What is new ICA Director-General Jeroen Douglas expecting from #ICANewDelhi2024?

30 May 2024

Why is this Global Conference (GC) so important for the international cooperative movement?

There are various reasons why cooperators love the ICA Global Conference. Firstly, it brings people together, regardless of age, race, gender, culture or nationality. It’s not just about speakers and leaders, but about cooperators from across the movement finding comfort and exchange with each other. It’s about celebrating the global success of the movement, cherishing our history and building together a better future.

The GC offers a moment of reflection for all participants. For two long years, they need to run their enterprises and be involved in local advocacy or education. The GC takes place every two years and is the perfect gathering to inspire and be inspired, to learn and to teach. There is pride in representing something amazing for and from your country. For many participants, the GC is a life-changing event; participants remember previous conferences as special moments in their cooperative careers and lives.

One of the best things about the GC is the unexpected friendships that flourish from the event. Like minds, different minds, yet all united in the cooperative values and principles; it makes it a unique match-making gathering. Delegates build memories for life.

It’s also the place where the ICA recognises legends with our own Rochdale Awards, celebrating lifelong remarkable contributions to the cooperative movement at large.

Alongside the conference, the General Assembly has all of the above components, yet is a more formal setting where the global members of the ICA meet according to articles of association to approve financial statements and strategy. The GA is held every year, sometimes twice, once in person and is also a great opportunity to gather with fellow members.

The central theme of the conference is Cooperatives Build Prosperity for All. Why was this theme chosen?

Whilst the world’s 3 million cooperatives represent 1/8 of humanity, the sum of the revenues of all these co-ops is far less than 1/8 of the global economy. Cooperatives, at best, can produce millionaires, but will never produce billionaires. Proudly so, as the distribution of wealth and the building of a fair and inclusive economy is part of the core values of the cooperative enterprise model. It is humanity at work, and that does create prosperity for all.

But prosperity for all is also a plea for a more inclusive global economy. Many unassumed co-ops in developing regions struggle to survive economically. Building an inclusive economy is also an outcry better-enabling policy support, for the strengthening of business and financial acumen, and ultimately for creating a pan-continental cooperative investment fund that allows cooperatives to have access to capital and grow and become more resilient as a business.

What should participants expect from the event? What are the top three things participants should look forward to?

This year’s edition will be packed with all kinds of wonderful features. We’ll have the launch of the UN International Year of Cooperatives 2025 with a keynote address by the Secretary General of the United Nations; we expect to have dignitaries from India, Asia and further to give strong footage to the event and elevate the conference into a truly world-changing and world-class event.

We also expect some inspirational leaders with strong keynote messages for a prosperous world. I cannot reveal the names yet as we are in the closing phase, but it’s all about the revival of co-ops, and a plea for a more sustainable economic future.

We’ll also have a co-op film festival and an expo for co-ops who wish to show their goods and services. We'll have cultural events and a coopathon for youth. There will be so much to see and do. It is our aspiration to build the best GC in the history of the ICA.

With the event taking place in India for the first time, what are some of the key lessons participants will be able to learn from co-ops in India?

India is the proud global leader in terms of co-op members. With an astounding 280 million (!!) members, India shows how an entire nation can build a social and solidarity economy through the enterprise model we embrace. India is sovereign in many aspects of its economy, and co-ops manage to deliver on community development as well as local and regional wealth and wellbeing.

Indian Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen will be proud; his life was dedicated to social responsibility as a moral path to prosperity.

And we, as a movement, make this vision come true.

The World Cooperative Congress in 2021 kickstarted a conversation around the cooperative identity which was then followed by a global consultation on the topic. How will this conversation continue in New Delhi?

One of the four key pillars of the Global Conference programme is about reaffirming our Statement on the Cooperative Identity. Significant input has been received from all corners of the world. ICA is the custodian of the values, principles and also the Statement on the Cooperative Identity and is very aware of its 129 years of history. How can we maintain and praise our past, be relevant in the here and now and also be future-proof? This conversation will be endless and that is also good. It is an expression of our thriving community.

What are you most looking forward to at the event?

As a new Director-General, it will be my first GC. It is the single biggest multi-continental cooperative event bringing together cooperatives and mutuals, federations and national apex bodies, so I am very much looking forward to meeting with the movement, and proud to operate as an organiser together with our formidable host IFFCO, the Indian Farmers’ Fertilizer Cooperative, which serves 50 million smallholder farmers in India. I am also looking forward to the Haat. This is the Hindi word for a market in a rural area, and at the GC, will take the shape of an exhibition showcasing the excellent work and diverse products and stories of cooperatives from throughout the country.

Taj Mahal image retrieved from  Jovyn Chamb at Unsplash

ICA Global Conference & General Assembly 2024

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