Published: 22 October 2014
Over 3,000 people from 93 countries registered for the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives held in Quebec City from October 6 to 9. Under the overarching theme of innovation, the discussions among stakeholders and participants focused on the solutions cooperative and mutual enterprises offer in response to the challenges of food security, the employment crisis, and access to health care and services.
The year 2014 has highlighted the significant contribution of the cooperative movement to a more stable global economy that cares more about people and demonstrated its ability to provide economic support to local communities while playing an ever greater role on the world stage.
Local strength, global power
In proclaiming 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, the United Nations encouraged the world to look at cooperatives and mutuals in a new light. That same year the first International Summit of Cooperatives was held in Quebec City, and the International Co-operative Alliance’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade was implemented. The final declaration of this unprecedented meeting asserted the global importance of the cooperative and mutual movement.
In 2014 things are different. The cooperative world has a bigger voice end enjoys greater recognition from international organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Bank. For the first time ever, cooperatives were invited to take part in B20 talks this year.
As cooperatives and mutuals garner greater attention, their economic importance is growing. The studies presented at the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives testify to their growth. The movement currently represents:
- 2.6 million cooperatives and mutuals
- 1 billion members and clients
- 250 million jobs
- 12% of total jobs in the G20
- $3,000 billion in annual revenue
In 2014, the cooperative and mutual movement entered a new phase, shifting from recognition to affirmation. It seeks to innovate more in order to step up growth and make a bigger contribution to tackling three of the world’s biggest challenges: food security, employment, and access to health care and services.
In light of the discussions held during the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives, the participants declare the following: We need more, stronger, and innovative cooperatives that commit to ensuring food security, continue their role as creators of wealth and jobs, and step up their efforts to improve access to health care and services.
Further to this declaration, the participants at the 2014 Summit undertake to act on the following five findings.
Finding 1: We need more influential cooperatives
- Whereas the International Year of Co-operatives did much to bring the global cooperative movement together and help it promote its importance in international organizations;
- Whereas the Rio +20 Treaty on Sustainable Development recognized the cooperative and mutual business model as a key tool to support its initiatives;
- Whereas the cooperative business model has been included in the work of the B20 and its recommendations to the G20 leaders;
- Whereas many world leaders in political, economic, and academic realms now recognize how much cooperative and mutual enterprises contribute to a better-balanced and fairer global economy with regard to the human condition.
- Cooperative and mutual enterprises undertake to:
- Ensure that the cooperative movement consolidates its position in the B20
- Give voice to the cooperative movement in the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN for 2015
- Leverage the UN's Action Plan for Women, which highlights the place women occupy in cooperative business ownership and leadership
Finding 2: We need more and stronger innovative cooperatives to better meet the needs of people and societies.
Whereas cooperatives and mutuals have a significant impact on the world economy;
Whereas the International Co-operative Alliance has pursued initiatives under the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade—the “2020 Vision”;
Whereas it is critical that cooperatives and mutuals continue working to gain the recognition needed to influence G20 decision makers;
Whereas the World Bank has recognized that in many developing countries, financial cooperatives are major forces for financial inclusion, reaching many more people than other types of financial institutions;
Whereas cooperatives must be stronger and more numerous in order to resolve economic challenges.
To this end, cooperatives and mutuals undertake to:
- Achieve the objectives of the Blueprint in order to increase recognition of cooperatives as drivers of social, economic, and sustainable development
- Support implementation of national legislation that eliminates obstacles to the creation and development of cooperatives and mutuals
- Promote full and complete recognition of the cooperative and mutual business model and its democratic principles
- Leverage new technology to achieve economies of scale and diversify services
- Support the introduction of appropriate legislation and a system of supervision that helps ensure the stability of financial cooperatives and their integration into their national financial systems
- Contribute to the training and reinforcement of cooperative boards of directors and officers
- Increase the role of financial cooperatives in ensuring financial inclusion worldwide
- Actively support initiatives to compile all economic and social data from cooperatives in order to raise public awareness of their impact in all economic sectors
Finding 3: We need cooperatives to contribute to food security.
