LONDON, December 19, 2023 – Prof. Hans-H. Münkner died in November 2023, leaving behind his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. His family’s loss is incommensurable with ours, but we wish to express our feelings about him and acknowledge his influence. Professor Münkner’s many friends, colleagues, and students around the world will understand that – to paraphrase an African saying – with him, an immense library of knowledge on cooperative law, cooperative theory, enterprise law, development theory and practice, land law … has gone.
Fortunately, his legacy is preserved in the hundreds of publications he has written in German, English, French, Spanish, and which were translated into other languages, including Polish, Bahasa Indonesia, Italian. It is also preserved in the memories of those who had the privilege to learn from him. However, nothing will replace his ability to capture the attention of his audience, from China to Honduras and Finland to South Africa, with the rare gift of explaining complex issues simply and uncompromisingly, but always fair vis-à-vis those who disagreed with him – and to do so in many languages, and at times to the bewilderment of his interpreters.
His work spanned well beyond the field of cooperative law and certainly way beyond cooperative law in Germany. He wrote his doctoral thesis on cooperative law in Ghana, and many more publications on foreign laws followed. But cooperative law was his starting point, and that is where he anchored his many other interests. His sharp comments on cooperative law projects, at home, at the European Union level and further afield, always impressed. He saw cooperatives and cooperative law as a means to improve the lot of the voiceless, about whom too many simply make a lot of noise. Cooperatives facilitated engagement without the noise.
Prof. Münkner regularly organised seminars in Marburg, where he lived and worked throughout most of his adult life. Those willing to participate were easily engaged because it meant being away from home on many weekends!
Cooperative law and lawyers would not be where they are today without Professor Münkner’s contribution. For more than six decades, he ensured progress by determinedly insisting that the identity of cooperatives be respected. The international texts that are referred to by those who make and apply cooperative law, namely the 1995 International Cooperative Alliance Statement on the Co-operative Identity; the 2001 United Nations Draft guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives; and the 2002 Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation [No. 193] of the International Labour Organization, all carry his intellectual mark.
We owe Professor Münkner our respect and gratitude. To acknowledge this, we plan to prepare a book in his memory.
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