Pauline Green, former chief executive of Co-operatives UK, has been elected President of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) at its General
Assembly in Geneva.
Dame Pauline — the sole candidate for the role — is the first woman President of the organisation that dates back to 1895. Alban D’Amours, Chair of the ICA’s
Restructuring Working Group, who announced the appointment to delegates, said: “This is indeed an historic moment for the ICA as she becomes the first woman ICA President. It took a while before we got from one man, one vote to one person, one vote.”
Taking the podium, following her election, Dame Pauline said: “Thank you for the trust you have given me by electing me as President of our global movement.
I will pursue the development of the co-operative global family in my way and with all the passion and drive that I have. I have a particular message for the
hundreds of thousands of women serving our movement around the world. I want them to know that after nearly 115 years the ICA has its first woman President.
“I feel humbled to be its first woman President. But we all need to acknowledge that since its inception co-operation has upheld equality between men and women as a key principle. Yet around the world, often, that equality is more noticeable in its omission than its commission. And I hope our women co-operators take heart from having a woman President — and I can tell them that they will have all my support.”
The ICA is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and was founded in 1895 in London to unite and represent millions of co-operatives around
the globe. With a remit of promoting the co-operative economic and social model, the ICA enjoys consultative status at the United Nations and works closely with the International Labour Organisation.
Dame Pauline told the News: “I am obviously honoured and also humbled by my appointment. There has never been a greater need for increased international
co-operation than now. Whether you look at the climate threat, the global economic situation or international understanding, almost all of the world’s most pressing issues need co-operation to help sort them out. My role will be to promote co-operation, both economic and social, to help bring about positive change for all people and for all countries.”
The current economic crisis has brought to the fore how interdependent the world’s financial markets are and how ordinary people have been alienated by big
corporate institutions. According to Dame Pauline, one of her key priorities as President of the ICA is going to be raising the profile of co-operatives as a grassroots movement with huge potential to empower people and communities. “Together the top 300 co-operatives globally are responsible for an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, that’s nearly the same size as the Spanish economy. They really are a global force,” she said.
Addressing delegates, Dame Pauline said: “The ICA is a changed organisation, thanks to the quite incredible work of the outgoing global board and the support of the staff of the ICA in Geneva, New Delhi, Nairobi and Brussels, this organisation has reformed itself.
“Internally, the organisation is ready to move on from the reformed platform of the last few years. At the same time the world is travelling through a difficult and stressful economic period when trust and confidence in the traditional financial and business sectors has been severely shaken — some would say destroyed.
“It is time for change. A change of pace, change of focus and change of direction. In the true spirit of our founding fathers it is time for us to take our future in our own hands and begin to act like a real global organisation in the 21st Century.”
Another area of work that Dame Pauline is keen to address is the business benefit of working with other co-operatives around the world. “Too many co-operators
think that the ICA and other bodies are talking shops, but I am passionate that we demonstrate to our members how beneficial the ICA is. An excellent example is how at an ICA event a coffee growers’ co‑operative from Brazil met the US Cooperative Business International and this has resulted in direct business for the growers,” she told the News.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, added: “It is great that Pauline has been appointed to this position. Across the world co-ops play an important part in alleviating poverty and creating wealth and employment for millions of people. We are looking forward to working with the ICA and Pauline to make sure this message is heard as widely as possible.”