Rebuild Better Together
The COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergency have both revealed the fragility of our societies and our planet. These dual crises are disproportionately affecting the world’s most vulnerable countries and people and deepening many social and economic rifts. They also make clear the need to strengthen global cooperation and solidarity.António Guterres
Cooperatives have contributed to solving major global issues. International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated on the first Saturday of July every year (July 3 in 2021). This celebration aims at increasing awareness about the role played by the cooperatives and their contributions in realising the UNs goals and objectives of the international cooperative movement. This year’s celebration will be the 27th UN observation and the 99th International Cooperative Day. The day of the celebration was chosen to coincide with the already existing International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) that was founded in 1895. ICA is one of the oldest non-governmental organisations representing three billion cooperatives and one billion cooperative members on the planet.
Cooperatives are associations and enterprises that allow people to improve their lives while contributing to their community and nations all-around development. They are an autonomous association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic, and cultural benefit. Cooperatives have contributed to wealth creation, eliminating poverty and are people-centric. This nature makes them be more ethical and fairer and foster equality.
According to the UN, around 3 million cooperatives worldwide, comprising 12% of the world population. They employ 280 million people across the globe (10% of the world’s employed people). The first consumer cooperative society was established in 1844 in Manchester in England. European counties led by England and Sweden have been at the forefront of the joint consumer movement in the world. In India, the erstwhile Madras state was the pioneer in the field of the cooperative movement. The Triplicane Urban Cooperative Society Limited was the first consumer cooperative society set up in 1904. The concept of cooperation and cooperative activities was prevalent in several parts of India, with names like Vanarai, Chit Funds, Kuries, Bhishies, Phads representing cooperative consumer movements. India being an agrarian society, with more than half of its population still residing in the villages, cooperative societies play a significant role. Major sources for credit Cooperatives cover more than 97%of Indian villages, some by the government, some run by their members. In India, 75,000 cooperative dairy societies spread all over the country, with more than 10 million persons being part of these cooperatives.
In the last year, we have witnessed how the cooperative model has been working towards the well-being of people and respect for the planet, underscoring what the cooperative movement stands for. We will indeed rebuild better together, and I am confident that we will see many stories of how the cooperative movement can help communities become stronger in the post-pandemic world.Bruno Roelants
Director-General of the International Cooperative Alliance
There are many success stories; amongst them are Amul, Indian Coffee House, Lijjat Papad Khadi and Gramodyog Sahakari Utpadana Sangha. Amul is the largest food brand in India and the world’s Largest Pouched Milk Brand and has 2.6 million producer members with a milk collection average of 10.16 million litres per day. The Indian Coffee House is a restaurant chain in India, run by a series of worker cooperative societies. There are nearly 400 coffee houses all over India, which are a part of the chain. Lijjat (Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad) is an Indian women’s organisation manufacturing various products. It is considered one of the most remarkable entrepreneurial initiatives by women identified with female empowerment in India and has 67 branches and 35 divisions all over India.
2020 has been a challenging year. The COVID pandemic took a toll on everyone, and cooperatives have not been an exception. Some of them showed incredible resilience throughout the crisis. There is a need to introduce cooperative education in school curricula to enable the new generation to equip themselves with tools to establish more just and democratic enterprises.