Today the ILO is pleased to join the international community in celebrating the International Day of Cooperatives.
This day provides us with the opportunity to raise awareness on the role cooperatives play and to promote their values of mutualism, self-help and solidarity.
Historically these values see a surge of interest during times of crises. This period around the global pandemic is no different.
Hence this year’s theme on “Cooperatives for building a people-centred and environmentally just recovery” is most timely and relevant as we continue to face the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
Around the pandemic cooperatives, and other social and solidarity economy institutions have stepped up to support their members and communities.
Producer and consumer cooperatives have kept supply chains of essential foods and goods moving while also relocalising production.
Financial cooperatives and ethical banks put initiatives in place to support local micro and small businesses and members struggling to pay back their loans.
Health cooperatives collaborated with local and national governments and transformed their products and services to meet urgent local needs for protective equipment and social care.
Cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy organizations of informal workers have provided assistance, advocated for government support and provided flow of work for their members who were among the first to lose their livelihoods.
During this period, the policy makers in countries around the world have recognized the role that cooperatives and wider social and solidarity economy organizations play as social actors and partners in emergency response.
In moving forward beyond the pandemic, it will be important that cooperatives are also recognized as economic actors that need to benefit from the financial relief packages.
Moreover, they need to be considered as critical partners for the longer term in building more resilient communities and strengthening local economies.
When the public health crisis is over, societies and economies will need to be re-energised. In the medium to long term, the measures will need to look at preserving business and decent work.
In preserving jobs, restructuring struggling enterprises into worker cooperatives, especially in the case of bankruptcies, has been an effective strategy utilized by governments, trade union movements, employers’ and cooperative organizations.
In supporting the reactivation and adaptation of enterprises to the new conditions beyond the pandemic, it will be important to recognize the unique role cooperatives and wider social and solidarity economy can play in working toward a fairer and more inclusive economy that integrates values of mutuality, economic justice and organizational democracy.
Cooperatives have been an important partner of the ILO in achieving a decent, “human-centred" work agenda for a fair, secure and inclusive future of work for over a century now. As the representative of cooperatives worldwide the International Cooperative Alliance has held a general consultative status since the establishment of the ILO.
I have no doubt that cooperatives will be central to the upcoming general discussion at the 110th International Labour Conference on the social and solidarity economy for a human-centered future of work.
At the ILO we look forward to continuing to work together with our constituents and cooperative partners for a human centered future of work. Let us rebuild better together.
1 minute video of the statement is available here.