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High-level conference at Milan Expo highlights contributions of agriculture and retail co-operatives to sustainable development

24 Jul 2015

Co-operatives are committed to ending poverty and hunger sustainably. This was the conclusion of a high-level three-day conference, ‘Co-operatives: Empowering people for sustainable development and zero hunger’, held in Milan, Italy from 12-14 July.

The Alliance (and its sectoral organizations for agriculture and consumer co-operatives), JA-Zenchu, Confcooperative and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly organised the conference, in order to seize the timely opportunity of the opening of the Expo in Milan.

The theme of the Milan Expo is 'Feeding the planet, energy for life', which coincides with the focus on sustainable development within agriculture and retail co-operatives. The Milan Expo has a strong co-operative presence, with JA-Zenchu as the main sponsor of the Japanese Pavilion, Confcooperative as a sponsor of the Civil Society Pavilion and Coop Italy as the creator of the Future Food District.

The first day of the conference saw opening statements from Pauline Green, President of the Alliance, Marco Venturelli, Deputy Secretary General of Confcooperative, and Akira Banzai, President of JA-Zenchu, as well as a keynote speech from Rodrigo Castañeda, Chief of the Partnerships Unit within the FAO’s Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development.

The ensuing Round-Table included two panels on how agricultural co-operatives support family farming and rural communities to enhance agricultural production and diversity, one on national perspectives and another on specific co-operative examples. Participants were particularly interested in how to develop active membership within co-operatives.

Chef Kunio Tokuoka of Japan also gave an address on the collaboration of various stakeholders to support family farming and modern, local cuisine.

The statements and presentations from the first day’s speakers can be downloaded here.

Download the Euricse World Co-operative Monitor brochure 'Exploring the co-operative economy: A look at the agriculture and food industries sector' here

The second and third days took place within the Milan Expo. On 13 July, participants heard distinguished speakers on two Round-Tables: one on environmental sustainability and food retail, and the second on avoiding food losses and food waste along the supply chain.

The statements and presentations from the second day’s speakers can be downloaded here.

The final day of the conference centred on innovative policies to link producers and consumers and on establishing an enabling policy environment for co-operatives. This last Round-Table included high-level speakers from the European Parliament, the European Commission, the FAO, Fedagri Italy, JA-Zenchu and Copa-Cogeca.

To close the conference, Dame Pauline Green, Toru Nakaya, Vice-President of JA-Zenchu, Maurizio Gardini, President of Confcooperative, and Giuseppe Sala, Commissioner of the Government of Italy for the Milan Expo, reminded participants that unleashing the potential of co-operatives will require a favourable policy and regulatory environment, access to funding and capital, a stimulating trade environment and a space for consultation with governments.

Co-operatives expressed their commitment to helping deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, partnering with actors to contribute to the SDGs, working with public authorities to improve the policy and regulatory environment for co-operative enterprises, exploring co-operative to co-operative trade opportunities, promoting sustainable and local agriculture, strengthening rural co-operatives and combating the risk of demutualisation by strengthening active membership and co-operation among co-operatives within the supply chain.

Dame Pauline Green, Mr Nakaya, Mr Gardini and Commissioner Sala ended the event by signing the Milan Charter of the Expo, further solidifying their commitment as partners for a sustainable and fair food system.

The final day’s statements and presentations can be downloaded here.

All of the speakers' bios can be downloaded here.

The conclusions of the event can be downloaded here.

See tweets for #CoopsExpo2015.

See Confcooperative's page for the event.

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