Argentinian cooperator Ariel Guarco has been elected president of the International Co-operative Alliance at the international association’s biennial General Assembly, held this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Guarco is president of Cooperar, the Co-operative Confederation of Argentina, and has been a board member of the Alliance since 2013. Cooperar works with 67 cooperative federations, 5,000 cooperatives and ten million members. From a total of 691 total votes, Guarco received 671.
“It is a tremendous honor to be elected president of the Alliance. Our movement includes one billion people across the world. The Alliance needs to be the lighthouse that guides them,” Guarco said, adding that cooperatives—with their integrity and diversity—should act as a force to confront “those controlling the economy who are taking humanity on a road without return.”
Guarco comes from a family of cooperators, among them his mother, who worked for her local village’s electric co-op. After joining the co-op and holding various positions, Guarco was elected president. He later became president of the Federation of Public Service Co-operatives of Buenos Aires (Fedecoba). He still presides over the Buenos Aires Electric Cooperative Federation.
“Cooperatives are enterprises that have a double function, on the one hand they must be economically viable, compete in the market and do it as good or better than enterprises that seek profitability as the ultimate goal. And on the other hand, to be socially responsible, helping to improve the quality of life of our members and staying faithful to our principle of commitment to the community, to society as a whole,” Guarco said.
As president of the Alliance, Guarco said his priorities are to strengthen the interactions between its regional and sectoral organizations, as well as consolidating youth and gender spaces. He also wants to improve the quality and quantity of information given to Alliance members on income, balance sheets, and projects—and, in doing so, equip member organizations for better decision making.
Guarco takes over from Monique Leroux, who led the Alliance since 2015. During her leadership, the Alliance sought to make the cooperative movement’s voice heard in international forums and at major economic gatherings. Co-ops were represented by the Alliance at various events including B20 meetings, the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ Conference in Montreal and high-level events at the United Nations.
“It was my great privilege to spend the past four years working with a devoted and committed board of directors that feels so strongly about advancing cooperative businesses,” Leroux said. “The Alliance is certainly in a decent position to continue moving towards objectives that, ultimately, will help make our world a better place.”
The Alliance’s Global Conference and General Assembly brought together more than 1,800 cooperators from around the world to discuss the role of the sector in placing people at the centre of development. Keynote speakers included sustainable development pioneer and former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, and economist Linda Yueh.
A full new board was also elected at the General Assembly. The board members elected are Gregory Wall (Australia), Onofre Cezário De Souza Filho (Brazil), Alexandra Wilson (Canada), Susanne Westhausen (Denmark), Marjaana Saarikoski (Finland), Florence Raineix (France), Aditya Yadav (Indian), Carlo Scarzanella (Italy), Toru Nakaya (Japan), Kamarudin Ismail (Malaysia), Om Devi Malla (Nepal), Kok Kwong Kwek (Singapore), Anders Lago (Sweden), Ben Reid (United Kingdom) and Martin Lowery (United States.
The Assembly also approved the modification of the status that increases the number of sectoral representatives to four and the inclusion of the Gender Equality Committee chair in the Board. The above-mentioned Board has been framed with the ratifications of regional vice-presidents and a youth representative.