ICA President Dame Pauline Green recently celebrated the relationship with the International Labour Organization by meeting with its new Director General Guy Ryder.
As the International Year of Co-operatives came to a close, Mr Ryder, who started his five-year term in October, discussed a number of issues with Dame Pauline including youth in co-operatives; the financial crisis and rural employment.
The ILO has been working on how co-operatives can help to alleviate youth unemployment, and it is also considering integrating co-operative education in its existing business development training packages, which targets youth. During the ILO's International Labour Conference in 2012, the discussions around youth employment emphasised the potential of co-operatives nd the conclusions highlighted the need for encouraging membership of youth in existing co-operatives, and establishing sustainable youth co-operatives.In the context of the financial crisis, business transitions to worker owned enterprises are gaining momentum around a number of countries in Europe. Governments like that of France are promoting co-operatives as an option with failing businesses to save jobs during such business transitions. To build on this, the ILO and ICA are working towards strengthening alliances between trade unions and co-operatives and in supporting the revitalisation of worker co-operatives through the elaboration and implementation of a joint training package on establishing and strengthening worker co-operatives.
Finally, focusing on rural employment – the ILO’s CoopAfrica project, My.COOP, is an agricultural co-operative training tool developed with the Food and Agriculture Organization and international NGOs. My.COOP is being translated and adapted for people worldwide.
Simel Esim, the Chief of the Co-operative Branch of the ILO, said: “Strengthened collaboration between the ILO and ICA can contribute to the advancement of areas of critical importance such as crisis response, jobs and skills for youth, decent work in the rural and informal economies as well as development of a sound statistical base and evidence-based policy analysis on issues related to the world of work.”
The two organisations have worked together to promote co-operation since ILO began in 1919, and partnered up in 2004 to work on the UN Millennium Development Goals. The first Director General of the ILO, Albert Thomas, was a French co-operator and a member of the Central Committee of the International Co-operative Alliance. He once said: “I am a co-operator and, as such, I have the greatest and fullest confidence in the virtue and efficacy of the co-operative spirit.”
The ILO also established a specialised unit focusing on co-ops in 1920 called the Co-operative Branch.
• Click here to find out more about the ILO's relationship with the ICA and co-operatives.
Photo: Dame Pauline Green and Guy Ryder.