DIMENSIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT (note: This document was prepared by the International Co-operative Alliance for the 1995 World Summit on Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark in March, 1995.) A total of 740 million women and men are currently members of co-operative business enterprises associated through national federations and unions which are members of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). It is estimated that the total number of co-operators is 800 million persons world-wide, with a further 100 million persons employed by co-operatives. Moreover, because the co-operative enterprise has economic significance not only for members and employees, but also for their immediate families, the total of persons whose livelihoods are to a significant extent made secure by co-operative enterprise approaches three billion people, half of the world's population. In many countries membership in all co-operatives is equivalent to a high proportion of the adult population. In 1994, if members of the International Co-operative Alliance alone are included, this ratio was between 70 and 79 per cent in Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Israel and Uruguay. It was 61 per cent in France, between 50 and 59 per cent in Belgium and Norway, and between 40 and 49 per cent in Denmark, India, Japan, Malaysia, Portugal, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. Economically, the co-operative movement is also significant. For example, in 1993 co-operatives in Sweden had an aggregate annual turnover of 20 billion ECU or 8 per cent of GNP. In other developed market economies co-operative shares of GNP are likely to be higher. In the Basque region of Spain in 1989, co-operatives accounted for 15 per cent of the regional GNP. In many developing countries which are exporting agricultural commodities, the co-operative share of GNP falls within 10 to 20 per cent: in Cote d'Ivoire, for example, it is estimated at 15 per cent. Co-operative business enterprises operate in almost every area of economic activity and in almost all countries are of major significance in at least some area. For example, in 1993 in the European Union, Austria, Finland and Sweden 14 million agricultural enterprises were member-owners of co-operatives which supplied 55 per cent of their inputs and marketed 60 per cent of outputs. In Japan marketing co-operatives handled 95 per cent of rice and 90 per cent of fisheries output. In India, the Anand co-operative movement of 57,000 dairy co-operatives with its 6 million members was the largest national dairy supplier. Forty-three per cent of agricultural credit in India was provided by savings and credit co-operatives and co-operative banks, and 65 per cent of processed sugar was of co-operative origin. In Brazil one third of doctors are members of the largest health co-operative in Latin America. In 1991 retail co-operatives accounted for over half of retail food sales in Switzerland and 34 per cent in Denmark; in 1992, co-operative banks accounted for 17 per cent of the savings market; in 1993, co-operative insurance enterprises accounted for 20 per cent of the market. At the end of 1992, members of savings and credit co-operatives ("credit unions") made up between 35 and 45 per cent of the adult population in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States. RECOGNITION BY THE UNITED NATIONS OF THE RELEVANCE OF CO-OPERATIVES TO THE CORE ISSUES OF THE WORLD SUMMIT Since 1950 the General Assembly of the United Nations, the highest intergovernmental policy-making mechanism, has adopted 12 resolutions recognising the relevance of co-operatives to achievement of the goals of the UN, supporting their development, and calling for partnership with the international co-operative movement. Between 1951 and 1992 the Economic and Social Council adopted a further 13 resolutions and took 4 decisions with the same purpose. The Secretary-General of the UN also transmitted a series of reports to the Assembly and Council monitoring the contribution of co-operatives to the goals of the United Nations. In his latest report, transmitted to the Assembly at its forty-ninth session (document A/49/213 of 1 July 1994) he concluded that: "co-operative enterprises provide the organisational means whereby a significant proportion of humanity is able to take into its own hands the tasks of creating productive employment, overcoming poverty and achieving social integration". The Assembly acknowledged the timeliness of this conclusion, and in its latest resolution, number 49/155 of 23 December 1994, recognised the "important contribution and potential of all forms of co-operatives to the preparations and follow-up of the World Summit" and invited it "in formulating ... strategies and actions, to give due consideration to the role and contribution of co-operatives." The Preparatory Committee for the World Summit responded to this invitation in its final drafts of the Declaration and Programme of Action. In its Declaration, the Summit commits itself "to increase significantly and/or utilise more efficiently the resources allocated to social development". It proposes to "utilise and develop fully the potential and contribution of co-operatives for the attainment of social development goals, in particular the eradication of poverty, the generation of full and productive employment and the enhancement of social integration". The Programme of Action includes 5 specific proposals on the role of co-operatives and 4 proposals on their participation in the implementation and follow-up of the Summit. COMPLEMENTARITY BETWEEN THE VALUES AND PRINCIPLES OF THE CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT AND THOSE OF THE WORLD SUMMIT In addition to specific references to co-operatives in the draft Declaration and Programme of Action, there are numerous references to values and principles which correspond precisely to those long adopted by the international co-operative movement. It is this - combined with the very broad dimensions of the co-operative movement - which suggests strongly that it must continue as an essential partner of the United Nations and other major actors in the follow-up to the World Summit. The draft Declaration emphasises a "people-centred sustainable development": this already exists in the co-operative movement, an entirely people-centred segment of the market economy. It comprises millions of business enterprises - autonomous mutual-help associations of persons united voluntarily to meet common economic and social needs - that are jointly owned and democratically controlled by their members, who make up either their labour-force or their users, clients or customers. Member-control of business enterprise, a fundamental characteristic of co-operatives, constitutes economic empowerment - itself the basis for political and social empowerment. Both draft Declaration and Programme of Action emphasise empowerment as a means to maximise capacities, resources and opportunities so that all may become genuine partners in sustainable development. Empowerment achieved through co-operative enterprise is not exploitative of others: this characteristic results from the values held in common by all co-operators: self-help, mutual responsibility, equality, equity, honesty, openness and social responsibility. The draft Programme of Action stresses precisely the same set of values, stating that they promote an environment in which human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. The regular practice of such values by an international movement with a membership of 800 million persons, empowered by a substantial economic base, is a matter of the greatest relevance to the World Summit and its follow-up. While focusing on member needs, co-operative enterprises are concerned about the communities having the sense of responsibility to the community in which they operate and strive for their sustainable development. Hence, they are vehicles for achievement of subsidiarity and sustainability at the community level. This is so because members, living in the community where their co-operative operates, are mindful that its broad impact upon that community must be positive in both the short- and longer-term, and must not negate the advantages they expect to gain individually. Furthermore, because they own their co-operative, and can decide its business policies and monitor its practices, they can ensure that the positive impact they desire is actually achieved. This characteristic, not shared by other types of enterprise with which an individual can be associated as worker, supplier or customer, is highly relevant to the follow-up to the World Summit. Thus co-operatives are both economic and social in character: they are business enterprises with a deep sense of social and environmental responsibility. They are testimony of the truth of the deep conviction expressed in the draft Declaration that social and economic development are mutually reinforcing. A NOTE ON WHAT CO-OPERATIVES ARE NOT The term " co-operative" has been applied in the past to enterprises imposed by the state upon groups of citizens, and controlled as an integral part of the public sector. Often their impact upon "members" and their communities has been injurious. They were in no way autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily through jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises. Because they had no stake in their success, "members" were not motivated to efficient participation. Such "co-operative" systems had nothing in common with the true purpose and character of the international co-operative movement. In most countries where they existed they have been dismantled and replaced in part by genuine co-operatives. However, they have caused some misunderstanding of the nature and achievements of co-operative enterprise, and their experience should be discounted in considering the relevance of the co-operative movement to the issues before the World Summit. This Note has been prepared for the information of participants at the World Summit jointly by the International Co-operative Alliance and the United Nations Department for Policy Co-ordination and Sustainable Development. For further information contact the ICA at 15, Route des Morillons, 1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: 41 22 798 4121 or 929 8888, Fax: 798 4122, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.