Panel Discussion: Report

   This document has been made available in electronic format
           by the International Co-operative Alliance.

   Prepared by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)

The United Nations Department of Policy Coordination and
Sustainable Development organized jointly with the International
Co-operative Alliance (ICA) a panel discussion on 1 July, 1996
at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on the theme
"Partnership between the United Nations and the International Co-
operative Movement in the follow-up to Copenhagen, Beijing and

Representatives from the co-operative movement joined Under
Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
Development,  Nintin Desai, to discuss concrete measures that
would allow the effective engagement of the co-operative movement
in the implementation of the strategies adopted in Copenhagen,
Beijing and Istanbul.  Panellists included  Mr. Graham Melmoth,
President of the International Co-operative Alliance; Dr.
Christopher Baker, Chief Executive Officer of the World Council
of Credit Unions; Mr. Hans Dahlberg, Chief Executive Officer, of
the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation;
Mr. Mohamed Idris, Member of the Executive of the International
Federation of Agricultural Producers and President of the Central
Agricultural Co-operative Union of Egypt; Dr. Yehudah Paz,
Chairman of the Committee for Human Resource Development of the
ICA and Director of the International Institute -Histradrut- of
Israel; and Mr. Ted Weihe, Executive Director of the Overseas
Cooperative Development Council of the USA.  

Under-Secretary General Desai opened the meeting stressing the
special role of the organized segments of civil society - one of
the largest being the co-operative movement. Co-operatives had
an important role to play in implementing the programmes of
action of the recent global conferences.  The aim of the meeting
was to identify ways for practical expression of these goals.  

Mr. Desai pointed out that unlike other segments of civil
society, the co-operative movement had a unique body which was
already bringing together United Nations agencies and NGOs to
coordinate their activities in co-operative development.  The
Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives
(COPAC) was a good starting point for practical implementation. 

He stressed that he saw two ways of translating the strategies
adopted in the major UN conferences into practical action - one
involving political processes and the other delivery of
development assistance.  

Co-operatives need to mobilize their membership to ensure that
governments adopt national strategies which include co-operatives
as partners for development.  The political process from town
meeting to village council to executive committees and so forth
required more attention.  

One way that the United Nations could work with the co-operative
movement in this direction would be to provide policy guidelines
to governments on co-operative development.  Mr. Desai noted that
if the co-operative movement feels this would be useful, then it
should work towards having a resolution adopted which mandates
the UN to prepare these guidelines.  One example of this type of
collaboration has been the preparation of UN Consumer Protection
Guidelines in collaboration with Consumers' International. The
United Nations convened a joint meeting and Consumers'
International provided technical support.  The result was the
establishment of a legal framework for Consumer Protection.   

The co-operative movement would need to mobilize its membership
to convince governments of the importance these policy
guidelines.  Governments in turn should call on the UN to prepare
the guidelines and perhaps mandate COPAC as the technical

Mr. Desai suggested that another area in which co-operatives can
work with the UN is through the delivery of development
assistance.  The UN can facilitate contact with development
agencies such as the UNDP, UNICEF and IFAD, but ultimately
governments are responsible for including co-operative
development in the priority areas of work of these agencies.  He
suggested that the movement and selected governments encourage
UNDP and other development organizations to join COPAC.  He
further suggested taking contact with the ILO chaired Task Force
on Full Employment and Sustainable Livelihoods for All which is
one of the UN ACC task forces established for UN system wide
follow-up to the recent international conferences.

The panellists each made a brief presentation on their area of
expertise. Many noted the special character of the co-operative
movement and its difference from the multitude of NGOs currently
in consultative status with the United Nations.  All of the
panellists called on the need to identify ways in which the co-
operative movement could make that step from policy to practical
collaboration in such areas as development assistance,
legislation, etc.  They also noted the need for a specific
contact within the UN for co-operatives. 

Participants and panellists were invited to present questions for
further discussion. 

Responding to a question concerning NGO status, Under Secretary-
General Desai said that for the United Nations, organizations
fell into three categories - governments, intergovernmental
bodies and NGOs.  The best definition of NGOs is simply to put
the organization to the test - if it is not a government nor a
intergovernmental organization then it is a NGO.  The co-
operative movement should not see this label as anything more
than that.  

Mr. Desai noted that Secretariats are not the key to furthering
the partnership. Governments give Secretariats the mandates which
are driven through a political process.  Although co-operatives
are not advocacy organizations, they may now need to mobilize
their constituencies to influence government and international

After delivering the UN Secretary-General's Message for the 2nd
UN International Day of Co-operatives (attached), Mr. Desai
turned the chair over to Mr. Graham Melmoth to continue the
discussions with participants.  Mr. Melmoth and panellists
responded to a few more questions, after which Mr. Melmoth
summarized the proceedings and adjourned the meeting. 

                           * * * * *