COOP Champions

Younis Sbeih, National Project Officer on Cooperatives for the Cooperative Support Programme (CSP), ILO Ramallah

COOP Champions features ILO colleagues from around the world working on cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. It highlights their contributions, and shares highlights of their experiences, current work, and future aspirations.

Article | 01 February 2023

Could you tell us about yourself? How did you get interested and involved in your work at the ILO?

I have been involved in cooperative development from my studies and previous work with UNDP. On the education front, I hold an MSc in Agriculture/ Natural resource management from Jordan University (1990). My BSc is in Agriculture/ Plant Production from Jordan University (1988). I also hold a Diploma in Governance and Administration in the public sector from Bethlehem University (2017). I am a development practitioner, specializing in economic growth, trade, livelihoods, employment and private sector development and engagement.

Prior to joining the ILO, I served in UNDP/PAPP for 20 years as a program manager on agriculture projects. These projects involved: Supporting the start of agricultural cooperatives (including developing farmer-worker cooperatives and food cooperatives); Providing technical assistance and education for the development of cooperatives to better address economic and social needs; and Improving the policy and legal environment for those involved in cooperative and agribusiness.

I led the cooperative development portfolio for UNDP and coordinated partnership with other UN agencies (ILO, FAO and UN WOMEN), the Palestinian government and related partners. I have provided advice and support to CWA, PACU and local NGOs. I worked with cooperative institutions to improve product quality, competitiveness, and access to national and international markets.

What has been the focus of your work with cooperatives in OPT at the ILO?

The ILO provides capacity-building and training services that enable cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy (SSE) entities to become more competitive and sustainable in the marketplace. The ILO’s Cooperative Support Programme (CSP) is a component of the 3-year Programme “Be the Impact” funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).

It aims to strengthen Palestinian cooperative support institutions including the Cooperative Works Agency (CWA) and its subsidiary bodies, the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) and the Cooperative Development Fund (CDF). The programme also provides technical support to the newly founded General Cooperative Union (GCU) and its six sectorial unions, in planning, training, governance and effective leadership.

How do you see the future of cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE) in the oPt?

Palestinian cooperatives have rich history dating back to 1924 when the first tobacco cooperative was established. After the first cooperative law was passed in the early 1930s, cooperatives spread in the agriculture, transport and consumer sectors. Since then, the number of cooperatives grew in other sectors supporting businesses and generating jobs. Women’s participation in cooperatives remains limited despite their potential to address needs of workers with family responsibilities.

Although Palestinian cooperatives have a century long history, they face many economic and social obstacles. Challenges external to cooperatives include the occupation, insufficient support for cooperative development, lack of financial and non-financial service providers for cooperatives. Internal challenges include knowledge of cooperative principles, governance and management among leaders, staff and members of cooperatives. In terms of priorities for the promoting cooperatives in the OPT, I think specific attention needs to be given to:
  • Implementation of the Palestinian cooperative strategy
  • Adoption and implementation of a new cooperative legislation
  • Integration of women and youth in existing cooperatives as leaders, staff and members
  • Advancing learning on cooperative principles and values as means for socioeconomic development
  • Setting up a network of cooperative support institutions to provide services for cooperatives including on pressing issues like trade Supporting the creation of new cooperatives in non-traditional sectors including IT, renewable energy, and services such as care, and tourism
  • Promoting understanding on the wider social and solidarity economy and its entities based on principles and values as outlined in the ILC resolution on decent work and the social and solidarity economy