What is in a name? Changes to the Designation of COOP Unit at the ILO across the century

News | 31 August 2020
The activities of what is affectively known as ILO COOP have gone uninterrupted since 1920. Over the course of the century, however, its official designation has gone through multiple iterations. The third ILO GB approved in 1920 the creation of the Section of Co-operation, which was renamed Cooperative Section in 1921, Cooperative Service in 1922, and Co-operative Organisations Service in 1924. From 1919 and until his death in 1932, the Director of the ILO Albert Thomas was closely engaged in strengthening ties with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

In 1934, the reference to cooperative organizations was replaced with Co-operation and Handicrafts. With one exception in 1945, in the following three decades “Co-operation” remained in the designation, with Agriculture, Handicrafts, and Small-scale Industries joining it at different points in time. These changes reflected a wider scope including self-help organizations, producer organizations and other social and solidarity economy organizations. By 1956, the Service had become a Division, and it became a Branch in 1964. Between 1964 and 1975, it was the Co-operative, Rural and Related Institutions Branch. The longest lasting designation was between 1975 and 2012, as the Cooperatives Branch. In 1995 the Cooperative Branch joined the newly created Enterprises and Cooperative Development Department, which was later renamed the Enterprises Department, with the Branch becoming a Unit in 2012.

The ILO COOP Timeline highlights key events in the history of the ILO’s work on cooperatives and the international cooperative movement.