ILO and Cooperatives



     Efficient cooperatives provide a way for both the rural and
urban poor to improve their economic and social situation and to
take a direct hand in the making of decisions which affect them. 
In one of its longest-running programmes, the ILO supports and
promotes cooperatives as a means of relieving poverty, creating
employment and generating income.  The programme lays emphasis
on the four basic characteristics of cooperatives:

     -    voluntary membership;
     -    autonomous decision-making;
     -    democratic control;
     -    equitable distribution of benefits and risks.

     The ILO collaborates with national cooperative movements,
NGOs, governments, employers' and workers' organizations in
formulating and promoting policies, laws and programmes which
will promote these aims.

     Besides advisory and information services in cooperative
legislation and human resource development, technical cooperation
is the principal means of action.  At the request of governments,
ILO experts are at work in many countries helping to set up or
develop cooperatives which operate in fields such as production,
marketing and supply, savings and credit, banking and consumer

     The main targets of ILO-aided programmes are the underprivi-
leged -- landless peasants, women, school-leavers, unskilled
youth and unemployed graduates -- who, through a cooperative
structure, can create their own employment opportunities and
acquire technical and managerial skills.  The ILO is also
contributing to efforts to improve the social and managerial
status of women in cooperatives.

     In practical terms, the focus is on the training of
cooperative trainers in cooperative colleges, the training of
cooperative managers on the job and in institutions, the design
of cooperative publicity and education programmes, and the
compilation of cooperative management training manuals and
methodologies.  The ILO's Material and Techniques for Cooperative
Management Training (MATCOM) is being used in more than 60

     In its activities on behalf of cooperatives in the Third
World, the ILO is guided by the Cooperative (Developing Coun-
tries) Recommendation (No. 127) adopted by the International
Labour Conference in 1966.  This standard gives priority to the
relief of poverty, food security, structural adjustment and
employment and income generation.

     The international debt crisis and the recognition in many
developing countries that national economies must be restructured
has a special significance for cooperatives.  As governments
limit the financial resources they can devote to development
activities, cooperative movements are being freed from official
control and given greater responsibility for planning their own

     The shift in emphasis to the efforts of individuals and
their own organizations and groups in the place of public
decision-making creates the prospect for cooperative movements
of an enlarged role in accumulating funds for investment,
creating job opportunities, and providing goods and services.

     Through various forms of technical assistance the ILO is
helping cooperative movements and similar economic self-help
organizations of small producers, consumers, workers and the
self-employed in the information sector to meet the challenge. 
The ILO stresses the role these organizations can play in
stimulating self-employment and investment, while ensuring that
management remains in the hands of those directly interested.

     Cooperatives in developing countries receive ILO help in
meeting international production standards which will enable them
to export their goods to purchasing cooperative organizations in
other cooperatives while also fostering the exchange of experi-
ence of know-how among cooperatives through twinning those in
developing countries to those in industrialized countries

     New technical cooperation programmes include the reform of
cooperative legislation to take into account the limitations on
government control (COOPREFORM), supporting the networking of
cooperative training institutions in Africa and Asia (COOPNET)
and the promotion of cooperative for tribal and indigenous
peoples (INDISCO).

                                               February 1994
          For further information, please contact:
                   Chief, Coop Branch
              International Labour Office
             CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland
                Tel + 41 22 799 61 11