Supportive cooperative legal and regulatory frameworks are critical for cooperative sectors to grow and thrive. Global organizations such as the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), International Labour Organization, and United Nations understand that cooperatives can’t reach their full potential when they don’t operate under rules that facilitate their development—or at least don’t discriminate against them vis a vis other forms of business. This recognition is why the Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) members, including NCBA CLUSA and other international cooperative development organizations in the U.S., created the Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative (CLARITY) in 2004.1
CLARITY is a toolkit and methodology designed to engage national cooperative movement leaders and institutions, cooperative law practitioners, government officials, and other key stakeholders in cooperative legal and regulatory reform from beginning to end. Since its foundation, CLARITY has been implemented in nearly 20 countries, where disabling aspects of legislation have been identified and recommended improvements have been agreed upon by local cooperative stakeholders, who are then better prepared to advocate for those changes.
Over the past 6 years, NCBA CLUSA has championed CLARITY2 to facilitate cooperative law reform efforts in 7 of those countries including Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru through the Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Cooperative Development Program (CDP). Most recently, CLARITY was used in the Dominican Republic through our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Safe Agriculture/Food Export project, known locally as Progana.
As the cooperative legal landscape and the global cooperative movement have changed significantly since 2004, CLARITY required a fresh review to adapt to changing times and challenges. In 2021, OCDC and NCBA CLUSA convened the CLARITY 2.0 working group of 13 cooperative legal experts from around the world to conduct this review and provide recommendations for revisions. Based on the working group’s research, and with support from a Cooperative Development Foundation grant and the USAID CDP, NCBA CLUSA and CLARITY expert consultants updated several components of the toolkit to develop CLARITY 2.0.3
OCDC and NCBA CLUSA hosted a webinar on August 2, 2023 to share highlights from CLARITY’s 20-year history and celebrate many recent achievements and lessons learned from implementing CLARITY through NCBA CLUSA’s CDP and Progana projects. Recordings of the webinar are available in English, Spanish, and French.
Speakers and presenters included Santosh Kumar—Director of Legislation at the ICA and a CLARITY international fellow, other CLARITY international fellows including Dr. Claudia Paredes (Guatemala) and Dr. Carlos Naranjo (Ecuador); NCBA CLUSA’s Country Coordinator in Madagascar Abel Rakotonirainy; CLARITY consultant in the Dominican Republic Deivinson Jiminez; Olga Oyier, Team Lead/Policy and Legislative Affairs Specialist of Global Communities’ USAID CDP-funded CLEAR project; and NCBA CLUSA’s CLARITY expert consultants Dr. Willy Tadjudje and Ed Potter. Participants included Dante Cracogna, considered the father of cooperative law in the Americas, and other cooperative law experts and stakeholders; NCBA CLUSA and OCDC partners from around the world; NCBA CLUSA board members; and many members of the U.S. cooperative community.
During the webinar, a new video showcasing CLARITY’s history and the CLARITY 2.0 working group was released. Dr. Tadjudje provided framing remarks, highlighting how the cooperative principles are integrated into CLARITY’s cooperative law and regulation analysis framework. Country presentations shared how CLARITY has impacted the legal reform processes in Guatemala and Madagascar—resulting in more inclusive participation from their cooperative movements, and how CLARITY tools helped orient cooperative law reform processes by identifying main issues and proposing recommendations. In Madagascar, a new cooperative law just passed in June 2023 after nearly 7 years of efforts.
The panel discussion moderated by the ICA’s Santosh Kumar explored how CLARITY has impacted cooperative legal reform processes and proposals in Kenya, the Dominican Republic, and in Ecuador where the new Organic Law of Popular and Solidarity Economy–which incorporates cooperatives—was passed in January 2023. As Kumar expressed, the need to co-construct cooperative law with cooperative movements and embed the process within the cooperative principle of education, training and information are “being upheld rather remarkably in the experiences of implementing CLARITY.”
The webinar ended with breakout sessions where attendees and speakers engaged in rich discussions about CLARITY’s technical content, best practices in cooperative legal frameworks, and considerations for future improvements to the CLARITY 2.0 toolkit.4
Already, the CLARITY 2.0 toolkit has been used in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, through the USDA-funded Strengthening Co-op Capacity for Historically Underserved Farmers project in the United States, NCBA CLUSA is using elements of CLARITY 2.0 to identify barriers and make recommendations for improvement in cooperative and business sector policy, law, regulation, and procedures to developing Native American producer cooperatives, including agricultural, livestock, and fisheries. This CLARITY work focuses in areas of the country with the largest concentrations of Native American farmers such as Arizona and New Mexico.
The new CLARITY 2.0 version and other tools developed with support from NCBA CLUSA’s CDP project will be shared during the project’s final webinar on September 13th, 10-11:30 am ET. As this project closes, NCBA CLUSA will discuss other learnings around inclusive and participatory governance, and cooperative capitalization beyond individual member equity. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for registration information.