Cooperatives build a better world
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.
This designation has been made to highlight the contribution cooperatives make around the world to socio-economic development, employment generation and social integration."Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in support of the designation.
Increasingly, we see demands for a change in the ways we live and work. Increasingly, we see the need for choices and values that are sustainable, responsible, and inclusive.
In confronting these challenges, we can draw strength from the cooperative spirit. The cooperative movement balances both economic viability and social responsibility. They make enormous contributions not only to their members, but to their communities and societies. They help to reduce poverty and create jobs. They promote food security and inclusive finance. They empower youth, women, older persons, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. Hence, they serve as a significant social safety net.
The International Year of Cooperatives is an opportunity to raise public awareness about cooperatives, to promote their formation, and to encourage governments to establish policies conducive to their growth. Just as important, it is a chance to underscore the importance of cooperative values.
One of these is sustainability. Cooperatives focus on the long-term. Through their use of local labor and capital, as well as their respect for the environment, cooperatives strengthen local economies while creating a sustainable future.
A second cooperative value is solidarity. Cooperatives typically enjoy a strong community connection, and hold themselves accountable to more than solely their members or clients. For cooperatives, the well-being of the broader community is as crucial as the well-being of its members.
Third, inclusiveness. As self-help organizations, cooperatives are inherently people-centered. They not only meet material needs, but also the human need to participate proactively in improving one’s life. Moreover, with democratic decision-making processes and a focus on cultivating member skills and capacities, cooperatives offer a model for harnessing the energies and passions of all.
Cooperatives present us with values and structures that are ideally suited for addressing the challenges we face. We must leverage these advantages to produce not only better businesses, but to advance the broader imperative of sustainable development. In that way, we can live up to the year’s theme: “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”.
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