Soft-launch of 2025 International Year of Cooperatives held at the UN

10 Jul 2024

Celebrations for the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC2025) kicked off with a soft-launch event at UN Headquarters in New York on 9 July.

The event served as a platform to unveil media plans, discuss the UN resolutions outlining the modalities for the IYC launch, and deepen the theme of IYC2025: Cooperatives Build a Better World.

The soft-launch was organised by the UN Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Mongolia and Kenya to the United Nations, and took place during the UN High-Level Political Forum. The official launch will be celebrated during the ICA Global Cooperative Conference, scheduled for 25-29 November 2024, in New Delhi, India. 

In the opening session, participants heard from UN delegates, including H.E. Mr Nyamdorj, who described his country’s work on supporting UN cooperative development discussions and resolutions. “We are encouraging fellow member states and institutions to form national and regional committees to organise events and activities commemorating and celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives,” he said.

H.E. Ms Njambi Kinyungu, Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations, also addressed the meeting. “Kenya, through the bottom-up, economic, transformative agenda framework has placed cooperatives as a critical pillar in powering economic transformation and achieving our sustainable development goal,” she said.

Speaking in the opening session, ICA President Dr Ariel Guarco said the movement was proud of the IYC slogan, Cooperatives build a better world.

“We're very proud of this, because it is the expression of the daily action of all these cooperatives. And we also have a sense of responsibility. We know that the world is looking towards us, perhaps as they've never done before, to use cooperatives as the most direct vehicle towards sustainable development. Humbly, I think that we are up to this responsibility,” he said.

H.E. Ms Paula Narváez, the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), also delivered a keynote in which she described some of today’s global challenges, from the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic to increasing inequalities, escalating conflicts and geopolitical tensions.

“The values and principles of cooperatives make them directly relevant to sustainable development,” she said. “These fundamental principles must be promoted more widely so they can help the world navigate the multiple crises that we currently face.”

Meanwhile, Mr John Wilmoth, Director of UNDESA’s Division for Inclusive Development, urged national governments to intensify their efforts to meet the SDGs. 

“Cooperatives are an important component of this work,” he said, calling on cooperatives to demonstrate their relevance as values-based enterprises that build a better world. 

During the event, countries and institutions were encouraged to form national and regional committees that will take the lead in organising events and activities for commemorating and celebrating the international year. 

ICA Director General, Jeroen Douglas, provided an overview of the upcoming ICA Global Cooperative Conference in New Delhi, which will showcase how cooperatives build prosperity for all.

“The global conference that the ICA is organising is not just a conference, it's a call to action,” he said, highlighting the movement’s contribution to achieving the SDGs.

“We will want to do our main efforts to set up a sprint together for all those who fight for those Sustainable Development Goals, and the global conference is the kickoff moment for that sprint, following also the Secretary General's word this is the decade of action,” he added.

The ICA will be creating a steering committee for the IYC, to develop and implement an action plan for the year, revealed its Director of Policy, Joseph Njuguna. “We aim to promote the unique strengths, identity, principles and values of the cooperative business model. Our goal is to inspire greater recognition,” he said.

Mr Dileep Sanghani, President of IFFCO, the host of the upcoming ICA Global Cooperative Conference, also took to the floor to provide an overview of the cooperative sector in India. He explained that a Ministry of Cooperation was set up in 2021 to further boost the cooperative movement. He revealed that the movement enjoys the support of the Ministry of Cooperation, which will be working with all cooperative apexes in the country to promote the IYC and issued an invitation to all to attend the ICA Global Conference in New Delhi in November.

ICA representatives from the Asia-Pacific, Americas, Africa and European offices also shared details about their regional plans for commemorating the year.

“Let us seize this momentum to celebrate and amplify the cooperative spirit that brings us together and build a better world for all,” said Dr Chandrapal Singh Yadav, the president of ICA Asia and Pacific. All ICA members in India are supporting the event.

“In the Americas, we will be entering into a dialogue with all stakeholders in the social economy to multiply our efforts,” said Graciela Fernández, president of the Cooperativas de las Américas.

“The Organisation of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) will also take advantage of the International Year to advocate for advancing the legal framework for the cooperative movement,” said OCB’s general manager, Fabiola Motta.

“We look forward to collaborating with you all, with all the educational institutions across the globe to make the international Year of cooperatives a milestone in the global cooperative movement,” said Ms. Mallika Kumar, Vice-chairperson, ICA Asia Pacific Committee on Cooperatives in Educational Institutions.

"With the support of the UN, the ICA and all of you here, we believe we can forge a new and better world,” said Rose Marley, the Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK. “We can inspire new pioneers, and we would like to inspire a fair and better world for the next 180 years, from Greater Manchester again in the year of the UN [International Year] of the Cooperatives”.

The CEO of the USA’s National Cooperative Business Association, Doug O’Brien, presented some of his organisation’s plans to tell cooperative stories, using qualitative and quantitative data. This includes working with DotCoop, which NCBA co-owns with the ICA, to launch a map featuring co-ops worldwide to better connect the movement and showcase its impact.

With the ICA Global Conference due to take place in India for the first time, the UN Permanent Representative of India, H.E. Mr R. Ravindra, also took the floor to highlight the importance of the Indian cooperative movement. The country’s cooperatives have a combined membership of 300 million people.

“We are very happy to host the next global conference in New Delhi later this year, coinciding with the second International Year of Cooperatives. We hope the conference will help us to explore new areas of cooperation, exchange best practices, and learn from each other, particularly success stories,” he added.

There were short interventions from representatives from ICA members and sectoral organisations as well, namely, Dr Carlos Zarco, the President of the International Health Cooperative Organisation; Mr Giuseppe Guerini, the President of the European confederation of industrial and service cooperatives (CECOP), Mr Mathias Fiedler, the President of the the European community of consumer cooperatives (Euro Coop) and Mr Santosh Shukla, Joint General Manager, IFFCO, India.

In her closing speech, COPAC Chair Ms Wenyan Yang launched a call for action and highlighted some next steps for UN delegates, government officials, ambassadors and cooperators.

“Let's work together, partner and make the International Year for Cooperatives a huge success for everybody, not only for cooperatives but also for the broader community and the people that we aspire to serve and improve their well-being,” she concluded.

The recording of the event can be watched here.


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