Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators

Promoting cooperatives through a global multi-stakeholder partnership

"Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators" is a series of interviews with cooperative leaders from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work with cooperatives. For this issue ILO interviewed COPAC Coordinator Ms Fran McCrae.

Article | 05 March 2018
Fran McCrae, COPAC Coordinator
Fran McCrae has been the Coordinator of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) since November 2014. She first got involved with the cooperative movement as the Communications Officer for the European Community of Consumer Cooperatives (EuroCoop) during the International Year of Cooperatives in 2012. She spent two years working on the policy team of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). Fran is currently based in the ILO office in Washington, DC. The ILO is the current chair of COPAC.

Q. What is COPAC?

COPAC is a multi-stakeholder partnership of global public and private institutions that champions cooperative enterprises as leaders in sustainable development, through knowledge building, awareness raising and engaging in global policy processes.

COPAC has two main objectives: to make global policymakers aware of cooperatives and their contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to disseminate and share quality information and knowledge about cooperatives.

The idea for COPAC came about at the 23rd Session of the General Assembly of 1968, when the United Nations requested that the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) consider the role of cooperatives in economic and social development. Accordingly, ECOSOC asked the UN Secretary-General to collaborate closely with the Directors of the ILO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the ICA and other appropriate NGOs to prepare a programme of action that would help realise the full potential of the cooperative movement in economic and social development.

This culminated in the establishment of the Joint Committee for the Promotion of Agricultural Cooperatives in March 1971. The members were the ILO, the FAO, the ICA, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) and the International Federation of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers (IFPAAW). The Committee eventually moved away from cooperative development to promoting cooperatives, and its name was changed to COPAC in 1989 to reflect the new mission of inter-agency collaboration.

Today, COPAC’s members are the ILO, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the FAO, the ICA, and the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), which make up the COPAC Board. The position of COPAC Chair rotates every two years to ensure shared leadership, and has been with the ILO since 2017.

Q. What are the current activities or initiatives of COPAC?

The first meeting of the Technical Working Group on statistics of cooperatives (Fran at the front, third from the right)
COPAC is currently working on improving the quality of statistics on cooperatives. It coordinates a Technical Working Group (TWG) on statistics of cooperatives consisting of experts from the UN system, academia, the cooperative movement and national statistics offices. COPAC and its TWG are providing feedback on the work for the upcoming International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) in October 2018, where guidelines on the measurement of cooperatives, in terms of both employment and economic value added, will be put forth for consideration. COPAC also maintains an online Data Explorer that compiles statistics on cooperatives from around the world.

The members of COPAC are responsible for selecting the theme and slogan for the International Day of Cooperatives (IDC), an annual global celebration that takes places the first Saturday of July. The 2018 theme is sustainable consumption and production of goods and services. Every year, COPAC hosts the UN observance of the IDC and produces a publication, video, photo exhibition or other resource to reinforce the theme. Through its Digital Library, COPAC collects cooperative knowledge from its members and shares its own publications. This online depository is regularly updated with new research and information.

Finally, COPAC promotes cooperatives at global policy processes, such as the Commission for Social Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, the High-level Political Forum and the Committee on World Food Security. Through events, outreach to policymakers and knowledge sharing, COPAC aims to raise awareness about the cooperative enterprise model.

Q. What are the challenges and opportunities for COPAC?

As with any partnership with limited resources, COPAC must focus on activities with the potential for greatest impact, rather than putting all its ideas into action. This can be a challenge when there are so many competing priorities.

On the positive side, COPAC benefits from the credibility and influence of its member organisations, an asset that could lead to an expanded membership and a wider network of partners. There is also renewed global interest in cooperatives and the social economy, which is an opportunity for COPAC and its members.