The ILO-ICA Joint Conference on Cooperatives and the Future of Work

Marking the ILO Centenary, the ILO and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) co-organized a conference that reflects on the role of cooperative enterprises in promoting decent work for all in a changing world of work.

News | 25 June 2019
The ILO-ICA Joint Conference on “Cooperatives and the Future of Work” was organized on 24 June 2019 in ILO Headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland, bringing together more than a hundred people from governments, UN agencies, academia, the cooperative movement and the wider social and solidarity economy organizations.

Mr Ryder and Mr Guarco signining MoU
ILO Director General, Mr Guy Ryder, provided a keynote speech to open the conference along with the ICA President Mr Ariel Guarco. Mr Ryder highlighted almost a century-long partnership between the two organizations and reflected on the role cooperatives could play in the quest for a fairer, inclusive and more secure future of work with decent work for all. A new memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the ILO and the ICA marking collaboration between the two organizations to work towards a human-centred agenda for the future of work with full engagement of the cooperative movement.

(from the left) Mr Guarco, Mr Schwettman and Mr Van Vuuren
Mr Jürgen Schwettmann, an independent consultant on cooperative development and a former ILO official, presented the key trends and forces transforming the world of work (demographic and environmental changes, technological innovations, and globalization) and reflected on the relevance of cooperatives to the ten recommendations set out by the ILO’s independent Global Commission on the Future of Work. The full presentation is available here.

Ms Reema Nanavaty, President of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and member of the ILO’s independent Global Commission on the Future of Work also contributed to the morning session through video. She reflected on the role of cooperatives in formalizing the informal economy and contributing to an enabling environment through support institutions. She emphasized the dual strategy of SEWA across forty-years in organizing poor women in the informal economy as a national union while also developing cooperative enterprises that are owned and controlled by their members to improve their livelihoods.

During the session, representatives from the governments of Uruguay, the Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran reflected on the role of cooperatives in their countries. A representative from UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) also provided its institutional perspectives on cooperative enterprises. Mr Víctor Báez, Deputy General Secretary of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) made a speech emphasizing the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in creating more and better jobs for local economies. He also highlighted the organization of workers in the informal economy including those in the platform economy as one of the key areas of collaboration between the trade union and cooperative movements.

Co-editors of the ILO-ICA joint publication
In the latter half of the conference, the book on “Cooperatives and the world of work” (Routledge, 2019) was presented by the co-editors and chapter authors. The session covered a range of topics including a century-long history of the ILO interaction with the cooperative movement; cooperative engagement with fundamental principles and rights at work; worker ownership of enterprises; labour transformation and institutional re-arrangement; and rural development and women empowerment through cooperatives. The book will be available in August 2019.

Group photo of the participants