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The Cooperative Movement and the Importance of International Day of Cooperatives, 6th July

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Khalid Masood Khan

The cooperative movement has long been recognized as a crucial force for improving the lives of citizens and advancing the economic, social, cultural, and political aspects of communities and nations. As a major stakeholder in both national and international affairs, cooperatives are viewed as associations and enterprises that play a distinct role in societal development.

One of the key strengths of cooperatives lies in their open membership model, which provides individuals with opportunities for wealth creation and poverty reduction. This is underpinned by the cooperative principle of members’ economic participation, wherein members contribute fairly to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative. By focusing on people rather than capital, cooperatives work to avoid perpetuating or exacerbating capital concentration and strive to distribute wealth in a more equitable manner.

In addition to their economic impact, cooperatives also contribute to fostering social and environmental equality within their communities. Grounded in a commitment to sustainable development, cooperatives support local initiatives, prioritize local sourcing of supplies to bolster the local economy, and make decisions with consideration for their wider community impact. Despite their localized focus, cooperatives aim to extend the benefits of their economic and social model to people worldwide, advocating for principles that could guide globalization towards a more equitable and sustainable path.

The cooperative movement’s democratic nature, local autonomy, and international integration make it a unique organizational model. By relying on self-help and individual responsibility, cooperatives aim to achieve a range of objectives, including economic, social, and environmental goals such as poverty reduction, job creation, and social integration.

In observance of the International Day of Cooperatives this year on July 6, cooperatives worldwide will come together to celebrate the theme “Cooperatives Building a Better Future for All”. This provides an excellent opportunity for cooperatives to not only highlight their current contributions but also to showcase their historical role in advancing a sustainable future. The celebration aligns with the broader objectives of the upcoming UN Summit of the Future, which focuses on “Multilateral solutions for a better tomorrow”.

The 2024 #CoopsDay offers cooperatives a platform to underscore their commitment to inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as their role as environmental stewards in the fight against climate change. Through their emphasis on democratic governance and shared ownership, cooperatives present a model for promoting peace and stability. They bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds on equal footing, nurturing mutual understanding and respect.

The 2023 UN Secretary-General Report on Cooperatives in Social Development recognized the significant impact of cooperatives in promoting the economic and social development of all members of society, particularly marginalized groups. This day of observance serves to build momentum towards the 2025 International Year of Cooperatives, as declared by the UN last year.

The 2024 International Day of Cooperatives represents an important moment for cooperatives to showcase their commitment to sustainable development and their vital role in addressing global challenges. It serves as a platform to demonstrate the multifaceted contributions of cooperatives towards building a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for all.

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Cooperatives: Nurturing Sustainable Economic Growth and Employment Opportunities

Cooperatives, as democratic and collectively-owned enterprises, have a profound impact on the global economy, influencing more than 12% of the world’s population through their widespread presence. With over 3 million cooperatives operating across various sectors, these organizations are essential in fostering economic sustainability, providing critical services, and significantly contributing to job creation.

The economic significance of cooperatives is underscored by the substantial collective turnover of the 300 largest cooperatives and mutuals, which amounts to an impressive 2,409.41 billion USD. This substantial financial turnover highlights the pivotal role that cooperatives play in shaping the global economic landscape, showcasing their significant contribution to overall economic prosperity.

Furthermore, cooperatives are deeply integrated into the social framework, playing a key role in ensuring the well-being and prosperity of communities worldwide. Whether it’s in agriculture, financial services, healthcare, or consumer goods, cooperatives play a crucial part in ensuring that essential services and resources are accessible to individuals across diverse backgrounds.

One of the most notable contributions of cooperatives lies in their role as drivers of employment. With a workforce encompassing a substantial 280 million individuals, cooperatives make a significant impact on the global employment scenario, offering stable, quality jobs and work opportunities to a significant portion of the world’s employed population—equating to approximately 10%.

Moreover, the employment opportunities provided by cooperatives are not just about numbers; they embody a commitment to fostering an environment where meaningful, dignified work is available to individuals across various geographical locations and sectors. By upholding principles of cooperation, inclusivity, and fair resource distribution, cooperatives empower individuals to contribute in meaningful ways to their communities and societies.

In conclusion, the importance of cooperatives in nurturing sustainable economic growth, delivering essential services, and creating substantial employment opportunities cannot be overstated. As we navigate the complexities of the modern economic landscape, it is crucial to recognize and appreciate the invaluable contributions of cooperatives and the enduring impact they have on communities and societies at large.

The cooperative principles outline the values and guidelines that cooperatives follow in their operations. These principles are based on the core values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. The seven cooperative principles are as follows:

1. Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are open to all individuals who are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership without any gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are autonomous organizations that are governed by their members, who actively participate in decision-making processes. Members have equal voting rights, and decisions are made on a democratic basis.

3. Member Economic Participation: Members contribute fairly to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative. The economic benefits of the cooperative are allocated in proportion to each member’s transactions with the cooperative rather than the amount of capital they have invested.

4. Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. They have the freedom to make decisions independently and are not influenced by external organizations.

5. Education, Training, and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training to their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. They also inform the public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives: Cooperatives work together through local, national, regional, and international structures to serve their members effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement.

7. Concern for Community: Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members. They contribute to the overall well-being of the community and the environment.

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