The 2012 International Year of Co-operatives
The United Nations, in its 2009 General Assembly, proclaimed 2012 to be the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives purposely to: 1. Increase public awareness about co-operatives and their contributions to socio-economic development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; 2. Promote the formation of growth of co-operatives and; 3. Encourage governments to establish policies, laws and regulations conducive to the formation, growth and stability of co-operatives.
Riding on the theme: “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World,” the International Year of Co-operatives had provided a powerful focal point for the co-operative sector. In the words of the International Co-Operative Alliance: “It has heightened its sense of shared purpose, illustrated by the range of activities and celebrations of the International Year, by the number of international conferences and summits held around the world with agreed outcome declarations, as well as the widespread take-up of the 2012 International Year logo and tagline by co-operatives around the world. It has raised the profile of co-operatives beyond the limits of the sector itself, in civil society and among governmental and inter-governmental bodies.”
Indeed, the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives marks the beginning of a worldwide campaign to take the co-operative way of doing business to a new level. There is no doubt that the achievements of the year-long undertaking are indeed significant but they need to be seen in the most crucial global trends of: 1. Environmental degradation and resource depletion; 2. An unstable financial sector; 3. Increasing inequality; 4. A growing global governance gap; 5. A seemingly disenfranchised younger generation and; 6. A loss of trust in political and economic organizations.
The Blue Print for a Cooperative Decade
Hence, the International Co-operative Alliance, the Apex organization for co-operatives worldwide, during its General Assembly held in Manchester, England in October 2012 had approved the 2011-2020 Blue Print for a Co-operative Decade. At the heart of this blueprint is the “2020 Co-operative Challenge” which is that by 2020, co-operatives will become: 1. The acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability; 2. The business model preferred by people and; 3. The fastest growing form of enterprise.
To pursue the 2020 Vision, the Blueprint strategy involves concentrating on the five (5) interlinked themes, and establishing implementation strategies to each of them. The overarching agenda for the ICA, its members and the co-operative sector generally is laid out here:
1. Elevate PARTICIPATION within membership and governance to a new level.
2. Position co-operatives as builders of SUSTAINABILITY.
3. Build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative IDENTITY.
4. Ensure supportive LEGAL FRAMEWORKS for co-operative growth.
5. Secure reliable co-operative CAPITAL while guaranteeing member control.
The 2020 Vision is indeed a challenge. And as a co-operative leader by passion, and banking on the third blue print agenda, I pick up the challenge to “build the co-operative message and secure the co-operative identity” in my own little way by posting a series of blogs focusing on the “Cooperative Advantage” to increase public awareness about co-operatives and their contributions to sustainable development and drive home a message to my readers that co-operatives are heading their way to their rightful status as “the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability; the business model preferred by people and; the fastest growing form of enterprise” in 2020.