At UN soft launch, global co-op leaders share vision for 2025 International Year of Cooperatives

From left: UN Permanent Representative of India R. Ravindra; ICA President Ariel Guarco, UN Permanent Representative of Mongolia Ankhbayar Nyamdorj; ILO Cooperative Unit Program Manager Simel Esim; and Ambassador of Kenya to the UN Njambi Kinyungu.

Celebrations of the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC2025) kicked off July 9 with a soft-launch event held at United Nations headquarters in New York City. The UN adopted a resolution calling for the proclamation of 2025 as the second International Year of Cooperatives late last year, recognizing the significant contributions of co-ops in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and calling on the co-op community and national governments to redouble their efforts in 2025 to increase awareness of co-ops and advocate for a better policy environment for these people-centered businesses.

Yesterday’s event was organized by the UN Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Mongolia and Kenya to the United Nations, and took place during a UN High-Level Political Forum.

Three days earlier, cooperatives around the world celebrated the International Day of Cooperatives under the theme, “Cooperatives Build a Better Future for All,” which echoes the slogan for IYC2025.

IYC2025 will be officially launched during the ICA Global Cooperative Conference, scheduled for November 25-29 in New Delhi, India. The UN soft launch event served as a platform to deepen the theme of IYC2025, unveil the media package, and discuss the UN resolutions outlining the vision for the IYC2025 launch.

In the opening session, participants heard from UNDESA Director John Wilmoth; ICA President Ariel Guarco, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN H.E. Ankhbayar Nyamdorj; and Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN H.E. Njambi Kinyungu.

Nyamdorj described his country’s work on supporting UN cooperative development discussions and resolutions. “We are encouraging fellow member states and institutions to form national and regional committees to organize events and activities commemorating and celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives,” he said. Kinyungu explained that Kenya’s cooperative sector accounts for 23 percent of the country’s GDP.  “Kenya, through the bottom-up, economic, transformative [cooperative] agenda framework has placed cooperatives as a critical pillar in powering economic transformation and achieving our sustainable development goals,” she said.

Addressing delegates, ICA President Guarco said the movement was proud of the IYC2025 slogan, “Cooperatives Build a Better World.”

NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien speaks at the event, calling cooperatives a “necessity” as people, businesses and communities work together to build opportunity, democracy and peace around the world.

“We’re very proud of this, because it [represents] the daily action of all these cooperatives. And we also have a sense of responsibility. We know that the world is looking to us—perhaps as they’ve never done before—to use cooperatives as the most direct vehicle towards sustainable development. Humbly, I think that we are up to this responsibility,” he said.

In her keynote, H.E. Paula Narváez, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), described how co-ops can solve many of today’s global challenges.

“The values and principles of cooperatives make them directly relevant to sustainable development. Participatory decision-making, democratic control by members, equality, solidarity, cooperation and concern for the community are fundamental principles that underpin cooperatives and allow them to contribute to improving the world. These fundamental principles must be promoted more widely so that they can help the world navigate the multiple crises that we currently face,” she said.

John Wilmoth, Director of UNDESA’s Division for Inclusive Development, also urged national governments to intensify their efforts to advance the SDGs, which aim to achieve peace and prosperity for people and planet by 2030. “Cooperatives are an important component of this work,” he said, calling on cooperatives to demonstrate their relevance as values-based enterprises that build a better world. “In this work, let us ensure that we give priority to reaching those who are the furthest behind first,” he added.

During the event, countries and institutions were encouraged to form national and regional committees that will take the lead in organizing events and activities to commemorate and celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives. These committees will bring together governments, cooperatives, UN agencies and other stakeholders, who will work to bring the cooperative identity to the wider public and ensure that by the end of 2025, cooperatives are better known, can operate in better enabling environments, and are well placed to support UN Member States in their efforts to achieve the SDGs.

ICA Director General Jeroen Douglas provided an overview of the upcoming ICA Global Conference in New Delhi, which will showcase how cooperatives build prosperity for all. This marks the first time India will host the ICA Global Conference in the event’s 130-year history. The UN Permanent Representative of India, H.E. R. Ravindra, also took the floor to highlight the importance of the Indian cooperative movement with a combined membership of 300 million people.

“We are very happy to host the next global conference in New Delhi later this year, coinciding with the second International Year of Cooperatives. We hope the conference will help us to explore new areas of cooperation, exchange best practices, and learn from each other, particularly success stories,” he said.

ICA representatives from the Asia-Pacific, Americas, Africa and European offices also shared details about their regional plans for commemorating the year.

Bringing the event to a close, COPAC Chair Wenyan Yang launched a call for action and highlighted some next steps for UN delegates, government officials, ambassadors and cooperators.

“Take advantage of the International Year to engage your community, to do your outreach, to make cooperatives more visible and better known,” she said.

Watch the recording of yesterday’s soft-launch event

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