UN holds event to discuss the 2025 International Year of Cooperatives

The event took place during the UN High-Level Political Forum

The United Nations hosted an event to soft launch the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) on 9 July.

Held at the UN headquarters in New York, the event was organised by the UN Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (Copac), in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Mongolia and Kenya to the United Nations.

While the IYC2025 will officially launch during the ICA Global Cooperative Conference in November in New Delhi, India, the soft launch event served as a platform to bring UN delegates and co-operators together to plan for the year ahead.

The opening session featured a keynote from John Wilmoth the director of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Undesa), who called on national governments to push the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda.

“Co-operatives are an important component of this work,” he said, calling on co-operatives to demonstrate their relevance as values-based enterprises that build a better world. 

The event also heard from the permanent representative of Mongolia to the UN, Ankhbayar Nyamdorj. Mongolia has been an active supporter of the UN’s resolutions on co-operatives, including that of designating 2025 as the second International Year of Cooperatives. The country was also responsible for proposing the adoption of the first International Year of Cooperatives in 2012.

“We are encouraging fellow member states and institutions to form national and regional committees to organise events and activities commemorating and celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives,” said Nyamdorj.

Paula Narváez, the president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc), also addressed the meeting, providing an overview of some of the global issues co-ops could help to tackle.

“The values and principles of co-operatives make them directly relevant to sustainable development. Participatory decision-making, democratic control by members, equality, solidarity, co-operation and concern for the community are fundamental principles that underpin co-operatives and allow them to contribute to improving the world. These fundamental principles must be promoted more widely so that they can help the world navigate the multiple crises that we currently face,” she said.

Related: Global movement celebrates UN International Day of Co-operatives

In another keynote, Njambi Kinyungu, deputy permanent representative of Kenya to the United Nations, shared her country’s policies around co-ops, including setting up a ministry designated to co-ops. Kenya’s 15,000 co-ops account for 23% of the country’s GDP.

“Kenya, through the bottom-up, economic, transformative agenda framework has placed co-operatives as a critical pillar in powering economic transformation and achieving our sustainable development goals,” she said.

Another country with a strong co-operative sector is India, which will also host the ICA Global Conference in November, with the support of the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative (Iffco).

The UN Permanent Representative of India, H.E. R. Ravindra, highlighted the importance of the Indian co-operative movement with a combined membership of 300 million people.

“I recall during my childhood in my village, the favourite activity in the evening for children of my age, was to go to the big co-operatives to contribute the day’s milk to the dairy co-operatives. During holidays, we went to IFFCO’s unit in the local area to fetch the fertilisers. So, that is the kind of influence it had on my life, and millions of Indians,” said Ravindra.

“In this context, we are very happy to host the next global conference in New Delhi later this year, coinciding with the second International Year of Cooperatives, which is in 2025. We hope the conference will help us to explore new areas of co-operation, exchange best practices, and also to learn from each other, particularly success stories,” he added.

ICA president Ariel Guarco also addressed the meeting, highlighting the movement’s sense of pride in the IYC slogan – Cooperatives build a better world.

“We’re very proud of this because it’s the daily action of all these co-operatives. And we also have a sense of responsibility. We know that the world is looking towards us, perhaps as they’ve never done before, to use co-operatives as the most direct vehicle towards sustainable development. Humbly, I think that we are up to this responsibility,” he said.

He was echoed by the ICA director-general, Jeroen Douglas, who said the IYC is an opportunity for co-operatives to amplify their message for building a better world.

“Come to Delhi help to amplify your co-operative message,” he said at the event. “We are united through our diversity in the movement and the Global Conference is there also to create a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging, to meet friends, to meet colleagues, to mark your personal history as well. So please join us for the journey that we are going to make together and ensure that through your presence, we are building this forward-looking agenda, because together, we can unlock a future of possibilities where co-operation reigns supreme and prosperity will be a shared reality for all,” he added.

During the event speakers also encouraged countries and institutions to form national and regional committees that will take the lead in organising events and activities for commemorating and celebrating the international year.

Meeting participants at the UN HQs in new York

National apexes, along with regional ICA offices, intend to use the year to raise awareness about co-operatives. Some of these plans were highlighted during the meeting.

“The Asia Pacific region is a vibrant hub for co-operatives, with over 500 million members spread across most of the countries and business sector,” pointed out Dr Chandrapal Singh Yadav, the president of ICA Asia and Pacific. “Let us seize this momentum to celebrate and amplify the co-operative spirit that brings us together and build a better world for all,” he added.

The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (Iffco) is the host of the November ICA Global Conference in New Delhi. Iffco’s president, Dileep Sanghani, revealed that the Indian Ministry of Co-operation will be working with all co-operative apexes in the country to promote the IYC. He also issued an invitation to all to attend the ICA Global Conference in New Delhi in November.

“In the Americas, we will be entering into a dialogue with all stakeholders in the social economy to multiply our efforts,” said Graciela Fernández, president of the Cooperativas de las Américas.

“The Organisation of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) will also take advantage of the International Year to advocate for advancing the legal framework for the co-operative movement,” added OCB’s general manager, Fabiola Motta.

“Precisely 180 years ago, the values and principles of co-operation were devised by the Rochdale Pioneers in my home city-region of Greater Manchester,” said Rose Marley, the CEO of Co-operatives UK. “With the support of the UN, the ICA and all of you here, we believe we can forge a new and better world. We can inspire the new pioneers, and we would like to inspire a fair and better world for the next 180 years, from Greater Manchester again in the year of the UN [International Year] of the Cooperatives,” she added.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the USA’s National Cooperative Business Association, Doug O’Brien, highlighted the importance of gathering qualitative and quantitative data to show co-operatives’ impact. Along with the ICA, NCBA co-owns DotCoop, the Registry of the .coop and .creditunion domain names and owns Domains.coop, a subsidiary domain name registrar. O’Brien revealed that DotCoop will be launching a map featuring co-ops worldwide to better connect the movement and showcase its impact.

The event concluded with a speech by COPAC’s chair Wenyan Yang, who suggested some next steps for UN delegates, government officials, ambassadors and co-operators.

“Take advantage of the International Year to engage your community, to do your outreach, to make co-operatives more visible and better known,” she said.

“Let’s work together, partner and make the International Year for Cooperatives a huge success for everybody, not only for co-operatives but also for the broader community and the people that we aspire to serve and improve their wellbeing,” she concluded.

The full recording is available online.