The Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) hosted a high-level webinar on 2 June to celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives (#CoopsDay). COPAC members shared their views on how cooperatives can build a people-centred and environmentally just recovery and called for cooperatives to be embedded in global recovery strategies.
The event was chaired by Wenyan Yang, Chief, Social Perspective on Development Branch, the United Nations, who praised the cooperative model for its resilience during past crises and reiterated the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (UNDESA) commitment to support cooperatives for a better recovery.
ICA Secretary General Bruno Roelants recalled the reasons behind the creation of COPAC, which, in addition to the ICA and UNDESA, includes the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
He said that during the present pandemic “cooperatives have not only shown resilience, they have been proactive in facing the crisis. We have countless testimonies of cooperatives having been at the forefront, often being among the heroes of this pandemic, both in health cooperatives and those in other sectors”.
Mr Roelants explained that linkages between health, the environment, society and the economy are appearing with increasing strength, largely through a new social contract as proposed by António Guterres, UN Secretary General.
He added: “The more in-depth the world deals with the necessary post-pandemic rebuilding and recovery, [...] the more significant and appropriate will be cooperatives’ contribution to this common effort. As people-managed enterprises that address people’s own needs, cooperatives naturally tend to address these linkages.”
Martha E. Newton, ILO's Deputy Director-General for Policy, said cooperatives needed to benefit from financial relief packages and be recognised for their role in strengthening local economies. She highlighted the sector’s role in preserving jobs and decent work and saving failed enterprises by converting them to worker cooperatives.
“Cooperatives have been an important partner of the ILO and the ICA has held a general consultative status since the establishment of the ILO,” she said. “We look forward to continuing working together with our constituents and our partners for a human-centred future of work.”
ICA President Ariel Guarco praised cooperatives from around the world for “facing the COVID-19 crisis with solidarity and resilience” and driving a people-centred and environmentally just recovery.
“They can do this because they have values and principles that distinguish them,” he added.
Pamela Coke-Hamilton , Executive Director of the ITC said the post-COVID recovery would require collaboration and solidarity.
She added that cooperative values aligned with ITC values and called on cooperatives to focus on how to support a green recovery.
Dr Marcella Villareal from FAO explained how COVID-19 exacerbated existing challenges for the food sector and said the crisis had drawn attention to the relevance of family farmers and cooperatives.
“Evidence shows how small cooperatives, through special social mobilisation and collective action can improve the well being of rural people, thus increasing their collective capabilities to think and act like citizens, interacting with different stakeholders, demanding the policies and services that they need, and ultimately actively contributing to reducing rural poverty,” she said.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs said a paradigm shift was needed to “elevate care for the community and the planet”.
“Cooperatives are an example of how a new kind of social contract can be achieved and how we can rebuild better together,” he added.
He concluded by saying that the #CoopsDay was an opportunity to remind people of the benefits of collaboration in achieving prosperity for all.
The webinar also showed a compilation of video messages sent by cooperators from around the world to celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives.
(Re)Watch the full webinar here.
More information about #CoopsDay and how to celebrate it is available at www.coopsday.coop.
Photo: Wenyan Yang