improve people’s lives around the world. 

With this newly approved resolution, the ICA has said it will mobilise the global co-operative community in creating a global campaign featuring a series of events around the world and targeted messages which all co-operatives will be able to use to promote co-operative business. It will work closely with the United Nations and its agencies in addition to other co-operative stakeholder to put the co-operative model of enterprise on international and national agendas. 

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, told the News: “This is fantastic news which will help to raise awareness of the incredible role that co-operatives play on the world stage. 

“What we do has a real impact on over 800 million international members on a daily basis, so it is tremendous that the UN recognises co-operatives as an important factor in improving the lives of people worldwide. We welcome the UN’s decision and are glad the valuable work of our movement has been given the prominence it deserves.”

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