Special message at the International conference on "Forging greater solidarity among cooperatives, trade unions and social enterprises"

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the International conference on "Forging greater solidarity among cooperatives, trade unions and social enterprises", Quezon City, Philippines, 20 September 2012

Statement | Pasig City, Philippines | 20 September 2012


  • Secretary Balisacan of the National Economic Development Authority,
  • Dr Pascual, Chancellor Saloma together with officials of the University of the Philippines
  • Dean Sale, Professor Sibal conference chair and professors of UP-SOLAIR
  • Brother Christopher Ng, General Secretary of UNI-APRO
  • Our partners from the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations,
  • Distinguished speakers,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!

It is an honour to join you in today’s international conference in celebration of the International Year of Cooperatives!

Cooperatives serve nearly 1 billion members worldwide. While doing so, cooperatives have the opportunity to help establish decent and productive work within our communities.

Financial cooperatives provide services to over 857 million people globally. They are also the world’s largest providers of microfinance services to the working poor.

The economic contribution of cooperatives globally is significant. In 2008, the top 300 cooperatives worldwide generated revenues of 1.6 trillion US dollars.

Cooperatives also provide nearly 50 per cent of the world’s agricultural output, helping farmers at the same time, literally keeping food on our tables.

ILO Director-General Somavia said on the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives,

“Cooperatives are an important channel for bridging market values and human values. Set within an agreed framework for inclusive growth, cooperative ideals and cooperative organization will be all the more effective in meeting their people-centred objectives.”

Individuals and communities throughout the world have faced challenges and setbacks due to the global economic crisis.

Even today, five years after the global economic crisis began; many families remain trapped in poverty and vulnerable forms of employment. These conditions force millions of workers to accept or to create whatever work they can find just so they and their loved ones can survive another day.

The global economic crisis has highlighted the fact that once again it’s not about the level of economic growth. But, what we need to focus on is how we achieve economic growth through productive work which is sustainable. Believe it or not this fact has even been recognized by the former Chief of the IMF.

Cooperatives have demonstrated that they have a significant role to play when it comes to uplifting their members and their communities.

Cooperatives foster social inclusion as they have a unique ability to enable disadvantaged groups – indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants, women, the vulnerably employed, the unemployed, the elderly and people with disability – to gain voice, organize and mobilize to pursue their economic interests and to secure social protection.

The ILO has always been an active advocate of cooperative ideals and has worked to ensure that the policy and legal environment for cooperatives is an enabling one.

This year, the ILO celebrates the 10th anniversary of Recommendation 193 concerning Promotion of Cooperatives.

Within this context, governments need to provide a supportive policy and legal framework consistent with the nature and function of cooperatives and guided by the cooperative values and principles.

As such, Recommendation 193 states that “cooperatives should be treated on terms no less favourable than those accorded to other forms of enterprise and social organization”.

Globally, the ILO has been supporting the work of cooperatives through its Cooperative Programme.

The programme helps governments, employers, workers and cooperative organizations by raising public awareness on cooperatives through evidence based advocacy and sensitization to cooperative values and principles; ensuring the competitiveness of cooperatives by developing tailored tools such as management training, audit manuals and assistance programmes; promoting the inclusion of teaching of cooperative principles and practices at all levels of the national education and training systems; and, providing advice on cooperative policy and cooperative law.

Here in the Philippines, the ILO has been working closely with cooperatives through projects which include the Lake Sebu, South Cotabato where the ILO partnered with, the Cooperative of Women in Health and Development (COWHED) which is composed mainly of and led by indigenous women. COWHED is now operating a microfinance facility with ILO assistance. It has become a model of individual and collective self-reliance among indigenous women.

In Agusan del Norte, a cooperative model on innovative financing for farmers which help them adapt to climate change was piloted with the local government units, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Baug Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme Beneficiaries Multipurpose Cooperative.

The ILO’s programme for the future in the Philippines will be guided by the priorities set under the Philippine Development Plan and the The Department of Labor and Employment's Philippine labor and employment plan 2011-2016 inclusive growth through decent and productive work.

In closing, let me wish you a successful conference, with active exchange of lessons and experiences, productive dialogue among cooperatives, trade unions, and other sectors.

Rest assured that the ILO will work towards continued and strong partnerships with cooperatives, trade unions and social enterprises for greater solidarity in order to achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener growth through decent and productive work.

Thank you and Mabuhay!