News update

International Cooperative Day 2020: COOPS for Climate Action

The International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated on the first Saturday of July every year.

News | Colombo, Sri Lanka | 03 July 2020
The aim of the International Day is to increase awareness on cooperatives and promote the movement's successes and ideals of international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality, and world peace. The International Day also aims to strengthen and extend partnerships between the international cooperative movement and other actors, including governments, at local, national and international levels.

A worker climbing on a "Kithul" tree to tap its serum to produce indigenous jaggery and treacle production

Over the past century, cooperatives have been an important partner of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in achieving a decent, “human-centred" work agenda for a fair, secure and inclusive future of work.

The first ILO Director-General, Albert Thomas, was from the cooperative movement himself. Recognizing the importance of cooperatives, he established a Cooperative Service in the ILO in 1920, and co-operators are explicitly mentioned in Article 12 of the ILO constitution.

Social Solidarity Economy

There are growing calls for new models of development and an increasing number of enterprises have come up with innovative solutions to improve the organisation of work and production. Cooperatives are increasingly recognised as key drivers in this diverse ecosystem. The theme of this year’s, International Day of Cooperatives is "Cooperatives for Climate Action”.

The ILO prioritises sustainable development -- giving the environment and resilience for climate change related impact its due recognition. Green jobs, green enterprises and green coops are the future.

In line with this vision, the ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, with the support of development partners, has promoted green jobs, climate and disaster resilience in Sri Lanka for the past decade. In that regard, COOPs has always been a key world of work institution for the ILO, be it in fisheries, agriculture production, processing or value chains. Sri Lanka’s first National Cooperative Policy of Sri Lanka, developed with the technical support of the ILO, received cabinet approval in 2019.

In 2018, the COOPS for climate action initiative was piloted in Sri Lanka through the ILO’s self-fundedWatershed Management project in the Ratnapura and Kalutara districts, two of the most affected districts by frequent floods in the recent past.

Livelihood Resilience

In 2019, with the technical cooperation of the Ratnapura District Secretariat and International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN Sri Lanka office, the ILO introduced a range of livelihood options for vulnerable communities in the watershed areas of these two districts. These options also contributed to the protection of those watersheds through preventing soil erosion and enriching the water retention and ecosystem health.

Locally known as Kithul – Cariyota urens is a palm tree indigenous to the area, which is versatile with a high conservation value through preventing soil erosion while also providing syrup for indigenous jaggery and treacle production which are considered highly nutritious and healthy.

The project supported kithul farmers in two districts to cooperate together to produce, process and market the produce. This initiative not only fosters conserving of soils in the watershed and a long-term solution for impacts of climate change, but also provides sustainable livelihoods for the disaster affected communities in the area.

The formation of associations based on localities ensured the sustainability not only for production and marketing of kithul products, but also enabled the planting and maintaining of 10,000 kithul trees in the two districts. It is anticipated that this initiative would preserve an indigenous industry in the area while contributing to address the impacts of frequent climate related disasters.

Building on this experience, the ILO in Sri Lanka plans to extend its climate action initiative to the COOPs in the Northern Province, through the Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+) project, which has been working with COOPS since 2011.