ILO, ICA step up collaboration to promote cooperatives and decent work

Agreement will strengthen the contribution of the two organizations to sustainable development by leveraging the comparative advantage of cooperative enterprises.

Press release | 30 June 2015
Pauline Green, President (ICA) and Guy Ryder, Director-General (ILO)
GENEVA - The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Co-operative Alliance  have signed a partnership agreement that marks the beginning of a new and more intense phase of collaboration between the two organizations.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims to contribute to sustainable development by promoting the role of cooperative enterprises in the context of the post-2015 development agenda. It is a revised and updated version of an earlier agreement that was signed in 2004 under the framework of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder welcomed the new MoU by saying that “the new agreement with the International Co-operative Alliance is a forward-looking exercise fully consistent with the ILO’s 2016-17 priorities recently adopted by our annual International Labour Conference, as well asthe Alliance's Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade. It will allow us to tap into the full potential of cooperatives around the world as we continue to work towards a sustainable future with decent work for all”.

Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance, stated: “The Alliance is proud to step up its collaboration with the International Labour Organization. Cooperatives promote decent work and labour standards because of the democratic checks and balances existing inside them. Decent work is the cornerstone of sustainable development, and cooperatives – providing over 250 million jobs worldwide – have proven that they can create and sustain quality employment even in times of crisis. Cooperatives also play an important role in helping small informal economy producers transition towards the formal economy. Co-operatives are an indispensable asset for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because they offer an alternative model of enterprise, one that works towards a ‘triple bottom line’ of social, economic and environmental sustainability.”

Pauline Green, President (ICA) and Guy Ryder, Director-General (ILO)
The two organizations have worked together to promote cooperatives since the foundation of the ILO in 1919. The first Director-General of the ILO, Albert Thomas, was a leading figure in the French cooperative movement and a member of the Central Committee of the Alliance. Co-operatives directly employ 250 million people in the world, in addition to those indirectly employed due to the economic activity that cooperatives generate.

The ILO also established a Cooperatives Unit in 1920 which continues to make major contributions to the work of the Organization to this day.

When they first met in December 2012 in Brussels, Alliance President Dame Pauline Green and ILO Director-General Guy Ryder agreed to promote the contribution of cooperatives to decent work and other sustainable development goals, to highlight their resilience to economic crisis and their contribution to women’s equality, and to improve statistics on cooperatives, among other issues.

Since that meeting the two institutions have worked closely on these and other issues through bilateral and multilateral platforms such as the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) and the UN Interagency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy.

The joint research and policy dialogue initiatives launched by the ILO and the Alliance over the last two-and-a half years since the two leaders met are starting to bear fruit. The Declaration adopted at the International Summit of Cooperatives in October 2014 includes a commitment on decent work. A two-day research conference on cooperatives and decent work, taking place at the Alliance’s bi-annual global conference in November 2015 in Antalya, Turkey, as a collaborative effort between the ICA’s Cooperative Research Committee and the ILO.

In the context of the post-2015 development agenda, the partnership will build on relevant international labour standards, including the ILO’s Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation, 2002 (No. 193) and the new ILO Recommendation on the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, 2015 (No. 204).

“The idea is to leverage the advantage of cooperatives in promoting decent work and to advance the decent work agenda”, said Jürgen Schwettmann, Director of the ILO’s Department of Partnerships and Field Support.

Besides its close partnership with the Alliance, the ILO is a member of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), an interagency committee which promotes sustainable cooperative development. It also collaborates with cooperative development agencies and training institutions.