Cooperatives and post-2015 conference in Brussels

"Cooperatives are major job creators”

Simel Esim, Head of the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit, underlined the key role cooperatives could play in the post-2015 development agenda.

News | 28 September 2014
Simel Esim spoke at the event “Coop Break - Cooperatives and Sustainable Development: Challenges for the Post-2015 Agenda” organized by CoopBuro and Cooperatives Europe in Brussels.

She presented highlights of a joint initiative of the ILO with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) to find out how the cooperative business model is contributing towards sustainable development, how cooperatives perceive the post-2015 debate, and the role cooperatives should play.

The ILO-ICA initiative includes a number of different products: a report, a policy brief, a survey brief and commentaries on the topic as well as a series of policy dialogues that took place in Cape Town, Berlin and Rome. On the occasion of this year’s International Day of Cooperatives, the ILO’s Director-General, Guy Ryder, issued a statement on the topic. The highlights from this joint initiative will also be shared in a UN expert group meeting on the topic in Nairobi later in 2014.

The respondents to the ILO’s survey noted that cooperatives made a difference in achieving the Millennium Development Goals with concrete services for their members and communities at the local level. As to the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperatives indicated that their priorities include poverty reduction, decent work, food security and gender equality among others.

In particular Simel Esim stressed the role of cooperatives in maintaining and creating jobs: “With enterprises that are facing bankruptcy and restructuring, transition to worker cooperatives has been adopted as an option in a number of crisis countries” she told the public in Brussels. “Research from the ILO and other institutions alike demonstrated that cooperatives are more resilient to economic downturns. Not only have financial returns to cooperatives largely remained stable; they have also recorded increase in membership.”

She indicated, though, that the cooperative movement still faces some important challenges. The enabling environment for cooperatives has been lagging in many countries. “Reform of cooperative legislation, policies and regulations aligned with the ILO Recommendation 193 on the promotion of cooperatives is needed”, Simel Esim underlined.

“The cooperative movement can also take a more active role in communicating the results achieved by its membership-based business model in delivering on the economic, social and environmental triple bottom line of sustainable development”, she said. “The advantages of the cooperative model need to be better communicated to policymakers and public audiences. Why should not students know about the cooperative enterprise option, the same way they are exposed to SME’s.”

Simel Esim concluded by saying that cooperative enterprises, which create livelihoods, employment and essential services for large segments of the world population – rural, informal, migrant alike – need to be a part of the toolkit for achieving sustainable development goals. Cooperatives need to be understood as effective means of implementation in a global partnership for sustainable development, and thus the post-2015 agenda.