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With a billion members worldwide, cooperatives are a force to reckon with

KAMPALA-The cooperative movement is made up of over three million cooperatives with approximately one billion members worldwide from all sectors and regions, according to the International Cooperative Alliance [ICA].

As cooperatives are diverse and their activities have multiple dimensions, they are contributing to almost all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A study conducted by the ICA entitled How Cooperatives Drive the Change? – A SDG Framework for Cooperatives [to be published in 2022], will explain why and how cooperatives can become unique and leading actors in achieving the SDGs.

Cooperatives’ way of working based on the values and principles make cooperative-specific contributions to SDGs,  in addition to their contributions through main economic activities like; agriculture, fishery, finance, insurance, health, housing, consumption, industry and services), by:

Providing income-generation opportunities and decent work; advancing gender equality and youth; providing education and training; protecting environment and climate; enhancing coop-to-coop cooperation; promoting community development.

International Year of Cooperatives : a milestone for legal reforms

The UN International Year of Cooperatives [UN IYC] was adopted by the UN GA Resolution 64/136 of 18 December 2009. This was a time which was at the heels of the 2008 global recession, and the 2009 response by the ILO which propagated the resilience of cooperative financial institutions during the financial crisis. The IYC encouraged policymakers to consider revamping the legal environment for the development of cooperatives, as was envisioned by the 2001 draft UN Guidelines (A/56/73) and as elaborated by the 2002 Promotion of Cooperatives Recommendation (No. 193) of the ILO which brought to its text, the all components of the ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity – definition (para 2), values and principles (para 3).

While the period after 1995 [adoption of the Identity Statement] and particularly after 2002 (adoption of the ILO R. 193) saw marked increase in the number of countries deliberating legal reform. In some other countries, such as the United States, attempts such as the 2007 Uniform Limited Cooperative Associations Act, were being made to modernise the cooperative legislation in a way to help cooperatives raise external capital.

Numerous countries worldwide had revisited their cooperative laws in the last decade with the aim to support cooperatives. Some examples are Sri Lanka which started work on its first-ever National Policy on cooperatives in 2012, Mongolia which established a consultative process to reform its cooperative law in 2013, Vietnam which adopted a law facilitating further the creation of secondary cooperatives, the Specialised Farmers’ Cooperative Law of China of 2007, the State of Palestine which ushered in a new law on cooperatives in 2017, among many others. A common feature in these reforms is the reference to the universal values and principles of cooperatives in the legal text. Other notable examples of legal reform coinciding with and after the proclamation of the UN IYC are the following:

The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act
[2011] of India, which gave all citizens a basic-civil-fundamental right to form cooperatives, a right which is akin to the people’s right to form unions and associations as guaranteed by Articles 23 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

The Framework Act on Cooperatives, 2012 was adopted in the Republic of Korea, with the aim to create a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives in all economic sectors and services, especially those not covered by the then existing legal framework which regulated only eight “traditional” sectors, like agriculture, fisheries, consumer etc. Around 12000 new cooperatives in different areas have been created in the country after the Framework Act was passed. Examples of these cooperatives are taxi drivers’ cooperative, language interpreters/translators’ cooperative, freelancers’ cooperatives etc.

A historic #CoopsDay

Marked by cooperatives worldwide since 1923 and officially proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on the centenary of the ICA in 1995, the International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July.

This year’s celebration will be the 100th International Cooperative Day, the 28th International Day of Cooperatives recognized by the United Nations and will mark a decade from the International Year of Cooperatives in 2012.

The aim of #CoopsDay is to increase awareness of cooperatives worldwide and promote the movement’s ideas of international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality, and world peace. Since 1995, the ICA and the United Nations through Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) have jointly set the theme for the celebration of #CoopsDay.

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