The News speaks to Linda McAvan, chair of the European Parliament’s development committee and Fairtrade working group, about the role co-ops could play in development
Co-op News: What do you expect of the European Year for Development 2015?
Linda McAvan: It’s a very important year for promoting development policy across the whole of the EU. The EU is the world’s biggest donor of aid and recent opinion polls show that people in Europe want the EU to lead in that policy area.
CN: How do you see a successful participation of the private sector, including co-ops, in development?
LM: This year, development policy is going to be on the international agenda because the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000 come to an end. There’s a big discussion at the UN on what we are going to do to replace them. There will be a conference in September in New York – the UN summit of leaders from across the world – and we’ll be discussing how to finance development in the future. There’s a big debate about the role of the private sector. Can we harness the private sector to help reduce poverty in developing countries, to help get more growth, create more jobs? I think, within that, co-ops can play a role because they are very good at tackling poverty, creating jobs locally and creating more sustainable business models.
CN: Development goes hand in hand with democracy. Can co-operatives also help to promote this?
LM: I come from a political party which is historically linked with the co-operative movement. It was because people wanted to control their own lives – they wanted to shop somewhere that wasn’t owned by the bosses, so they created co-ops. And, in co-ops, people have more say over what they do. I’ve been involved over many years in working with Fairtrade co-ops and I know from farmers that they prefer them because they have more control over what is happening. That gives them more participation in society.
CN: Do you see a role for renewable energy co-operatives in development processes?
LM: I think that co-ops can play a very important role in renewable energy. I’m a member of a co-operative in my own city, Sheffield, which is trying to promote renewable energy solutions. We know that one of the biggest barriers for development is the lack of access to energy, and I think smaller projects bringing off-grid energy to local communities is a very important way forward.
CN: A lot of Fairtrade products come from co-operatives. Is the EU likely to put forward a European strategy for Fairtrade and, if so, will there be reference towards the co-op model?
LM: Co-operative organisations have been working with the Fairtrade Group in the EU Parliament since we set it up many years ago, because co-ops are very involved in Fairtrade – they help producers to organise themselves and help get products to market. In the UK, the co-op movement is helping co-ops in development countries to set themselves up as we did in our own country. And looking to the future, I think that will continue. It’s a good model and it will continue in the future.
In this article
- Consumer cooperative
- European Parliament
- European Parliament’s Committee of Development
- European Union
- Fair trade
- Fairtrade certification
- Fairtrade Group
- Linda McAvan
- Renewable energy
- renewable energy co-operatives
- renewable energy solutions
- United Kingdom
- United Nations