Whereas we will need to feed 9 billion people by 2050, and millions lack food security, despite the progress made;
Whereas in 2012 FAO recognized the irrefutable contribution of agricultural cooperatives to global food security;
Whereas numerous phenomena such as urbanization, climate change, conflicts, speculation, and natural disasters can compromise food security or aggravate problems;
Whereas one out of every two people around the world depends on a cooperative for their livelihood.
Cooperatives declare themselves key players in the global fight against hunger and are committed to increasing food security. To this end, cooperatives and mutuals undertake to:
- Actively support international efforts, including those of FAO, to achieve food security, reduce poverty, and eradicate hunger worldwide
- Help end discrimination in certain countries against women with regard to their right to own land
- Pursue efforts to improve the access of rural populations to affordable energy for food processing and preservation
- Promote better management of agri-food systems to reduce speculation and price fluctuations while strengthening the role producers play
- Be present throughout the supply chain locally, regionally, and internationally
- Facilitate access to farmland and help maintain local ownership
- Put in place mechanisms to support the next generation of farmers, particularly through training and access to financing and innovation, and promote a smooth transfer between generations to ensure sustainable, human-scale agriculture that is rooted in the local community
Finding 4: Cooperatives must continue their role as creators of employment.
Whereas there is a worldwide trend toward declining job quality;
Whereas recovery, when it does occur, creates few jobs and keeps a significant portion of the population—especially young people—in a vulnerable situation;
Whereas cooperatives and mutuals, as job creators, are powerful levers for local and regional development;
Whereas cooperatives clearly contribute to maintaining and creating jobs.
Cooperatives will assert their role as creators of jobs and builders of a more reasonable economy that cares about people and communities. To this end, cooperatives and mutuals undertake to:
- Continue promoting the cooperative model as a creator of jobs and collective wealth at the local, national, and international levels
- Promote and support programs for the active engagement of women and young people in cooperative start-ups
- Promote the inclusion of the cooperative and mutual business model in programs at educational institutions
- Support research on cooperatives and the introduction of better methodology for collecting and analyzing local, national, and international data to document and demonstrate the economic and social impacts of cooperatives
- Encourage changes to policies that can leave people in developing countries more vulnerable or lead to financing and operational rules that impede cooperative development
- Develop initiatives to support the startup, consolidation, and growth of cooperative enterprises, including by assisting with capitalization
Finding 5: Cooperatives must step up their efforts to improve access to health care and services.
Whereas population growth and aging make access to health care and services more challenging;
Whereas more than 80 million people in 43 countries already have access to cooperative healthcare institutions and that this model has proven its worth, particularly in developing countries;
Whereas many countries, particularly developing countries, are struggling to control the rising costs of their healthcare systems and seeking alternatives in order to provide care and services adapted to people’s needs;
Whereas meeting community needs is part of the fundamental mission of cooperatives;
Whereas cooperatives and mutuals, which are in a position to mutualize risk, can provide coverage adapted to people’s social and economic reality.
Cooperatives and mutuals are convinced they can make a major contribution to promoting access to health care and services worldwide. To this end, cooperatives and mutuals undertake to:
- Promote their presence as a complement to government services, particularly in the provision of hospital care–related services
- Develop innovative solutions to help communities manage health care and services themselves by making citizens central to solutions, with a clear focus on prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits
- Present and promote insurance products that are based on mutualizing risk and aligned with people’s ability to pay
A movement that is here to stay
Given the five findings and associated undertakings supported by the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, the participants at the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives have reaffirmed the strength of the cooperative model and together call for the growth and development of cooperative enterprises.
They have reaffirmed that as builders of local economies and drivers of a more stable, inclusive, and human-scale global economy, they are making an undisputable contribution to lasting prosperity.