On Wednesday, 31 October, Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of Plunkett Foundation, presented the Dunsany Declaration to the delegates attending the 11:30 special session at Co-operatives United.
The declaration was issued by the Dunsany Group in the light of World Food Day in order to highlight the positive impact of co-ops on rural development and their key role in feeding a growing population.
The declaration aims to provide an incentive for a decade of co-operative growth in rural communities and feeds into the ICA's Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, adopted yesterday at the General Assembly’s Extraordinary session.
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation that co-ordinated the Dunsany Declaration, explained how the declaration came about: “We wanted to make sure we had a contribution to the International Year, that would last behind it.”
Mr Couchman said it was challenging to make everyone working together.
He further added the International Year provided the opportunities to boost the profile of the co-operative movement, and also to make the rural population’s voice heard.
“It was a cry for rural as well as for co-operatives,” said Peter Couchman in his speech.
The first issue mentioned in the declaration is the benefit co-ops bring in terms of empowering people and promoting democracy. In spite of their positive impact, in Peter Couchman’s view there are significant legal constrains and “poor legislation will always be a barrier” in the way of co-operative development.
Peter Couchman also said it is necessary to inspire future generations and think on long-term. The Chief-Executive of Plunkett Foundation also highlighted the importance of spreading the co-operative message. This was also a key theme in the ICA’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade.
He said: “It is not enough to say co-ops are a good thing. We have to demonstrate our impact. All too often we tend to get lost in hugely academic work”.
“As a movement we are far more powerful than many corporations-we as co-operators shake knowledge.
“We were delighted to look at the Blueprint and see that the five issues in there are also mentioned in the Dunsany Declaration.
He further explained how in spite of the realities within different rural communities around the world, co-ops manage to bring people together.
Present at the event, Martin Lowery, Executive Vice President of the US National Electric Co-operative Association (NRECA) reminded participants of the prophetic role Sir Horace Plunkett has played in promoting co-operatives across the US. His ideas influenced President Roosevelt’s policies, boosting the profile of co-operatives.
Mr Lowery also argued there is a need for co-operative sectors to come together and join their efforts.
Simel Esim, Programme Manager of the Cooperatives Branch at the International Labour Organisation also took part in the discussion. She explained how rural cooperation does not only contribute to improved livelihoods, but also a form of membership based democratic association that allows for collective voice and action encouraging member economic participation, autonomy and independence.
Referring to rural co-operation, she said: "This is critical from the perspective of the ILO as a form of freedom of association in rural areas." She also said rural co-operation can help rural producers and workers gain access to global markets and information, improving their bargaining power, providing services (water, electricity, education, health, finance) and allowing young people to stay in their communities.
Eve Crowley, Senior Officer for Rural Livelihood Strategies and Poverty Alleviation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), also said the core aim of the FAO is to work towards achieving “zero hunger” across the world. She said it is necessary to reduce the amount of food wasted, currently equal to all the food produced in South Sahara. She also stressed out that many countries still do not have freedom of association, making it difficult or impossible for people to form co-operatives.
The Dunsany Declaration also places a strong emphasis on the need for co-operative legislation. With regard to the issue, Simel Esim said: “Even with the best legislation the implementation still needs the kind of resources and structures to make co-ops successful”.
According to the Dunsany Declaration it is also important to gain the support of the national governments. Speaking at the presentation, Eve Crowley said it is essential to co-ordinate strategies with governmental policies."Our mandate is about fighting hunger and rural co-ops are essential,” she said.
There is a growing number of cooperatives in rural areas that address health, housing, infrastructure and financial needs. There are also cooperatives in rural areas new sectors such as cooperatives. "In the light of such diversity it is important that the policies aiming at creating an enabling environment for rural cooperation are not confined to agricultural policies only, but take into account macro policies, trade, financial, fiscal and energy policies as well as sectors such as tourism," said Simel Esim.
Eve Crowley also said: "Working with governments is essential. To achieve scale through a positive environment. We need to be working together as agencies, at national levels cross-ministries."
The Dunsany Declaration makes reference to co-operative-to-co-operative knowledge transfer, building community roots and spreading awareness of the positive impact of co-ops, particularly amongst youths. According to the declaration, access to technologies for rural co-ops is also essential, and so is financial support for rural co-ops.
The Dunsany Declaration, a framework for the development of rural co-operatives internationally, was developed by a range of range of participants from individual co-operatives, United Nations agencies, international co-operative agencies, national co-operative support organisations and co-operative sector representatives who together formed the ‘Dunsany Group’.
Referring to the Declaration, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said: “FAO supports the efforts of the Dunsany Group and the vision for rural co-operative development articulated in the Dunsany Declaration. FAO stands ready to work with other stakeholders to advance this important agenda.”
FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva was a special guest at the session. Earlier on the day, in his speech at the Opening Ceremony of Co-operatives United, Mr Graziano da Silva had referred to the Dunsany Declaration, saying it provides an important contribution to the global plan of action.
In this article
- British co-operative movement
- Business models
- chief executive
- Consumer cooperative
- Dunsany Group
- Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany
- Eve Crawley
- Eve Crowley
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- Horace Plunkett
- Housing cooperative
- Irish literature
- Martin Lowery
- Old Etonians
- Person Career
- Peter Couchman
- Plunkett Foundation
- Rochdale Principles
- Simel Esim
- Social Issues
- The Co-operative brand
- The Co-operative Group
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