Sweden: The co-operative advantage in fighting poverty

Billions of people live under subsistence level. Millions die of poverty. The gaps between countries are growing. The United Nations have agreed about the Millennium Development Goals and to...

Billions of people live under the subsistence level. Millions die of poverty. The gaps between countries are growing. The United Nations has agreed the Millennium Development Goals to work for a radical reduction in poverty by the year 2015.

The Swedish Cooperative Centre ( SCC ) was founded in 1958 with the intention of expressing its solidarity from the simple idea of helping poor people to improve their lives. SCC is today one of the most important development agencies in Sweden.

The work is based on the principle 'help for self-help' with the vision for 'a world free from poverty and injustice'.

Self-organization by the poor is a pre-condition for successful anti-poverty work. Poor people need influence on their lives, not charity. Development comes about as a result of people taking initiatives and organizing themselves.

Cooperatives combine democracy and social responsibility with business development and economic activities. As other actors in the business world, cooperatives are exposed to competition. They need to be skilled and they need support from development agencies in building capacity.

SCC:s main working areas are around Rural Development, Housing and Habitat and Financial Services.

An incredible 75 percent of the world's poor live in rural areas and many of them are farmers. Agriculture is vital if they want food on the table and earn a living from the harvest. SCC provides training and strengthens the farmers position in the market.

Adequate housing is a human right. SCC support local housing cooperatives in which the members themselves build their own houses and together manage their common areas.

Many poor people have no banking system to turn to in order to save and borrow money. SCC support the establishment of local cooperative savings and credit societies.

If cooperatives did not exist, they would have to be invented with the mission to contribute substantially to the reduction of poverty.

Fund-raising from cooperative members of SCC in Sweden is the most important source of income. The fund-raising activities stimulate active engagement and participation. The efforts have year after year broken records. It boosts the capacity to make a difference in fighting poverty.

SCC is active in the International Cooperative Alliance, for the moment in planning seminars and other activities in 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives. Hopefully the Year will increase the public awareness and knowledge of cooperatives and their potential. 

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