World Cooperative Congress closing session highlights cooperative solutions to humanity’s challenges

29 Dec 2021
Congress closing

The World Cooperative Congress closing session took place virtually on 29 December 2021.

The session summarised the key issues raised at Congress, which gathered over 1,500 participants online and in-person in Seoul to discuss ways to deepen the cooperative identity.

Ann Hoyt, chair of Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, USA, highlighted recurring themes such as creating an ethical value chain, increasing inclusivity throughout cooperatives, developing culturally relevant education and training on the cooperative identity, using new technologies to increase member participation, developing metrics that measure the tangible and intangible impacts of cooperatives on major world crises, building a stronger capital base and new funding resources through partnerships, and increasing cooperation among cooperatives across sectors and national boundaries.

“All of these themes are consistent with the nearly 100-year ICA commitment to fostering peace. That is not only ending overt violence, but creating communities of cooperation and integration, reconciliation, and equality. In sum, there has been a sense of urgency throughout the Congress. To quote one of our speakers, ‘The time for talking is done. The time for action is now.’ And to quote a wise teacher, ‘I wish we could learn to love ourselves less and our children’s future more’,” she said.

Martin Lowery, Chair of the Congress task force and of the ICA identity committee, and member of the ICA Board from the US, said that Congress marked the beginning of a conversation that would continue.

“This is the beginning of a dialogue, which will continue around the statement of the cooperative identity, which of course includes the definition of a cooperative, the cooperative principles and the cooperative values, all of which I think have been uniquely integrated in the responses that you have given to the questions that came forward. 

“This is an ongoing opportunity.  It’s a journey, and that journey will continue, we will of course have documented the proceedings, and we will have archives.”

This will lead to continuing dialogue both around the statement on the cooperative identity, he added, as well as the discussion of  important opportunities, both within sectors and cross-sectoral.

“And finally let me say that, as one of our young passionate cooperators has said in this meeting, ‘the best is yet to come’,” he said.

ICA Director General Bruno Roelants said the 24 thematic sessions of this Congress had been a unique opportunity to “deepen our cooperative identity and to analyse this cooperative identity from an array of different angles.”

He thanked the Korean hosts, the Congress sponsors, the ICA staff members and the government officials who took part in the event.

The Congress featured 130 panellists, 58 facilitators and 53 rapporteurs. The Congress online platform will be accessible to all congress participants until 18 February 2022. Those who have not registered can still do so to access the online platform here.

Yolanda Diaz Perez, second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Economy of the Government of Spain, also spoke at the closing event.

She said Congress had been a great opportunity to debate the cooperative identity as well as reflect on how the cooperative movement must address humanity’s challenges, based on its ethical values.

“It is urgent to mark ground and claim, under the principle of interest in the common good, the leading role in defending participatory governance, quality jobs and respect for the environment.” A modern, committed image will help the movement connect with younger people, she added, so they consider it as an alternative, collective undertaking. “I invite you to do all these little things that allow us to dream big,” she added.

The session also heard from Oh Byung-kwon, acting Governor of Gyeongyi province, Republic of Korea, and Cho Wan-seok, Chair of Korea Cooperative Solidarity.

Cho Wan-seok said Congress had been an opportunity to show that people from different countries, of different ages, already shared a cooperative identity. 

Oh Byung-kwon thanked the Congress organisers for “making the event a success despite the difficult circumstances” and said the Gyeonggi Province would create the right conditions for cooperatives and the social economy to thrive, based on the discussions carried out at Congress.

Concluding the session, ICA President Ariel Guarco explained that all the ideas and proposals generated during Congress and the pre-Congress events would be worked on by an advisory group headed by Alexandra Wilson.

“We should be very proud of what we have advanced here. As we said, these are historic times,” he said, encouraging cooperators to continue to build a fairer, more caring, more inclusive, more democratic, better world.

“From our Cooperative Identity, in compliance with our seventh principle, which today commits us to global sustainability, we are going to tell the world, with more force than ever, with more conviction, that we have the most appropriate enterprise model for a development that leave no one behind and allow all people to live with dignity, wherever they choose to live.

“For that, let us continue to put into action our values, our principles and feel proud of our Identity. Cooperative friends, let's move on, building together a more just, more supportive, more inclusive, more democratic world, that better world that we all want, that better world that we all deserve!,” he concluded.