The Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) organised a side online event within the 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 12 July. The event explored how cooperatives can drive a people-centred and environmentally just recovery and featured cooperative experts representing COPAC members, representatives of national and international organisations, and grassroots cooperators.
Marlene Holzner, Head of Unit Local Authorities, Civil Society Organisations and Foundations, Directorate-General for International Partnerships, European Commission, praised cooperatives for being resilient, advancing decent work and helping to reduce inequalities. She said the ICA-EU strategic Partnership on international cooperative development (#coops4dev) proved the Commission’s commitment to strengthening and promoting cooperatives, which it values as sustainable development actors and very important partners.
Yadamsuren Erdenesaikhan, Head of the Government Agency for SMEs in Mongolia, shared his country’s experience, particularly the policies taken by the Government to support cooperatives during the COVID-19 crisis. He explained that Mongolia’s most active cooperative members are farmers and herders who make a significant contribution to local development. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the development of the cooperative sector in Mongolia, the parliament has amended the law on cooperatives and declared 2022 the year of corporate development.
Anna Biondi, Deputy Director of the ILO Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV), argued that cooperatives are social partners which need to be part of the social dialogue on national employment strategies, trade, environmental issues, finance and national development. “At the ILO we want to be on the side of cooperatives, working together and we really believe that if we want to rethink new models that are economic and social models, cooperatives are certainly at the centre of this reflection,” she said.
Guilherme Brady, Head of the Unit for Family Farming Engagement and Parliamentary Networks within FAO Partnerships and UN Collaboration Division, explained how COVID-19 had caused short-term cash flow problems for farmers and businesses, with negative effects on employment and incomes. Cooperatives stepped in, he said, “acting as important catalysers in developing local solutions and tackling structural transformations affecting their livelihoods”. They created solidarity networks, supported the implementation of protection responses and crisis management measures, and developed alternative logistics and food distribution initiatives, directly linking producers and consumers. He added that the FAO would continue to provide support at national level, to develop a positive enabling environment with appropriate policies and legal frameworks to enable family farmers and their cooperatives to perform well.
Nazik Beishenaly, World Cooperative Congress Research Advisor, ICA, talked about the ICA’s ongoing research on the contribution of coops to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ICA is scrutinising members’ website publications and annual and sustainability reports across different regions and sectors. Based on this, it will build a conceptual framework, using the theory of change approach, revealing the causal linkages between cooperative business models, their activities and their impact on sustainability. The results of the study will be presented at the World Cooperative Congress in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, 1-3 December 2021.
Anne Chappaz, Chief of the Institutions and Ecosystems Section, International Trade Centre (ITC), said her organisation sees cooperatives as a hybrid model acting in global value chains while providing business support. “Because of this dual role ITC thinks cooperatives have an important role to play in building a post-pandemic world and at the ITC we really want to do all we can to make sure that they are as efficient and effective as possible,” she said.
Other panellists shared experiences from the field. Jacqueline Adios, from the Bumwawule Group of the Elgon Community Health Cooperative Limited in Uganda, talked about some of the COVID-19 challenges faced by women in her community, such as the lack of natal care, hospital overloads, medicine shortages, higher food prices, school closures, and the inability for meet in a group. Their cooperative was set up in 2020, after the pandemic had just begun, and helped members and their families to access healthcare services in a timely manner.
Dulce Bustamante, from Young Entrepreneurs Cooperative in the Philippines, shared a multi-stakeholder initiative between the national Cooperative Office, Department of Education, the Environment and Resources Office and their cooperative. It works to increase youth environmental awareness and through concrete actions that tackle climate change. “We are teaching them how to be financially literate. At the same time, we are teaching them how to save,” she said, encouraging cooperatives around the world to support similar initiatives.
The Go Green campaign, led by the ICA Asia-Pacific Youth Network with the backing of ICA youth committees in Africa and the Americas, was another example given of inter-regional cooperation and ways to mobilise youth on climate.
Carlos Leiton, Director of CoopeTarrazu in Costa Rica, talked about Casa de la Alegría, a project implemented with Cooperatives of the Americas. The project offers allocation, education and protection to children who arrive in the coffee region of Tarrazú with their parents, who are migrant workers coming for the harvest - mostly from Nicaragua and Panama. The goal with the Casas de la Alegría is to achieve the eradication of child labour, forced labour, or child abuse in the region. The cooperative plans to open more childcare centres in the future. When it started in 2018, Casa de la Alegría had 45 children. Today it houses 420. “The support of international institutions like the ILO, the FAO, or ICA Americas will be critical to replicate these projects in other parts of the world,” said Mr Leiton.
In his concluding remarks, ICA Director General Bruno Roelants highlighted the role of cooperatives in the new global social contract. “Cooperatives, which invest in people, the planet, and reduce inequalities, should be one of the actors in this new social contract, and should be seen as part of it - and as part of it, they should be listened to, including what they will report on the impact on the territories, and also on the corresponding public policies and corresponding legislation, which they need in order to improve their contribution to this recovery and to sustainable development which goes beyond the recovery,” he said.
The full recording of the online event can be found below.
Please, find attached to the article the presentations displayed during the event.
The ICA-EU Partnership on international development (also known as #coops4dev) was signed in 2016 between the International Cooperative Alliance and the European Commission to strengthen the cooperative movement as key actor in international development.
Read more about #coops4dev on our website.