Asia-Pacific co-operative ministers commit to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Co-operative Ministers met in Vietnam in April to pledged their support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

More than 200 participants met in Hanoi for the annual Asia-Pacific Cooperative Ministers’ Conference on 18 -21 April, where they pledged their support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The conference, which featured delegates from 25 countries in the region, was organised by the International Co-operative Alliance’s office for Asia-Pacific. It concluded with the adoption of a declaration calling on co-ops in Asia-Pacific to back the SDGs and report the progress they achieve on the platform In addition, the Hanoi APCMC Resolution encourages the sector to devise instruments on care and social economy; strengthen linkages among co-operatives; undertake evidence-based research; and better understand and serve the national co‐operative movements in various geographical areas.

With the SDGs as its key focus, the conference was themed “Visioning Ahead to 2030: Promoting Stronger Partnerships between Government and Co-operative Stakeholders in realising the SDGs.” Ministers looked at issues such as food sovereignty and the role of producers and consumers, new co-operative approaches, public-private partnerships, co-ops and the transition from the informal to the formal economy and creating regulatory and legislative enabling environments.

Speaking at the conference, Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, vice president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, said: “The achievements of the globalisation process are not allocated equally among countries in the region, co-operatives and population community. The scientific and technological advances can increase the development distance between economies and cooperatives as well as the gap between the rich and poor gap and among people classes in the region.”

Hamid Kalantari, deputy minister for Co-operatives of Iran, talked about the important role played by co-ops in employment generation and the creating of wealth, adding that the country’s constitution recognised co-ops as the second most important economic sector. According to the minister, another SDG area where co-operatives are already making a difference in gender equality.

Joe Y. Natuman, deputy prime minister and minister for Trade, Tourism, Industry & Cooperatives of Vanuatu explained how co-operatives were making an important contribution to gender equality in the country by enabling women to hold senior leadership positions.

Co-ops can also help address demographic issues such as ageing populations. Toru Yamamoto, head of the Office of Consumers’ Cooperative Societies at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan said: “In Japan, the rebuilding of community-based mutual assistance is becoming a challenge. Therefore, we strive to nurture human ties once again in a local community, the foundation of people’s lives. The goal is to realise ‘regional cohesive societies’ that is a generous society, where people respect and embrace diversity. At our Consumer Co-operatives, residents organise themselves to resolve challenges in their communities; make a financial contribution to form a co-operative and operate their own businesses that are necessary.”

Participants also looked at how co-operatives can help to link producers and consumers and give farmers greater bargaining power.

The ministers attending the event committed to help reform co-ops to meet current and emerging needs and create an enabling environment for co-ops. They also recognised the region’s role in ensuring the commitment of co-ops to SDGs can be met. They also raised questions about the probability of turning the goals into reality and the possibility of focusing on only some aspects or doubling the efforts of co-ops to meet the objectives.