On 17th November 2011, CICOPA and IHCO organised an event on cooperatives and development, which aimed to go beyond the usual conference meeting format by introducing a panel of speakers in front of an audience. More than 200 people participated in this encounter which took the form of a roundtable debate moderated by Peter Eneström (IHCO) and which brought together around 30 key actors in the field of development from the United Nations, UNDP, representatives from Brazilian and Mexican governments, development NGOs, the International Trade Union Confederation, cooperative organisations involved in international development work and several regional and sectoral bodies of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
During the opening speech, Pauline Green, the President of the ICA, welcomed the event underlining that international development was a crucial area that the cooperative movement needs to look at. Even if the latter is deeply engaged in this field, she advocated the necessity to reinforce its global strength of and to better establish a global profile for itself.
The program of the conference was divided into two parts.
In the first part, representatives from international organisations, regional and national institutions spoke about development policies. Anis Chowdhury, Senior Economic Affairs Officer from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, made a vibrant address saying that this meeting was coming at a very important time due to two reasons. The first one is the Millennium Development Goals, which are lacking a strategy. He insisted on the necessity for cooperatives to influence that debate. The second one is about the crisis: “The world economy is going through a big transition and we still don’t know whether the caterpillar will end up as a butterfly” said Mr Chowdhury. According to him, cooperatives have to seize the opportunity to influence a debate about the kind of new world which we want to see after this crisis. He advocated the fact that development needs a long-term vision which has been missing for the past 30 years and which cooperatives can bring back into the debate.
In the second part, participants debated on 3 distinctive dimensions of development, namely the micro, meso and macro levels. Each session was illustrated by short videos with animations and concrete cases of cooperatives’ contribution to development, from France (Ardelaine) to India (Sewa), from Brazil (Unimed and Uniforja) to Uganda (artisans’ cooperatives) and many more. During the debate, several issues were raised in a common message about how to build a better world as the slogan of the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) states.
How can we go beyond that message? One answer is with the cooperative values of self-help and self-responsibility, and by not seeing economic decline as something inevitable, but by viewing it as a point where people have to act together to build a better world for themselves; the way in which cooperatives offer the opportunity of achieving sustainability, and where people are economically, socially and environmentally active through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises. There was also a focus on the necessity to promote inter-cooperation to support existing cooperatives in less developed parts of the world in order to create jobs and wealth. An important issue which has also been raised was to see how to create new cooperatives in order to promote development and also how to put together resources within the cooperative movement or with the support of governments.
Stefania Mancini from the FAI Foundation concluded the conference by underlining the need for the cooperative movement to work more with NGOs in the field of international development.
The last act of the participants of the conference was on the formulation of a certain number of key points to focus on, within the framework of development policies at all levels, including the importance of promoting cooperatives through legislation based on the cooperative identity and standards, the importance of fostering strong public policies for the development of cooperatives, and of a more democratic governance by stakeholders in economic activities, sustainable long-term employment for development, etc.
The list of points approved by the participants is available here.
More information on http://coopsanddevelopmentcancun.wordpress.com/
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037