Chapter IX - Combating Poverty in Urban Regions

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

  Contribution of Co-operative Enterprises and the International
     Co-operative Movement to Implementation of UN AGENDA 21:
       Programme of Action for Sustainable Development 

                     Prepared jointly by
             the International Co-operative Alliance
                      the United Nations
  Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development

                 Geneva and New York, April 1995

        For information purposes only. Not an official
   document of the United Nations and not officially edited.

                        CHAPTER IX

    In Chapter II the importance of poverty eradication,
alleviation or avoidance within contemporary United Nations
global strategies, the recognition by the United Nations of the
significance of co-operative enterprises for achievement of the
goals of these strategies and the contribution of co-operatives
to those goals were explained in respect to rural regions.  
These are applicable also to urban regions, where the co-
operative presence is also substantial, although different, given
the distinct regional economies.

   Within urban regions co-operative enterprises are less central
to the manufacturing sector than they are to the primary
production sector in rural regions. Nevertheless, large worker-
owned manufacturing enterprises are significant in some
countries, while small-scale handcraft production co-operatives
are widespread. In the advanced market economies numerous small-
and medium-scale non-co-operatively organized manufacturers have
established purchasing, supply and, albeit to a lesser extent,
marketing co-operatives.

   The largest co-operative presence is in housing and utilities,
and in infrastructure and transportation in some countries; in
wholesale and retail distribution; in health and social services;
and in savings and credit, co-operative banks and co-operative
insurance enterprises. In urban areas most of the persons
directly affected by co-operatively organized enterprise are
users, clients or customers of service providing co-operatives
(housing, health, social services, retail, financial) or are
employees of these co-operatives.

   In urban areas co-operative enterprises contribute to the
eradication, alleviation or avoidance of poverty in a number of

   (a) by providing employment, including self-employment, which
is likely to be more secure and in better conditions of labour
than might otherwise be available to the employed persons;

   (b) by providing opportunities, inputs and marketing services
for entrepreneurial activity, including that of co-operative
enterprises themselves and their members;

   (c) by providing affordable goods and services, of an
appropriate type and acceptable quality, to households and
individuals, and by providing consumer protection to members and
to the general public;

   (d) by providing a means for the effective management of small
entrepreneurial, household and individual finances, including
security for savings, affordable credit, opportunities for access
to broader financial systems and services, and business advice;

   (e) by providing protection against financial and other risks
through affordable and appropriate insurance;

   (f) by providing acceptable living conditions in respect to
housing, infrastructure, services and community life, permitting
allocation by the poor of sufficient energy and time to
entrepreneurial activity; education and training; seeking and
keeping jobs; care for their health and welfare and those of
their dependants; and community development work;
   (g) by providing education and training for human resource

   (h) by undertaking local community development work in the
areas of infrastructure and services improvement and integration
of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and families,
thereby fostering solidarity and providing a vehicle for the
mobilization of local human resources.

   Each of these contributions strikes at some aspect of the
self-perpetuating complex which is poverty, and as many or all
are undertaken at the same time, their impact is significant.  
In some urban communities, particularly those with high
proportions of poor persons, efforts are made, through informal
contact or through specially established community development
co-operatives, to harmonize these efforts and to establish a form
of "co-operative system for urban sustainable development".

    While it may not be necessary to give examples of each of the
different forms of co-operatively organized activity which
contribute to poverty eradication, some examples of the more
coordinated approaches may be of relevance. Other examples are
set out in Chapter XI.  For example, in July 1994 the National
Cooperative Business Association of the United States and the
city government of the District of Columbia, announced the
creation of a partnership to facilitate the development of co-
operative enterprises which would create jobs and provide
services for the local population.  A key component of the
partnership was the creation of a Center for Cooperatives at the
University of the District of Columbia, the only urban land grant
university in the United States. The Centre, which would be part
of the University's Cooperative Extension Services, would provide
education and training for the members and employees of these co-
operatives.  The National Cooperative Business Association would
establish a co-operative resource team from its own personnel,
from the National Cooperative Bank and the National Association
of Housing Cooperatives. 109/ 

109/ ICA News, No. 5, 1994, p. 5.