Co-operative experience: Ariel Guarco has been the president of Cooperar, the national apex organisation for co-operatives in Argentina, since 2001 and a member of the Alliance’s board since 2013. Cooperar works with 67 co-operative federations, 5,000 co-operatives and ten million members. He first got involved in the co-operative movement by holding different positions in his local electric co-operative, and today still presides over the Buenos Aires Electric Cooperative Federation.
Agenda for the Alliance: Mr Guarco says that as president he would focus on ensuring a better representation of members by placing a stronger emphasis on relationships with co-operatives in different countries at grassroots level. This can be ensured by working closely with the Alliance’s regional and sectoral offices, he says. Another priority for him would be to find new ways of financing the Alliance, which is currently funded via membership fees.
“To achieve this we need a political body like the board of the Alliance that is active, dynamic and interactive, working closely with those that implement these policies, with the Alliance’s staff members,” he says. “We are truly convinced that co-operation is a tool for social transformation.”
Sustainability: Regarding the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, Mr Guarco thinks the 27 points mentioned on the agenda proposed at the Sustainability Summit are a “daily currency” for the co-operative movement, which focuses on local development, generating decent employment and producing in a sustainable way. He believes a good example of this could be public service co-ops that provide services to seven million people in Argentina.
Sustainable development is just one potential common objective for the UN and the Alliance, says Mr Guarco. This can be an opportunity to work on achieving similar goals. He explains how following Pope Francis’ meeting with representatives from the Alliance and Cooperar in 2013, a number of Argentinian youth and Christian organisations and churches have started choosing co-operatives as service providers. “There are great opportunities to work together.”
What the movement can learn from Argentina: In 2002, Argentina found itself in a severe economic crisis, with half of its population struggling to maintain employment and more than 25% living in poverty.
“With over 100 years of history, co-operatives were able to use their experience and resources and help the most affected. Our public services co-operatives, which provide electricity, sanitation, internet and other services are present in 1,100 cities, almost half of the country’s total number,” says Mr Guarco. “They continued to provide these crucial services even when people could not pay, and developed a mechanism to provide health, educational, cultural and funeral services.”
He explains how co-ops had also helped in the country’s reconstruction by providing a mechanism for workers to take control of bankrupt enterprises, generating thousands of jobs.
For more information: www.arielguarco.cooperar.coop