Co-ops and the SDGs: How the ICA is working with the EU

We speak to Marc Noël, international development
director at the ICA, about where co-ops go next when it comes to development

In March 2016 the ICA entered a partnership with the European Commission to give more visibility to the co-op model in development processes. We spoke to Marc Noël, international development director at the ICA, to find out more about the process …

The co-operative movement’s engagement with the European Commission started in 2012 when the EU co-financed a project called Cooperatives in Development. Led by Cooperatives Europe, the project aimed to support the activities of the Cooperatives Europe Development Platform (CEDP), which had been running since 2009.

The success of the CEDP, which enabled exchanges within the global co-operative network, prompted the Commission to start a new partnership with the ICA. 

Within the framework of the partnership, the ICA launched the Global Co-operative Development Platform (GCDP), which enables co-operative development actors to exchange knowledge, create synergies and reinforce the role co-operatives play in international development.

“The objective of the European Commission is to strengthen civil society organisations, and we take great pride in seeing the co-operative movement stand as an important actor amongst them,” says Mr Noël.

Those involved in the global platform will be meeting in Kigali before the main ICA Global Conference.

Other highlights of the partnership include the preparation of an online world map, to provide country-by-country data on co-operatives. The ICA offices are also working with legal experts in different countries, to examine how legislation is impacting co-operative development and suggest improvements. The first results of these activities will be presented at the conference in Kigali.

Another important area of work for the partnership is capacity building. The ICA network is conducting workshops for member organisations to help them strengthen advocacy skills and engage further with institutional partners, to benefit from policy dialogue and funding opportunities.

Similarly, the ICA and its offices are leading a number of initiatives aimed at young people interested in co-op models. Earlier this year, it set up a mentorship scheme for young people interested in starting a co-op.

Marc Noël

The Global Cooperative Entrepreneurs scheme will help people aged 18-35 from across the ICA’s four regions to devise co-operative solutions to the needs of their local communities. “It’s about bringing youth entrepreneurship high on the international co-operative development agenda with and through the co-op model,” says Mr Noël. 

In February, the ICA is organising a Global Youth Forum, which will be held in Malaysia. This will be an opportunity for young people involved in co-ops to take part in trainings and peer-to-peer learning processes, and find out more about marketing, financing and other business aspects they may need support with.

With only weeks to go until the Global Conference in Kigali, Mr Noël says delegates have plenty to look forward to.

“The main message would be to take the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with experts in the development sector. There are many organisations within and outside the co-operative movement with whom building partnerships is going to create really valuable synergies, that can help us to foster an inclusive and people-centred growth, in line with our values and principles.”