Co-operatives around the world celebrated the International Day of Co-operatives on 4 July 2015. With the theme ‘choose co-operative, choose equality’, the sector hosted many events around the subject. Here are just a few of those …
To mark the International Day of Co-operatives, the federal government of Australia announced a AUD $14m package to support farmer co-operatives.
“The government has responded to our two key industry recommendations; to improve access to information on forming co-operatives so that farmers can compete for success in gaining better access up and down the supply chain; and to hasten the adoption of the new national legislation for co-operatives,” said Melina Morrison, chief executive of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals.
“This funding commitment shows that the government recognises the need for more co-operatives to ensure agricultural producers get a fair return at the farm gate. It’s a turnaround from the pattern of demutualisations of the past couple of decades.
“The government has also recognised that helping farmers form co-operatives will help them to attract investment. The Cooperatives National Law (CNL) regime provides better access to external capital funding by allowing a type of hybrid security to be issued.”
Co-operatives account for significant agricultural markets. CBH Group, a BCCM member, ships an average of 40% of Australia’s grain harvest every year. The world’s biggest exporter of rock lobster is Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative. Victorian dairy co-op, Murray Goulburn, a BCCM member, processes a third of Australia’s milk supply with two of the top five businesses in the IBIS World Top 500 being agricultural co-operatives.
Credit unions in Barbados have been distancing themselves from the co-operative sector, according to Donville Inniss, the minister of small business and industry.
So in a celebration for the International Day of Co-operatives, he encouraged unions to embrace and be more of a part of the sector. As reported by Barbados Today, Mr Inniss said: “I am a little bit concerned that credit unions seem to have moved away from the co-operative movement to some extent.”
Mr Inniss thinks that “perhaps the focus of the credit unions today is seeing how they can compete with the traditional commercial banking sector,” which is a “fundamental danger”.
“Credit unions must return to and must accept their fundamental origins,” he said, “which is that they emerged from the bosom of the co-operative spirit and I therefore would make a call for credit unions in Barbados to do more with the hundreds of millions of dollars in resources to help us form more co-operatives in Barbados.”
“Co-operatives help to reduce inequality by empowering people through dignified and sustainable ways of making a living,” said the South African minister of small business development, Lindiwe Zulu.
At a conference to celebrate the international day, she told delegates: “Inequality has serious negative socio-economic and security consequences … Co-operatives are a proven force for economic and social inclusion.”
Around 1,500 co-operative members alongside policy makers and other stakeholders celebrated the day at the conference which focused on equality.
In addition to the conference, there were exhibitions that raised awareness of support services for co-operatives from government departments, development agencies and private sector players.
The director-general of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder, has backed co-operatives as a vehicle to promote “social justice and decent work for all”.
In his message for the day, Guy Ryder highlighted the record of co-operatives. “In the rural and informal economies we have seen first-hand how women, youth and indigenous peoples are increasing their income and their standard of living by using the co-operative way of working,” he said. “From a California-based initiative in which marginalized women workers run worker-owned green businesses, to a furniture making co-operative that employs people with disabilities in the Philippines to a Tanzanian co-operative that supports educational expenses of orphans and vulnerable children with significant revenues generated from the sales of their products.”
Mr Ryder added: “Worker co-operatives and multi-stakeholder co-operatives are rapidly increasing and have provided the means for workers in companies that are going bankrupt, unemployed youth, and laid off public workers to enjoy the prospect of a better future.
“Their values of ‘equality and equity’ are translated into members’ equal voting rights and access to the products and services of the co-operative, as well as to an equitable distribution of surpluses. In addition to creating a viable enterprise model that generates productivity and income, co-operatives are well placed to help tackle social inequalities, discrimination and exclusion based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and differential abilities.”
Mr Ryder added: “The ILO looks forward to working more closely with cooperative enterprises to promote co-operative ideals and to expand access to opportunities for decent work, an objective reflected in the renewed partnership agreement signed on 30 June by the ILO and the ICA and by joint work such as a recent ILO/ICA survey on cooperatives and gender equality.”
Co-operatives can play an important role in tackling hunger, according to the vice-president of India’s apex body NCUI.
Dr. Bijendra Singh celebrated the international day at the organisation’s head office in Delhi, where he talked about the equality theme.
Meanwhile, the managing trustee of the charity run by agricultural co-op IFFCO, said co-operatives need to empower women. Dr. J.N.L. Shrivastava highlighted the fact that women do not have an important say in the decision-making of co-operatives, since many co-ops do not practice equality on the board.
He said that IFFCO Foundation has recently conducted various women leadership programmes so as to bring women on parity with men in the leadership role. Dr. Shrivastava further emphasised on the need to involve youth participation in co-operatives.
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