79th ICA International Co-operative Day
7th UN International Day of Cooperatives
(7 July 2001)
"The Co-operative Advantage in the Third Millennium"
Values, principles, ethics and business competence constitute the co-operative advantage for members and for the communities in which they operate. Co-operatives put people first; they are member-owned; they are controlled under democratic principles; and they are competitive enterprises which are at least as efficient in their business operations and use of capital as others in the marketplace. Yet, they are not driven by profit, but rather by needs. These important differences from traditional enterprises will enable them to compete and prosper in the new Millennium.
Flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of the co-operative form of enterprise. As we start the new Millennium, we know that a multitude of challenges await us, however we also know that these same challenges will prove to be some of the greatest opportunities for co-operatives to respond to the ever-changing needs of people who must quickly adapt to often difficult economic, social and cultural conditions. Despite tougher market conditions, co-operatives continue to be strong players in national and, indeed increasingly, in transnational economies. The effects of globalisation have put the co-operative model to the test, and time and again, people continue to choose co-operatives to address their needs. In fact increasingly, people are starting new co-operative enterprises in such areas as social care and information technology. Women and youth are also choosing the co-operative form to start enterprises where they are able to define their own rules, establish their own priorities and put in place an entrepreneurial culture that places people before profit. Thus, co-operatives are creating new jobs and new opportunities.
However, members are not the only winners. The co-operative advantage extends to the users of co-operatives and indeed to the communities in which they operate. Co-operatives set industry standards by putting into practice their values and ethics. In some countries, co-operatives are seen as more trustworthy than traditional companies and corporations for just this reason. In others, co-operatives are seen as leaders in promoting food safety and security, in protecting the environment, and in providing decent employment. Still in others, co-operatives are building peaceful societies by promoting understanding and collaboration among people of different cultural and income backgrounds.
However, it is important to stress that co-operatives are not instruments of public policy. If they are to be successful, they require Governments to create an enabling environment for autonomous co-operatives to develop and grow. The important work undertaken by the International Labour Office and the United Nations in collaboration with the ICA in establishing policy reference frameworks which define the role of the State vis-à-vis co-operatives, merits further attention by co-operatives and governments alike.
Over 760 million individuals have chosen the co-operative advantage. They have demonstrated that the co-operative form of organisation can improve their lives in a way that allows them to define how their needs are best served by a business enterprise with a difference.
In short, the co-operative advantage is improving the lives of people everywhere.
The ICA calls on its members to promote the co-operative advantage through ever improving service to their members; to promote, use, benefit and promote the new .coop Internet domain name to show their co-operative difference, and to open and strengthen dialogues with their governments to ensure that policies enable co-operatives to thrive.