International news round up (9-22 April)

Nepal Over 800 co-operators have met in Kathmandu for Nepal’s first Co-operative Congress. The event was attended by President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav; Prime Minister Sushil Koirala;...


Over 800 co-operators have met in Kathmandu for Nepal’s first Co-operative Congress. The event was attended by President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav; Prime Minister Sushil Koirala; and President of the International Co-operative Alliance, Dame Pauline Green.

Delegates at the Congress adopted the Kathmandu Declaration, which highlights the importance of co-operative enterprises to the country’s economic development. The document suggests amending the current Co-operative Act, to provide a friendlier legislative environment for co-operatives.

Dame Pauline said: “Nepal’s co-operative movement is enjoying a resurgence and agricultural co-ops are multiplying across the country, doing much to help lower the number of those living below the poverty line. As ever, the challenge now is to help farmers to move on to the development of co-operatively owned value chains, so that their communities can benefit from the additional prosperity that will bring. This 800-strong Congress was as lively, passionate and bursting with committed co-operators as I’ve seen anywhere in the world.”

Canada (Quebec)

This year’s International Summit of Co-operatives will look at how co-operatives could help build a better world by addressing a number of global issues, including food security.

While the International Panel on Climate Change published a report that highlights the drastic consequences climate change could have on food security, co-operatives aim to prove they can find solutions by driving innovation.

The Summit will feature keynote presentations from a number of industry experts, including Yves Pelle, associate at Price Waterhouse Cooper France (PwC); Christian Pèes, President of European agri-cooperatives and Greg Wickham, chief executive of Dairylea.

According to Mr Pèes, in order to respond to future challenges, co-operatives must seek to improve technological development, invest in research and provide advice and training for their farmers. He believes co-operatives must position themselves as drivers of innovation. Agricultural co-operatives, he says, can afford to make choices that are more sustainable and take the future into account.

South Africa

In KwaZulu-Natal, one of the poorest provinces of South Africa, a three-year course in co-operative management offers students the chance to learn about co-operatives and get hands-on experience.

The first students of the diploma course are due to graduate this year and they have already been offered internships at local co-operatives through the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT) of KwaZulu-Natal.

One of the students at the University of Zululand, Kwanele Mkhwanzi, is also a founding member of the university’s Co-operative Management Studies Society. He says the course has helped to change his perspective on entrepreneurship. Kwanele now believes that social entrepreneurship is the solution to many of the socio-economic challenges the country is facing.

“I have learned that true co-operatives can really make a difference to the lives of many people,” he said. “In a country like South Africa, which is faced with a high level of youth unemployment, co-operatives have proved to be the hidden alternative.”


Insurance co-operatives are driving change in the United States’ health care sector. Twenty-four Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) have so far been created under the Affordable Care Act.

These are consumer-owned, though not all of them work as co-operatives. However, all CO-OPs have a board made up and elected by their members and they also need to work on a non-profit basis. One of the health co-operatives emerging from this initiative is CoOportunity Health, which was awarded $112.6m (£67.3m) for start-up and on-going operations in Iowa and Nebraska. The CO-OP now has over 70,000 members across the two states.

According to Ms McGivern, PR and social media manager at CoOpportunity, what members appreciate the most are the health insurance plans, the competitive rates and the member service they receive at CoOportunity. “Last year the dominant [health care] carrier announced for the first time in more than 20 years that it was ‘freezing’ its rates for 2014. We like to believe our existence is what influenced that decision,” she said.


In an attempt to reform Cuba’s economy, Raúl Castro’s government is placing a stronger emphasis on co-operative development by leasing state owned enterprises to employees. Already, over 450 co-operatives have been created across the country as a result of this initiative. The new worker co-operatives are active in various sectors, including food and retail, industry, commerce and services.

While admitting that the reform process was far from perfect and had been affected by the government’s errors and lack of experience, Mr Castro encouraged those involved to provide feedback.

At his meeting with the Council of Ministers last month, the Cuban leader said that the creation of co-operatives in sectors other than agriculture was an experiment. Should this prove to be successful, the government will be looking at creating thousands more co-operatives by enabling employees to take over the enterprises they work for.


Credit union representatives met with European Union officials in Brussels to discuss credit union legislation and regulation in the context of the 2014 European parliamentary elections. Delegates from the World Council of Credit Unions and the European Network of Credit Unions debated with EU policymakers the implementation of the Basel III liquidity rules.

The Basel III Agreement introduces two new liquidity ratios that are intended to ensure that banks hold sufficient liquidity aside for crisis situations which could place an extra burden on credit unions.

According to Brian Branch, the President and chief executive of WOCCU, European credit unions face complex regulatory challenges that require constant communication with regulators and policymakers to protect the interest of credit unions.

“With ENCU’s help, the World Council will continue giving credit unions a global voice to influence standards that apply at national, regional and international levels,” he said.

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