Co-ops encouraged to get involved in building a sustainable democracy

The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD) calls upon co-operators from across the world to help to build a sustainable democracy.

The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD) calls upon co-operators from across the world to help to build a sustainable democracy.

The FDSD has launched a Manifesto for Democracy and Sustainability containing six principles that seek to guide a global movement for change.

Halina Wards, Director of the FDSD, encouraged co-operators to sign the Manifesto and said she would like to see the  movement actively engaged in shaping democracy, not simply from an economic perspective, but also as a political system better able to take into account environmental and social justice.

She said: “What would be fabulous would be to see a group of co-operators working together actively to highlight the areas where the practice of democracy, when it comes to sustainability, could really learn from the co-operative movement. I really hope we will see people, or even co-ops, signing up to get involved with that in mind.”

Ms Ward engaged with co-operators at the Future Co-ops 2013 conference in January, she added: “Future Co-ops made me realise that there is a rich seam of experience of democratic decision-making within the co-op movement. I’m convinced that experience, particularly when linked to the values of social justice that underpin many co-op businesses, has many insights for the development of political forms of democracy."

After the conference she signed up to join Midcounties Co-operative.

Jim Pettipher, organiser of Co-operative Futures, said: “I can only applaud the FDSD’s launch of the manifesto and will do anything I can to promote support for and engagement with its delivery. Many of us at Future Co-ops where we first learnt about the manifesto were truly struck by the scale of the manifesto’s vision and by what felt to me very much like a message that our sometimes rather Victorian movement needs to really get behind in the 21st Century. I hope the movement will get behind the manifesto too.”

Ms Ward said that although the co-op movement was not directly involved in laying out the Manifesto, there were plenty of consultation responses, which expressed values that co-operators would no doubt endorse. “One example was proposals for strengthening the basis for inclusive participation through community-owned shops, for example. The Democracy and Sustainability Platform has space for people, whether they’re members or not, to make suggestions on other practical actions that could get democracy working for sustainability and it would be great to see suggestions directly informed by co-operative principles appearing there,” she said.

Ewan Jones, Co-Founder and Chief Executive at The Energy Saving Co-operative, is one of the signatories of the Manifesto. According to Mr Jones, there are certain similarities between the co-op principles and the Manifesto.

He said Principle 2 of the Manifesto — “Take the long view” — refers to the need for sustainability. “Co-ops do not mention that in any of the principles, but the whole idea is about taking the long view. It is in their DNA to take the long view. Co-ops have flourished in society where they have been along for a long time.”

Principle 5 of the Manifesto — “Knowledge must be inclusive” also resonates with principle 5 of ICA’s principles and values, that refers to access to education, training and information.

Speaking of the aim of the Manifesto, Ms Ward concluded: “It’s not a Manifesto that’s just about democracy; it’s about what forms of democracy might work best when it comes to getting to a healthy environment and fairness for everyone, not just now, but also in the future.”

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