Co-ops Contribute to the to International Year/Decade for the Eradication o

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   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.
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       International Day of Co-operatives, 6 July 1996

                                             Background Note #2
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A Contribution of Co-operative Enterprise to the Achievement of
the Goals of the United Nations International Year (1996) and 
International Decade (1997 - 2006) for the Eradication of Poverty
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The theme chosen for the International Co-operative Day,
"co-operative enterprise - empowerment for people-centred
sustainable development", shows how relevant the international
co-operative movement is to achievement of the objectives of a
major contemporary activity of the international community,
undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations, namely the
International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, being observed
world-wide during 1996, and the International Decade for the
Eradication of Poverty, which will occupy the period 1997-2006.

Co-operative enterprises are acknowledged by the United Nations to
be a form of business organization and economic association
whereby individual women and men may very effectively empower
themselves economically and socially and thereby participate on
more favourable terms in the market and in the communities in
which they operate.  The highest level political fora of the
United Nations - the General Assembly, and a series of major
intergovernmental conferences organized in recent years - have all
recognized that co-operatives provide a highly effective means
whereby individuals have been able first to alleviate the severest
effects of poverty, then to escape from it and finally to
significantly reduce risks of falling back into poverty.

Representatives of all Member States of the United Nations,
meeting in these fora, have taken note of reports made by the
Secretary-General of the United Nations which have shown that
millions of poor persons throughout the world, having organized
themselves in co-operative business enterprises, have by this
means overcome poverty.  The intergovernmental community is aware
that in the past, in most of their countries, other millions of
women and men have succeeded in escaping from poverty by means of
their membership in the co-operative movement: largely as a result
of the economic empowerment, entrepreneurial opportunity and
social protection made possible through their long-term membership
in co-operative enterprises, their children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren now enjoy economic security, social well-being
and the protection of democratic institutions.

Because of the theme for the International Day this year, and
because the co-operative movement is made up of 760,000,000
individuals which, with their immediate families accounts for
rather more than half of the world's population, world-wide
observance of the International Co-operative Day forms an
important part of the international activities designed to focus
attention on the pressing need for a more effective effort to
eradicate poverty.  This note sets out the background to the
current United Nations emphasis on eradication of poverty.

On 17 October 1987 about 100,000 defenders of human rights from
all walks of life joined together on the Place of Liberties and
Human Rights, Trocadero, Paris - the site of the 1948 signing of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They did so to pay
homage to victims of hunger, ignorance and violence and to affirm
their conviction that human misery was not inevitable.

In 1993 this date, 17 October, was for the first time observed
throughout the world as the International Day for the Eradication
of Poverty.  This was a response by citizens, governments and the
international community to proclamation by the General Assembly of
the United Nations, in its resolution 47/196 of 22 December 1992,
of an International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  The
purpose of designating a Day was to help focus public attention,
and that of policy-makers, on the need for urgent action to
alleviate, reduce and eventually eradicate poverty.

In its resolution 48/183 of 21 December 1993 the General Assembly
extended the period of focus by proclaiming 1996 as the
International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. The Year was
launched at a ceremony held during the fiftieth session of the
Assembly.  Finally, recognizing that to deal effectively with
poverty a sustained and long-term effort was required, the
Assembly, in its resolution 50/107 of 20 December 1995, proclaimed
the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty
(1997-2006).

This latest resolution took into consideration the fact that the
international community at the highest political level had already
reached a consensus.  It had committed itself to the eradication
of poverty in recent major United Nations conferences, including
the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the
International Conference on Population and Development, the Fourth
World Conference on Women and in particular the World Summit for
Social Development.  This latter had addressed the eradication of
poverty as one of its three major themes.  Similar commitments
were expected from the forthcoming United Nations Conference on
Human Settlements (Habitat II), the ninth session of the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Food
Summit.

Resolution 50/107 recognized that "the eradication of poverty
requires ensuring universal access to economic opportunities that
will promote sustainable livelihood and making basic efforts to
facilitate access to opportunities and services for the
disadvantaged, and that people living in poverty and vulnerable
groups must be empowered through organization and social life, in
particular in the planning and implementation of policies that
affect them, thus enabling them to become genuine partners in
development".

It also recognized that "economic development, social development
and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually
reinforcing components of sustainable development, which is the
framework for efforts to achieve a higher quality of life for all
people, and that equitable social development, which empowers
people living in poverty to utilize environmental resources
sustainably, is a necessary foundation for sustainable
development".

In this same resolution the General Assembly of the United Nations
emphasized the fact that "empowering women will be a critical
factor in the eradication of poverty, since women constitute a
majority of people living in poverty and since they contribute to
the economy and to combating poverty through both their
remunerated and unremunerated work at home, in the community and
in the workplace".

The Assembly stressed the need "to promote and implement policies
to create a supportive external economic environment, through ...
cooperation in the formulation and implementation of macroeconomic
policies, trade liberalization, mobilization and/or the provision
of new and additional financial resources that are both adequate
and predictable ...".

All Governments, the international community, including the United
nations system, and all other actors in society were urged to
pursue seriously the objectives of the eradication of poverty
within the context of the International Year.  The aim of the
activities during the Year should be "to support a longer-term,
sustained effort to implement fully and effectively the
commitments, recommendations and measures undertaken, and the
basic provisions already agreed upon at major United Nations
conferences since 1990, in particular the World Summit for Social
Development and the Fourth World conference on Women".

Activities during the Year should be guided by a number of
principles:

*   "a sustained, collective commitment and effort shall be
mounted by Governments, local administrations, all relevant actors
of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, and
business corporations, supported by the international community,
including the United Nations system ...";

*   "... anti-poverty strategies and programmes shall be designed,
implemented and monitored with the full and effective
participation of people living in poverty";

*   "measures shall be adopted to ensure that people living in
poverty have access to the resources and opportunities necessary
to escape from poverty, and policies shall be adopted to ensure
that all people have adequate economic and social protection
during unemployment, ill health, maternity, child-rearing,
widowhood, disability and old age";

*   "access of all people living in poverty to basic social
services shall be ensured, as well as their participation in the
economic, social, cultural and political life of society";

*   "women shall be given the economic and social opportunities to
contribute to development, and anti-poverty strategies and
programmes shall be designed with a gender dimension";

*   "targeted programmes shall be developed to meet the special
needs of particular social and demographic groups, including young
people, disadvantaged older persons, persons with disabilities and
other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of persons". 

The General Assembly's resolution recommended, among other things,
that all States attach particular attention, in the context of
national plans, to substantially reduce overall poverty in the
shortest possible time, to "employment creation as a means of
eradicating poverty, while also giving appropriate consideration
to health and education, assigning a high priority to basic social
services, generating household income and promoting access to
productive assets and economic opportunities".

The Assembly stressed that during the Year and beyond, people
living in poverty and their organizations should be empowered by
being fully involved in the setting of targets and in the design,
implementation, monitoring and assessment of national strategies
and programmes for the eradication of poverty and the development
of community bases, ensuring that such programmes reflect their
priorities.

In respect to the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication
of Poverty (1997-2006) the General Assembly called upon States,
the United Nations system, relevant international organizations
and all other actors to participate actively in the financial and
technical support of the Decade, in particular with a view to
translating all measures and recommendations into operational and
concrete poverty eradication programmes and activities.

Clearly co-operative enterprises, active as they are in almost all
economic sectors throughout the world, are already effectively
engaged in each of the areas in which sustained effort is
required: they are significant partners in the global effort
called for.