UN Expert Group Meeting analyses the key components of cooperative ecosystems

14 Jun 2023

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) conducted an expert group meeting (EGM) on “Cooperatives in Social Development: Supporting Cooperatives as Sustainable and Successful Business Enterprises”. The main objective was to produce insights and a series of recommendations to help expand the sector. The conclusions will support in drafting the 2023 report of the UN Secretary-General on cooperatives in social development.

Held at the UN Headquarters in New York from the 31 May to the 1 June, the event consisted of seven sessions where cooperative experts presented ideas and discussed the key challenges and opportunities faced by the cooperative movement and create guidelines and recommendations for governments and other actors to help enhance cooperative development, which would inherently boost social development.

The experts were drawn from various fields including researchers from the academia, practitioners from the cooperative movement and government departments in charge of cooperatives from Argentina, t. The International Cooperative Alliance was represented by Joseph Njuguna, the Director of Policy; Iñigo Albizuri, member of the ICA Board and President of CICOPA as well as Mondragon Corporation’s Global Head of Public Affairs.

Find more information together with the papers and presentations of the expert here.  

Cases from Mondragon Corporation and Kibbutz movement were discussed to evaluate their entrepreneurial ecosystem and analyse a range of support measures for promoting cooperatives. 

“This framework allows policymakers to identify policies and practices that are implemented in each of the ecosystem areas and compare them with other regional experiences. The configuration of the ecosystems may change depending on the context, but the framework serves as a general basis for the analysis of existing situation”, says Joseph Njuguna, ICA Director of Policy. 

Some of the key recommendations proposed includes supporting research on cooperative ecosystems, capacity building of cooperative members and leaders, deepening and widening knowledge on cooperatives and governments’ support in promoting the potential of cooperatives, through inclusion in the national development plans and SDG reporting processes, including Voluntary National Reviews for the High-level Political Forum, among others.

The report of the meeting will be published and shared in due course.


The UN has long viewed the cooperative movement as a key partner in enhancing social development and cooperatives as very suited enterprises to achieve the SDGs. The UN General Assembly has been adopting resolutions concerning cooperatives in social development since 1950s and systematically every 2 years since 1992[1].  These resolutions recognize that cooperatives, in their various forms, promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of local communities and all people, including women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, whose inclusion strengthens economic and social development, and contribute to the eradication of poverty and hunger. 

The most recent UN General Assembly resolution on Cooperatives in Social Development adopted in December 2021,  A/RES/76/135, recognizes that cooperative enterprises often serve the socially excluded and vulnerable segments of the population and encourages governments to focus their support to cooperatives as sustainable and successful enterprises that contribute directly to “decent employment generation, poverty and hunger eradication, education, social protection, including universal health coverage, financial inclusion and the creation of affordable housing options across a variety of economic sector.

As a follow-up to these resolutions, the UN Secretary General writes a report to examine their implementation. In his recent report on cooperatives in social development of 2021, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recognised the importance of cooperatives as key economic and social actors in the global recovery strategy after the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2023 report will be examining the implementation of the resolution that was adopted in 2021.

[1] [1] UN resolutions 47/90 of 16 December 1992, 49/155 of 23 December 1994, 51/58 of 12 December 1996, 54/123 of 17 December 1999, 56/114 of 19 December 2001, 58/131 of 22 December 2003, 60/132 of 16 December 2005, 62/128 of 18 December 2007, 64/136 of 18 December 2009, 65/184 of 21 December 2010, 66/123 of 19 December 2011, 68/133 of 18 December 2013, 70/128 of 17 December 2015, 72/143 of 19 December 2017 and 74/119 of 18 December 2019 concerning cooperatives in social development.