Cooperatives rebuild communities’ hope through a just recovery, UN report says

The new report says global laws and policy should better enable the critical role cooperatives play in sustainable development.

During the 76th United Nations General Assembly, leaders and stakeholders from around the world gathered to discuss what the best solutions were to “Building resilience through hope.” For hope to become reality, policies enabling communities around the world to rebuild resilience through systemic economic and social change must be promoted. And cooperatives have a central role to play in this field. As stable and long-term actors of democratic control and equitable economic empowerment, co-ops possess structural characteristics that make them particularly resilient to crises, with a tangible impact on the communities in which they operate.

The recent report of the UN Secretary-General on Cooperatives in Social Development conveys precisely that message. It highlights the response of cooperatives to the COVID-19 crisis and identifies the importance of reaffirming the cooperative identity and the specific characteristics of the cooperative business model through policy and legislation.

The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) applauds the report—particularly its reference to “Self-identification, diversity of enterprises …as well as cooperatives’ central role in sustainable development, warrant the sharpening of the profile of cooperatives through law and policy” while recognizing the clear need for the implementation of ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (n°193) in order to ensure a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives. The ICA also acknowledges the report’s specific reference to the ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity.

The ICA also welcomes the acknowledgement of the role of cooperatives towards a new social contract amongst other actors and the recommendation towards governments on “creating policies and programming to leverage the cooperative enterprise model for a more inclusive and resilient recovery.” The report also underlines the importance of health cooperatives and the role of cooperatives in providing access to finance towards underserved communities. However, ICA encourages the UN system and governments to consider the importance of all economic and social areas that cooperatives contribute to.

The ICA also strongly values the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation on legislative and regulatory frameworks. Supportive and enabling environments for cooperatives aligned with the 2001 UN Guidelines on Cooperatives constitute one of its main priorities. In this regard, the ICA welcomes the call for a general law for all categories of cooperatives, in congruence with a single policy document dedicated to the promotion of cooperatives with specific provisions for secondary and tertiary cooperatives.

The ICA also welcomes the inclusion in the report of the main findings of the Legal Framework Analysis undertaken within the framework of the ICA-EU Partnership (2016-2021).

The ICA values the recommendation on strengthening the data collection on cooperatives with a specific reference to the Guidelines on Statistics of Cooperatives supported by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) and the commitment of the United Nations system to keep up the provision of technical assistance and capacity-building to support the development of cooperatives, as well as promoting knowledge sharing, as it had been highlighted during the International Year of Cooperatives (2012).

The report is expected to be applied by the United Nations system and its Member States, guiding their longterm policymaking action on recovery from the pandemic that, as the report states, has morphed into a socio-economic crisis.

For a more profound understanding of the cooperative business model, we encourage you to register to the 33rd World Cooperative Congress (1-3 December 2021) as we will showcase how our cooperative identity will help us rebuild better together to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and future ones through solidarity and resilience.

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