More than 1,000 cooperators gathered onsite in Seoul, Korea with hundreds more attending virtually last week for the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA)’s 33rd World Cooperative Congress.
This year’s congress marked both the 125th anniversary of the ICA, which was founded in 1895 to promote the interests of cooperative worldwide, and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity, which was adopted in September 1995.
Co-op identity featured prominently at the global event, with discussions on how embracing our shared identity can broaden and accelerate the movement’s impact, and whether the the cooperative community should revise its principles and values in the context of 21st century social and economic realities.
The World Cooperative Congress featured a series of sessions exploring how to deepen the cooperative identity by examining its values, strengthening its actions, committing to its principles and living its achievements. The event also addressed challenges facing the co-op movement such as COVID-19, climate change, inclusive governance, sustainable development, peace and equity, the future of work, housing and renewable energy.
“Cooperatives not only have the potential, but also the responsibility to step forward as a key solution to some of today’s biggest challenges, including inequality, climate change and the changing nature of work.” – Doug O’Brien, president and CEO, NCBA CLUSA
“Cooperatives not only have the potential, but also the responsibility to step forward as a key solution to some of today’s biggest challenges, including inequality, climate change and the changing nature of work,” said NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien, who led a robust delegation from the U.S. to the World Cooperative Congress.
Four staff members, six board members, seven delegates from partner organizations and one student rounded out NCBA CLUSA’s delegates at the event, some of whom participated in-person and others virtually. Read more about their participation here.
While onsite in Seoul, O’Brien met with key stakeholders, including ICA President Ariel Guarco, to lift up NCBA CLUSA’s interest in more fully expressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) within the cooperative identity. While concrete plans to adjust the principles and/or draft a new accompanying document are still on the horizon, ICA is expected to further engage the global cooperative community in the coming weeks and months.
In addition to co-op identity, climate change emerged as a priority topic last week, with energy and focus consolidating around pressing climate-related issues. Cooperatives bring together a significant portion of the nearly 500 million smallholder farmers around the world who produce the majority of food in many countries. With their focus on equitable climate action, co-ops are effective in mobilizing these critical stakeholders, many of whom are women and youth.
“The World Cooperative Congress started a critical conversation on how cooperatives can make an even bigger impact in the face of today’s generational challenges,” said O’Brien. “The U.S. cooperative community is ready to step up alongside our global community to show leadership on climate action.”