The International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) reaffirmed their century-long friendship and commitment to elevating cooperative enterprise by signing a new Memorandum of Understanding yesterday.
The document states that its main purpose is to “foster collaboration… in areas of promotion and strengthening of the cooperative enterprise model.” In that respect, both commit to promote cooperatives as a business model to “advance inclusive and sustainable development.”
ICA’s President Ariel Guarco and ILO’s Director-General (DG) Guy Ryder signed the MOU yesterday as a sign of renewed friendship. As both recalled, the first director-general of the ILO, Albert Thomas, came from the cooperative movement and was part of ICA’s Board of Directors in the 1920s.
The relationship between the two organizations started from the founding of the ILO and has continued uninterrupted to this day.
ILO-ICA joint conference
The memorandum was signed during the ILO-ICA Joint Conference on “Cooperatives and the Future of Work,” immediately following the 108th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva this month. The conference is a historic moment for the development of cooperatives, as is the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work 2019. Adopted on June 21, the document recognizes the role of cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy in the future of work, specifically decent and sustainable work.
The recognition came after the ICA released a statement urging the international body to acknowledge the central role cooperatives have globally in safeguarding the “fairer, more inclusive, and more secure future of work” the ILO is seeking.
For Ariel Guarco, the new declaration is significant. “It will allow us to carry out more advocacy work and public policy proposals favorable to cooperatives and will further strengthen the partnership that we are renewing today with the signing of a new agreement of collaboration between our two organizations.”
Guy Ryder said the ILO is “committed to working with our constituents and the cooperative movement in supporting the creation of an ecosystem that is conducive to the growth of cooperative enterprises. In these times of unprecedented change and of exceptional challenges in the world of work we look forward to continued partnership with the cooperative movement in this quest for sustainable development and a fairer, inclusive and more secure future of work with decent work for all.”
During the ICA-ILO joint conference, representatives from the permanent representation of Iran, Korea and Uruguay took the floor underlining the role of cooperative for building a sustainable future of work sharing concrete cooperative examples. The International Trade Union Confederation, Deputy General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Victor Baez, noted how “the trade unions and cooperatives need to work together not only to save jobs but also to create jobs.” The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Representative Wenyan Yang said cooperatives have a “big role to play to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The book ‘Cooperatives and the World of Work’ (Routledge, 2019) was launched as part of the ICA-ILO Joint Conference. The publication is co-edited by authors from the ICA, the ILO and the International Organization of Industrial and Services Cooperatives (CICOPA). With the uncertainty of the world of work and the rise of technology, the book furthers the debate on the future of work, sustainable development, and the social and solidarity economy where cooperatives are major players.
The publication was edited by Bruno Roelants (ICA), Hyungsik Eum (CICOPA), Simel Esim (ILO), Sonja Novkovic (ICA Research Committee) and Waltteri Katajamäki (ILO).
Graciela Fernandez, president of Cooperatives of the Americas, closed the session by highlighting the importance of the ILO’s centenary declaration and the memorandum of understanding as a significant recognition of the cooperative movement.