Praise for sector at UN Development Co-operation Forum

24 Jul 2012

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosted a high-level breakfast meeting on co-operatives at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the last month in New York with senior dignitaries.

The Ministerial Breakfast on “Promoting productive capacity for sustainable livelihoods: the role of co-operatives”, held on July 5, focused on what drives change and on how the movement can help future global development. 

One of the main speakers at the event, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director for the Employment Sector at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), praised co-operatives for the contribution to creating jobs for young people as well as the ability to ensure the sustainable development of local communities.

“Co-operative ideals address young people’s concerns for democracy, autonomy, independence, social and environmental responsibility, and ethical business practices. Co-operatives are also major instruments for those working in the informal economy. Through co-operatives they can access productive inputs, output markets, build self-confidence, and achieve self-organisation and collective voice.

“Through their co-operatives, small cash crop producers in the South gain access to global markets, and receive a larger share of the value added than would be possible for them individually. At the other end of the chain, consumer cooperatives sell these goods at affordable prices to the general public,” he said.

Mr Salazar-Xirinachs added that co-operatives contribute to the green economy, create green jobs and play an important role in food security. He gave examples of how co-operatives help build a better world. In Argentina, co-operatives provide 58% of rural electricity, while in India the needs of 67% of rural households are covered by co-operatives. In Switzerland, the largest retailer and private employer is a co-operative and in Japan, nine million family farmers are members of co-operatives. Furthermore, the top 300 cooperatives in the world in terms of turnover exceed USD 1.6 trillion.

The ILO official also said that co-operatives have also been playing a role in confronting the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He added that important changes have occurred in recent years in the co-operative legislation of various developing countries.

During the meeting, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, also emphasised the importance on co-operation in dealing with humanitarian disasters such as the Haiti earthquakes, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel.

“The world is changing and development cooperation needs to respond in an innovative way. This year’s United Nations International Year of Co-operatives reminds us that we need to put people at the centre of this change — to empower them to make development happen,” the Foreign Minister said.

“Support for co-operatives is important because it creates new markets and new business opportunities where they have been destroyed by famine or conflict. Australia is also a keen supporter of partnerships that combine different sources of expertise, including south-south cooperation."

The biennel event is hosted by the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), which was created in 1966 to bring together national leaders to review trends in international development. The DCF is a universal body which brings together decision makers from both developing and developed countries, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, local governments and the private sector. Its core aim is to promote economic development in the least developed countries.

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