ILO COOP 100 Interview

ILO COOP/SSE 100 Interview with Mounir Kleibo, Representative of the International Labour Organization in Jerusalem

Established in March 1920, the ILO’s Cooperatives, Social and Solidarity Economy Unit marks its Centenary in 2020. On this occasion, the ILO COOP/SSE 100 Interview series features past and present ILO colleagues and key partners who were closely engaged in the ILO's work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE). The interviews reflect on their experience and contributions in the past and shares their thoughts on the future of cooperatives and the SSE in a changing world of work.

Article | 19 novembre 2020

You have been the representative of the ILO in Jerusalem since 2008. Could you tell us about the work of the ILO in oPt on cooperatives in these past 12 years?

The ILO Office in Jerusalem, and since its inception in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in 1996, has been actively supporting cooperative development towards enhancing employment and livelihood opportunities for Palestinian women and men. ILO Office in Jerusalem works in collaboration with the ILO’s COOP Unit in its headquarters in activating a supportive institutional, regulatory and promotional environment for autonomous and economically self-reliant cooperatives.
Specifically, and most recently, the ILO in the OPT has been supporting the preparation of a more conducive policy and legal framework for cooperatives through the design of a National Cooperative Strategy, the drafting of a new unified cooperative legislation, the design and implementation of various assessments, and the delivery of capacity building activities.

In 2010, with support from the ILO, a new draft legislation was developed by the Ministry of Labour, in line with the principles of ILO Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193). The draft law unified the two existing cooperative laws in the West Bank and Gaza under a single national legal framework. It also called for the establishment of a semi-autonomous cooperative development administration that sits outside of the government bureaucracy.

In July 2010, the Council of Ministers endorsed the new law and forwarded it to the Palestinian President’s Office for approval. After seven years, in November 2017, the President has signed the Cooperative Law that is only a slightly revised version of the 2010 draft law. Upon the adoption of the Cooperative law, the General Directorate of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Labour requested the ILO’s support in providing a detailed road map and proposal for the establishment of the CWA.

In 2018, the ILO conducted an institutional assessment for the CWA with an actionable strategy for its establishment and operations, in addition to an analytical report on the promulgated provisions of the cooperative law. These studies have formed the groundwork for ILO’s interventions on cooperatives, particularly towards achieving “Decent Work for Palestinian women and men through the promotion and strengthening of autonomous and economically self-reliant cooperatives”, as the overarching development objective of the new project.

In 2020, a Cooperative Support Programme was launched by ILO in the OPT with support from the Italian Government. The project will provide support to the Cooperative Work Agency (CWA) and its subsidiary bodies, the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) and the Cooperative Development Fund (CDF) to fulfil both regulatory and promotional functions, thereby creating a conducive eco-system that will allow cooperatives to emerge and to flourish while preserving their independence and autonomy. The CWA, established as per Article (4) in the Cooperative Law of 2017, is the new regulatory and promotional body for Palestinian cooperatives in oPt. In addition, the project will provide technical support to the newly founded General Cooperative Union and its five sectorial unions, especially in the areas of planning, training, and legal questions. The project will also support the exchange of expertise and knowledge with international partners.

The intermediate objectives for the project include: Establishing a conducive institutional, legal and administrative ecosystem for cooperatives; Developing systems and tools for the provision of training support services to cooperatives; and Promoting new and innovative forms of cooperatives. The project is fully aligned with the Ministry of Labour’s Cooperative Sector Strategy 2017-2022 and its strategic goals, which is part of the National Strategy Framework for the Labour Sector and the National Policy Agenda for the Palestinian Government. 

What is the history of cooperatives in OPT?

The OPT has a rich history of cooperative movement that dates back to 1924 with the establishment of the first tobacco cooperative. Following the early 1930s when the first cooperative law was passed, cooperatives spread extensively throughout the OPT with a total of 244 cooperatives registered between 1933 and 1948, mainly in the agricultural, transport and consumer sectors. Since then, the number of cooperatives grew and expanded to more sectors with a vision to bring in more business, jobs and economic prosperity. Cooperatives were mainly supported through government incentives and access to soft loans and grants. However, in more recent years, cooperatives have become less attractive due to the many constraints and challenges facing the Palestinian economy.

Following are key areas of interventions that were historically supported by cooperatives, and their federations:
  • Provision of decent housing at a reasonable cost and easy payment method for thousands of families;
  • Strengthening the steadfastness of sheep and poultry farmers in the West Bank by providing packages of services to members in marketing products of the cooperatives as well as mobilizing and influencing decision-makers to adopt fair agricultural policies, for individuals and breeders actively involved  in agriculture;
  • Providing saving and credit schemes for women through savings and credit cooperatives;
  • Providing job opportunities especially for craftswomen through artisanal and marketing cooperatives; and
  • Supporting member cooperatives through training to develop administrative and financial policies and procedures and undertaking donor coordination and collaboration. 

Who are the key partners of the ILO in its work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy in OPT?

Since 2008, the ILO worked closely with the Ministry of Labour and with national partners and representatives from the Cooperative Work Authority (formerly the General Administration for Cooperatives) including working with sectoral cooperative unions, General Cooperatives Union, with national and international stakeholders and partners ( donors) especially the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) , Cosby Oxfam, CARE and WeEffect as well with civil society organizations in Palestine that provide  services to cooperatives.  
The relationship of the ILO with governmental and international partners and civil society organizations covered the following aspects: supporting coordination frameworks and exchanging experiences among stakeholders; supporting the coordination bodies created to support the cooperatives (Aouna); organizing annual seminars and conferences to exchange experiences and information between everyone and agree on national priorities. The ILO has been providing capacity building and training opportunities on relevant ILO training packages such as My.COOP, Think.Coop and Start.Coop, and has been supporting the development of research in key issue areas such as agricultural cooperatives, and services, consumers and handicrafts cooperatives

What guides the work of the ILO on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy in OPT?

The work of the ILO in OPT is guided by the Palestinian national policy priorities and based on the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. The consultations with our constituents, and the partnership with the cooperative and social and solidarity economy institutions inform our work along with the diagnostic studies that we carry out. In the light of the above, the ILO will continue to work on the following areas around cooperative development:
  • Provide technical support and facilitate dialogue to agree on legislative frameworks regulating cooperative work, in line with ILO Recommendation No. 193 and national priorities;
  • Provide training opportunities for technicians and administrators working in relevant official institutions, cooperative unions and service providers from civil society organizations, in partnership and coordination with other United Nations agencies and international organizations active in this field;
  • Support coordination efforts and exchange knowledge and experiences between all parties active in cooperative development, in a way that enhances integration and eliminates any conflict or repetition in work;
  • Provide studies and diagnostic reports on the status of cooperatives and means of development in the various sectors; and
  • Facilitate the entry of cooperatives in new economic, socio-cultural fields through advisory packages and experimental models in support of the entrepreneurial role of entrepreneurship for cooperative work, and in line with value chain models.