International Day of Cooperatives celebrated at UN headquarters

24 Jul 2015

Themed “Choose cooperatives, choose equality”, this year’s International Day of Co-operatives was marked at the United Nations headquarters in New York through a side event to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

On this occasion representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the global co-operative movement highlighted the contributions of co-operative enterprises to equality and reflected on the potential of co-operatives to developing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nadia Weber, independent researcher from Canada presented a policy brief on “Cooperatives, women and gender equality” based on a recent report by the International Co-operative Alliance and the ILO. Ms Weber was speaking on behalf of COPAC, the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives, which will be carrying out an in-depth assessment of the contributions of co-operatives to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

 “Although twenty years have passed since the 1995 World Beijing Conference on Women placed a focus on closing the gender gap; deeply-rooted gender-based inequalities have continued beyond the Millennium Development Goals’ 2015 target. To date, women are still under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes; they suffer from lack of access to decent, fair-waged, safe employment; and are more likely to work informal and unpaid labour.

“Given this reality, United Nations Member States have agreed to prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment by creating a standalone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for the issue. The members of COPAC consider that co-operatives – through their values of self-help, equality and equity, and principles of voluntary and open membership and democratic control – are well-placed to address many of the issues that negatively impact women,” said Ms Weber.

Also speaking at the event, Dr Esther Gicheru talked about Kenya’s co-operative movement and the contribution of co-operatives to assisting the country achieve a just and cohesive society. Dr Gicheru is an associate professor in co-operatives and director of the Institute for Co-operatives Development, Research and Extension at the Cooperative University College of Kenya. She highlighted how co-operatives helped reduce poverty and provide decent work, access to market, training or financial accessibility.

The event featured a presentation from Tamara Vrooman, president and chief executive of Vancity Credit Union, Canada’s largest community-based credit union.

She said the co-operative model was uniquely suited to achieving sustainable development and its goals. “With better supports in place, co-operatives could contribute even more than they already do today,” she said, encouraging delegates to advocate that co-operatives be included in the Post-2015 Development Agenda as a distinct and differentiated way to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event is available at the following link:

Picture: Esther Gicheru speaking at the event in New York