Welcome to the International Year of Co-operatives

January 1st is the beginning of a year-long schedule of activities to raise the profile of co-operatives during the United Nations' International Year of Co-operatives.

January 1st is the beginning of a year-long schedule of activities to raise the profile of co-operatives during the United Nations' International Year of Co-operatives.

Across the world, co-operators and co-operatives will come together to celebrate the Co-operative Movement's year with hundreds of activities planned to promote the co-operative voice.

Many of these people and organisations have spoken to Co-operative News, the Global News Hub, to tell readers about their plans for 2012, which are all listed on our special mini-site along with an interactive map. The International Co-operative Alliance has also shared a number of messages from its board members across the world published in its eDigest newsletter.

The ICA's Director General Chuck Gould outlines the global body's ambitions to turn this year into the start of a co-operative decade, "with the goal of the co-operative being the fastest-growing model of enterprise by 2020".

In the United States, Paul Hazen, Chief Executive of the National Cooperative Business Association, says the time is right for co-operatives especially in the wake of the Occupy movement along with the "response to the recent recession and the concentration of wealth in the top 1% will propel cooperatives to new levels".

On a similar theme, Shaun Tarbuck, Chief Executive of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) — which is a sectoral organisation of the ICA — says this is "our time" and that it is also "a time to celebrate cooperative values and cooperation".

David Rodgers, President of the ICA's Housing Board, said the housing sector will help build a fairer world for all; and the organisation will start this through the encouragement of co-operatives using sustainable timber in new-build projects.

In Canada, Claude Gauthier, President at the Canadian Co-operative Association, proclaims that the "International Year is about more than events and celebrations: when the year is over, we want it to have a legacy that will live far beyond 2012".

At Desjardins in Quebec, Monique Leroux the financial organisation's President and Chief Executive says "we need to put people first — and that’s what cooperatives are all about". While, Ms Leroux's colleague, Anne Garboury, President and Chief Executive Officer, Développement International Desjardins, believes that co-operative values will guide the movement through the International Year.

In South America, Dr. Ariel E. Guarco, President, COOPERAR — Argentina's confederation of co-operatives — says the movement has existed for 100 years in the country and the International Year will be a platform to further raise the profile of the business model.

Lourdes Ortellado Sienra, Director of PANAL, Paraguay's property insurance co-operative, declares that "studies of experiences from different countries tell us that cooperatives have played an important role in the economies".

In Europe, Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, the United Kingdom's representative body for co-operatives, says the country's celebrations for the International Year will begin during a national launch on January 12th.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, says the Welsh launch of the International Year will begin on January 10th, which marks the development organisation's 30th anniversary alongside the publication of a report looking at the impact of co-operatives across the country.

Len Wardle, Chair of the UK's consumer society the Co-operative Group and also ICA board member, believes the co-operative model is the answer to the world's problems especially "against the backdrop of communities left picking up the pieces of a global recession". Mr Wardle adds: "We must seize this opportunity to put forward the compelling case for co-operation."

At Credit Cooperatif in France, Director General Jean-Louis Bancel wants more customers to become members involved with the running of the co-operative in 2012, while Jean-Claude Detilleux, President of the Foundation Credit Cooperative declares that 2012 will be a great year for co-operatives.

Lennart Hjalmarson, former Chief Executive Officer of Swedish Co-operative Centre and ICA board member, argues that the co-operative advantage can help to fight poverty. He writes: "Poor people need influence on their lives, not charity. Development comes about as a result of people taking initiatives and organizing themselves."

Poland's Janusz Paszkowski, President of the National Auditing Union of Workers’ Co-operatives, thanks the global movement for its help in pursuding the government to reject co-operative legislation that would affect the country's co-operatives. Mr Paszkowski says that in 20 years the number of co-operatives has halved to 12,000; and that the business model has a "bad reputation" in Poland.

In Russia, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Chair, Centrosojuz of the Russian Federation, writes about the 180th anniversary of consumer co-operation in the country and how Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is backing the movement's ideals.

In Zimbabwe, Sithembiso Nyoni, the country's Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, believes there is great excitement for the International Year; and during 2012 she will help to establish a co-operative college and a co-operative finance institution to facilitate co-operatives and SMEs training and financing.

In Nigeria, Victor Oyegoke, President and National Coordinator of the Nigerian Youth Cooperative Network, writes about how co-operatives are changing the country, not just through empowering workers to start their own businesses, but socially through providing loans to build houses and pay for wedding ceremonies.

Moving across to Asia, Abolhassan Khalili, Managing Director, Iran Oilseeds & Vegetable Oil Processing Cooperative, lists the challenges facing the vegetable oil industry in general, with the global increase in prices being one of the main threats.

Dr. Udai Shanker Awasthi, Managing Director, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), which represents almost 40,000 individual co-operatives across India, writes about the sector's performance in 2011. He says that the depreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar has had a severe effect on farmers. Despite this Dr Awasthi says: "Our Board of Directors decided not to pass on the entire burden of this price rise to the farmers and the farming community even at the cost of profit."

In China, Li Chunsheng, Vice-President of the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives, believes 2012 is an opportunity to market the co-operative brand to a captive audience. He says: "With more exposure of cooperatives in public news, and appropriately timed advertisements this means less investment with more returns."

Singapore's Seah Kian Peng, former Chair of the SNCF Executive Council and Advisor to Singapore IYC Committee, looks at challenging changes that have faced the country's credit co-operatives following the global financial crisis. He says: "Changes are always difficult, more so when historically none of the credit co-operatives have collapsed due to investment, low liquidity, bad debts and/or low capital adequacy ratio."

David Griffiths, Secretary of Co-operatives Australia, outlines the country's achievements so far in the promotion of the International Year, which include a commemorative coin and a set of stamps being released. He also looks forward to the potential of a national law for co-operatives being adopted during the year.

Click here to read in full all of the 'Welcome to 2012' messages. Also, tell the world about how your co-operative is going to celebrate the International Year of Co-operatives by sending in your own message.

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