The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, announced the official launch of the International Year of Cooperatives from UN headquarters in New York. In a plenary meeting, the United Nations General Assembly kicked off the International Year of Cooperatives, which aims to raise government and public awareness of the important contributions cooperative enterprises make to poverty reduction, job creation and social integration. Mr. Ban said that the year will also highlight the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative way to do business and foster socio-economic development. The road to the 2012 Summit Representatives of the International Summit of Cooperatives, which will take place in October 2012, attended launch activities for the International Year of Cooperatives. One of the events they took part in was a luncheon meeting organized by the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB). During the luncheon, UN Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang emphasized the crucial role cooperative banks play in the development of local economies and called on legislators and regulators to give more consideration to their unique nature. Monique F. Leroux, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group, said that the approach taken by cooperative financial institutions and by the world—based on proximity and solidarity—could inspire new initiatives in emerging countries, at a time when we face tremendous challenges together.