International Day of Cooperatives

Resilience and social inclusion through cooperatives

On 8 July, experts gathered for a panel discussion at the UN in New York to examine ways in which cooperatives could serve as engines of economic recovery and growth while providing greater opportunities for social inclusion.

News | 08 July 2013
NEWYORK – Around the world, more and more individuals are banding together to open businesses that provide the jobs, products and services they need.

Looking beyond the bottom line, cooperative enterprises have a social mission to enhance not only the livelihoods of their members but also the communities that surround them. Many are formed in response to crises in which the poor and vulnerable are worst hit and where victims have few alternatives to helping themselves.

Cooperatives continue to capture international attention as the world searches for ways to achieve a lasting global economic recovery and to find a path toward more sustainable development. On 8 July, experts gathered for a panel discussion at the UN in New York to examine ways in which cooperatives could serve as engines of economic recovery and growth while providing greater opportunities for social inclusion.

Marking the International Day of Cooperatives (6 July), Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the UN”s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Bas, delivered opening remarks, in which she called upon the international community to strengthen its efforts to promote the formation of new cooperatives across economic sectors.

“Around the world today cooperatives are bringing together one billion people as members, and are securing the livelihoods of as many as three billion people,” said Bas. “We believe the international community should make efforts to increase the presence of cooperative themes throughout the different development dialogues.”
The following discussion focused on the potential of cooperatives to promote economic resilience, particularly among vulnerable and marginalized populations, by mitigating the risks of future financial, environmental and food crises.

Kevin Cassidy, Senior Communications and External Relations Officer of the ILO’s Office for the United Nations in New York, said many financial cooperatives outperformed investor-owned banking institutions during and following the global financial crisis.

“Unlike many investor-owned banks, [financial cooperatives] maintained very good credit ratings, increased their assets and customer-base and the minority that suffered losses quickly bounced back and are growing again,” said Cassidy. “In a time of crisis, cooperatives are a source of stability and resilience, and [they] provide an important channel for bridging market values and human values.”

Ambassador Od Och, Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the United Nations, called cooperatives “a type of self-help organization.” He also pointed out the social value-added of the democratic and inclusive nature of cooperative enterprises.

“[Cooperatives] are based on broad community support where everyone, regardless of political or religious beliefs or skin color, can contribute to finding solutions and can give back to their communities,” Och stated.

In her presentation, Betsy Dribben, Director of Policy, International Cooperative Alliance, reminded the panel of the seven principles that define the core guiding values of all cooperatives:
  1. voluntary and open membership,
  2. democratic member control,
  3. members' economic participation,
  4. autonomy and independence,
  5. commitment to providing education, training and information,
  6. cooperation among cooperatives, and
  7. a concern for community.

Other experts from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the United Nations Federal Credit Union also presented to discuss the social and economic benefits that cooperatives bring and their potential role in shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda.