International Day of Cooperatives

Message by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder: “Choose cooperatives, choose equality"

Statement | 04 July 2015
I am pleased to join the international community in celebrating the International Day of Cooperatives which this year focuses on the theme "Choose cooperatives, choose equality".

As people-centered, principle driven, member owned businesses cooperatives have a long tradition of promoting equality. Their values of “equality and equity” are translated into members’ equal voting rights and access to the products and services of the cooperative, as well as to an equitable distribution of surpluses. In addition to creating a viable enterprise model that generates productivity and income, cooperatives are well placed to help tackle social inequalities, discrimination and exclusion based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and differential abilities.

Not surprisingly, cooperatives have also proved to be effective vehicles for realizing decent work for all. This role of cooperatives has long been recognized in the almost100 years of ILO history. It is reflected in Recommendation No 193 of 2002 on the promotion of cooperatives. The Recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy adopted by the ILO’s International Labour Conference in June 2015 calls on member States to promote cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy units in integrated policy frameworks to facilitate this transition.

In the rural and informal economies we have seen first-hand how women, youth and indigenous peoples are increasing their income and their standard of living by using the cooperative way of working: from a California-based initiative in which marginalized women workers run worker-owned green businesses, to a furniture making cooperative that employs people with disabilities in the Philippines to a Tanzanian cooperative that supports educational expenses of orphans and vulnerable children with significant revenues generated from the sales of their products.

Worker cooperatives and multi-stakeholder cooperatives are rapidly increasing and have provided the means for workers in companies that are going bankrupt, unemployed youth, and laid off public workers to enjoy the prospect of a better future.

In low income communities, cooperatives of housing, tourism and renewable energy can help to achieve an equitable distribution of economic returns. The ILO is examining how cooperative arrangements for the provision of care services can improve the well-being of care workers, care beneficiaries and the community at large.  And, as the world of work evolves, the cooperative model can be used to bring technological, social and organizational innovation through pooling of people, knowledge, technology and resources helping to bridge the gaps that perpetuate economic and social inequality.

The ILO looks forward to working more closely with cooperative enterprises to promote cooperative ideals and to expand access to opportunities for decent work, an objective reflected in the renewed partnership agreement signed on 30 June 2015 by the ILO and the ICA and by joint work such as a recent ILO/ICA survey on cooperatives and gender equality.

As the international community moves toward the adoption of the post 2015 global development framework, let us ensure that cooperatives find their place in effective strategies to promote social justice and decent work for all.