Building a decade of Co-operation together

Co-operatives are businesses, which are run by their members. They work for the people, not against them. They can be huge worldwide businesses or be run by only...

Co-operatives are businesses, which are run by their members. They work for the people, not against them. They can be huge worldwide businesses or be run by only a few people.

They exist across every sector, from banks to bars, and they are powered by the people who run them, the power of WE.

This year was named the United Nation’s International Year of Cooperatives (IYC); millions of co-operators from around the world celebrated a movement that continues to change lives.

Whilst the world struggles to recover from the global economic crisis, co-operatives have proved to be more sustainable, showing the power of co-operation, the power of WE.

The Co-operative Movement has more than 1 billion members worldwide, the 300 largest co-operatives have a collective revenue of USD 1.6 trillion, which is comparable to the GDP of the world’s ninth largest economy – Spain.

Co-operatives help people gain better access to food, improve livelihoods, bring people out of poverty and allow them to take charge of their own lives.

Now with the International Year of Cooperatives soon coming to an end, co-operators from all over the world are invited to Manchester to help shape the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade at Co-operatives United from 29 October to 2 November:

Co-operatives want to bring the Power of WE to everyone.

The IYC presented itself as the perfect opportunity for co-operatives to show they can build a better world.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said: “The global crisis has also proved the ability of regeneration of the alternative financial institutions such as co-operative banks or gold and credit union co-operatives.” He continued by emphasising that co-operatives empower their members, strengthen communities, promote food security and enhance opportunities for small agricultural producers.

Speaking after a co-operative conference in Nicosia, Klaus Niederländer, Director of Co-operatives Europe, said: ”In these times of economic uncertainty and social pressure in Europe, policy makers and co-operatives need to work more closely together to provide new solutions. Action is a must and simply waiting is not an option. New ways of collaboration will have to be tested.”

Co-operators across the world marked the International Year through a series of conferences, debates, and activities aimed at promoting the co-operative principles.

In Singapore, President Tony Tan launched ‘Co-opaliciouz’, an event that brought together 15, 000 people on the 9 June to help raise awareness of the Co-operative Movement’s social impact.

Flags of co-operation were flown at the highest point of the world, as a group of co-operators from Nepal reached the summit of Mount Everest. In India, a Bollywood producer has arranged a two-day conference in India to promote the former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s dream of a better Co-operative Movement.

Referring to the International Year, International Co-operative Alliance President, Dame Pauline Green, said that although every country celebrates the Year in its own way, “to see the entire global movement coming together under the same UN banner is inspiring”, proving that “only by working together can we show our current strength and global impact, and demonstrate that co-operative enterprises really do build a better world.”

It is a sad fact that nearly 1 billion people go hungry every year, with 6 million children dying of starvation. By 2050 there will be an estimated extra 2 billion people in the world.

The world is going through a food crisis that is only going to get worse and co-operatives could provide the answer. More than 75 per cent of the world's poor live in rural areas and many of them are farmers. By working together, smallholder farmers across the developing world have better access to resources, and better bargaining power.

They are able to cut out the middleman and get fair prices for their produce. The Co-operative Movement also has strong ties with Fairtrade, who this year released a report explaining that it was producer organisations that were behind their recent sales boost in 2011.

This is also why the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation named ‘Agricultural Co-operatives: Key to Feeding the World’ as their theme for World Food Day on 16 October 2012.

During the International Year, co-ops have shown how co-operation can bridge the gap between North and South, tackle poverty and address climate change. The UN has recognised the important role they play in fulfilling the Millennium development Goals.

Co-operatives were given the IYC for a reason, because co-operatives can change the world. They can harness the power of WE and use it to empower everyone.

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