A two-day symposium is held to celebrate the centennial of the Cooperatives Unit of the ILO

The ILO held a two-day symposium on the occasion of the centennial of its Cooperatives Unit.

News | 27 November 2020

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Cooperatives Unit (COOP), the ILO brought together policy makers, researchers and practitioners working with cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE) for a two-day international symposium.

In the opening session of the symposium, ILO Director General Guy Ryder and ICA President Ariel Guarco provided video messages that mark the occasion.

In his remarks the ILO Director General underlined the ILO’s commitment to further invest in advancing and promoting cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy in the service of decent work and social justice for many more decades to come.

In his opening remarks, ICA President Ariel Guarco noted that his organization deeply values the hundred years of close partnership between the ICA and the ILO. He noted that this symposium is a very good opportunity to strengthen the cooperative paradigm globally toward a future of work that incorporates cooperative values and principles leaving no one behind.

The first session focused on prospects for the SSE. Chaired by Jürgen Schwettmann, the three papers featured during this session reflected on the work of the ILO on SSE in Africa (Tunisia and South Africa) and six countries in Asia. The Chair concluded the session noting the enormous diversity and heterogeneity of SSE around the world as showcased in the presentations during the session.

The second session focused on cooperative legislation and policy. Chaired by Anna Biondi, the session featured three papers on the harmonization of cooperative laws, elements supporting an enabling environment for cooperative enterprises, and associated work in cooperatives.

The third session focused on cooperation in context. Chaired by Stefania Marcone, the session featured four papers on cooperatives in Kyrgyzstan, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), consumer cooperatives and ethically sound supply chains, and mapping theater collectives in Portugal and Brazil.

The fourth session focused on statistics of cooperatives and SSE. Chaired by Hakki Ozel, the session featured three presentations on: moving toward harmonized statistics on cooperatives and SSE, producing statistics on work and employment in cooperatives, and sustainable development performance indicators for SSE.

At the end of the first day of the ILO COOP 100 symposium, two publication were celebrated, one on statistics of cooperatives and the other a retrospective issue of the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics.

The first publication on “Statistics of Cooperatives: Concepts, classification, work and economic contribution measurements” is a joint initiative of the International Labour Office (ILO), Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) and the International Centre of Research and Information on Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC). At the launch, Enterprises Department Director Vic Van Vuuren spoke as Chair of COPAC about the technical working group on statistics of cooperatives. Director of ILO STATISTICS Department, Rafael Diez de Medina noted the steps that led to the guidelines on statistics of cooperatives at the 19th and 20th sessions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians and the way forward. Barbara Sak, Senior Economic Researcher and Managing Director of CIRIEC noted the importance that CIRIEC gives to the partnership with the ILO and reflected on the value of the joint publication.

The second publication that was launched during the session was the special retrospective issue on “Cooperatives and the ILO over 100 Years: A selection of 12 Articles”. ILO COOP Programme Manager, Simel Esim presented the process leading to the selection of the 12 articles. She mentioned that Marie J. Bouchard, Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada), and Marieke Louis, Associate Professor at Sciences Po Grenoble (France ) have taken lead as co-editors of this retrospective issue. Bernard Thiry, Director General of CIRIEC International noted that the research published in the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, published on behalf of the Edgard Milhaud Foundation of CIRIEC, has been a key resource in promoting the work of cooperatives and wider SSE both at the global and local levels

The fifth session focused on platform cooperatives. Chaired by Simel Esim, the session featured four papers: The Pegasus Company: An Innovative Form of Cooperation for Decent Work; Shared enterprises: Cooperative innovation meets the challenges of the world of work; Unlocking data value for platform labour: Insights from worker-led, SSE platform models; and Platform cooperativism: a fair and green alternative in the sharing economy and an opportunity for workers.

The sixth session of the symposium focused on quantitative studies on cooperatives and was chaired by Hyungsik Eum. The session featured three papers from three researchers on France, Ethiopia and Nigeria: A Positive or Zero-Sum Game? Social and Market Outcomes of Worker Cooperatives in Knowledge-Intensive Industries; Skills Audit among Leaders of Multi-Purpose Cooperatives (MPCS) in Dire Enchini Woreda, West Shoa Zone of Oromia Regional State; and Cooperative Membership and Multidimensional Poverty among Poultry Framing Households in Southwest Nigeria, Evidence from Oyo State.

The seventh session of the symposium focused on historical accounts of cooperative development and was chaired by Marieke Louis. The three papers presented by the researchers during the session were titled: Centennial celebration of ILO COOP and its relevant contributions to the Social and Solidarity Economy; Historical Perspectives on Concepts, Practices, and Policies of Cooperative Education; and Evolution of the Legal Framework of Brazilian Agricultural Cooperativism.

The eighth session of the symposium focused on cooperatives and sustainability. It was chaired by Vic van Vuuren. The three papers presented by the researchers during the session were titled: Access and Inclusion: Cooperatives and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; “Cooperatives and the Sustainable Development Goals: 5 Years of Progress?; and From Waste Pickers to Producers: An Inclusive Circular Economy Solution through Development of Cooperatives in Waste Management.

ILO Enterprises Director, Vic van Vuuren and ILO COOP Manager Simel Esim were the two speakers of the Closing Session of the Symposium. They provided highlights from the symposium, noting that the ILO COOP 100 activities will continue throughout 2020 with two more webinars, some more photo exhibits and centennial interviews. The symposium was concluded with a short video produced by Blake House filmmaking cooperative on the occasion of the centennial of the Cooperatives Unit of the ILO.