Preface

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   This document has been made available in electronic format
      by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
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  Contribution of Co-operative Enterprises and the International
     Co-operative Movement to Implementation of UN AGENDA 21:
       Programme of Action for Sustainable Development 
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                     Prepared jointly by
             the International Co-operative Alliance
                              and 
                      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.

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                         PREFACE
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    Since 1950 the General Assembly of the United Nations, the
highest intergovernmental policy-making mechanism, has adopted
13 resolutions recognizing the relevance of co-operatives to
achievement of the goals of the United Nations, 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 four
decisions with the same purpose.

    In its latest resolution on co-operatives, 49/155 of 23
December 1994, which was sponsored by 33 member States from all
developing regions and from eastern Europe and the Commonwealth
of Independent States and adopted by consensus, the General
Assembly recognized that "co-operatives in their various forms
are becoming an indispensable factor of economic and social
development of all countries".   It encouraged Governments "to
consider fully the potential of co-operatives for contributing
to the solution of economic, social and environmental problems
in formulating national development strategies", and it requested
the Secretary-General, within existing resources,"to continue to
provide support to the programme and objectives of the
international co-operative movement."

    In the same resolution the General Assembly recognized also
"the important contribution and potential of all forms of co-
operatives to the preparations and follow-up of the World Summit
for Social Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women:
Action for Equality, Development and Peace, to be held in 1995
and the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat
II) to be held in 1996".   It invited these three major
international meetings "in formulating respective strategies and
actions, to give due consideration to the role and contribution
of co-operatives."

    The Copenhagen Declaration adopted by the World Summit for
Social Development held at Copenhagen, Denmark, from 6-12 March
1995 included a commitment "to increase significantly and/or
utilize more efficiently the resources allocated to social
development in order to achieve the goals of the Summit through
national action and regional and international cooperation". To
this end, at the national level, the Member States signing the
Declaration would, among other actions, "utilize and develop
fully the potential and the 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" (Commitment
9(h)).   The Copenhagen Programme of Action adopted by the World
Summit included nine references to ways and means whereby co-
operatives might be used for these purposes.

   Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 49/155 the United
Nations Secretariat has prepared background information papers
for use by the preparatory bodies for the Fourth World Conference
on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace and the
United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in
formulating drafts of their respective strategies and actions.

   Given the relevance of the activities of co-operative
enterprises and of the international co-operative movement to
many other aspects of the work of the United Nations, the
Secretariat has prepared additional background information papers
relating to the major issues before the United Nations at the
present time.   Each provides information on the nature of the
actual and potential contribution of the international co-
operative movement to the resolution of the relevant problems and
indicates areas in which that movement has already entered into,
or has the potential for developing, a productive partnership
with the United Nations, other intergovernmental bodies, the non-
co-operatively organized private sector, and civil society.

   The series of background information papers is intended to
provide policy makers within intergovernmental organizations,
Governments, the non-co-operatively organized private sector and
civil society with material which might be useful to them in
considering the potential value of their joining with the co-
operative movement in a more comprehensive partnership for
sustainable development.

   The series comprises informal papers prepared jointly by the
International Co-operative Alliance and the United Nations
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development. 
 The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is the global
association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives
worldwide.   At its first session in 1945-46 the General Assembly
granted Category I consultative status with the Economic and
Social Council to the ICA.   The ICA thus became one of the first
organizations representing the private sector to have this
status.    Fifty years later the ICA still has the largest
individual membership of any organization in consultative status
with the Economic and Social Council: as of January 1995
membership was 760,000,000 persons - if immediate families are
taken into account, as being closely affected by membership in
co-operative enterprises, and if an average of four persons per
family is estimated, then about 3,000,000,000 persons are
involved - more than half of the world's population.

   Moreover, ICA represents the views of this membership by means
of fully democratic procedures which ensures that the voice of
individuals throughout the world influences the positions taken
by ICA in international fora.   Conversely, by means of a well
developed co-operative communications and media system, ICA is
able to keep its individual members informed of the concerns of
the intergovernmental bodies.

     The Council called for cooperation between the ICA and the
United Nations system in its resolutions 1413 (XLVI) of 6 June
1969, 1491 (XLVIII) of 26 May 1970 and 1668 (LII) of 1 June 1972.

 The Council and the General Assembly have recalled these
resolutions in numerous of their subsequent resolutions on co-
operatives.  

   The present paper is concerned with the actual and potential
contribution of co-operative enterprise and the international co-
operative movement to the achievement of sustainable development,
and specifically to achievement of the goals of the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development by means of activities
called for in Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable
Development.   These were both agreements negotiated by
Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3 to 14 June
1992. 

   The paper is the first which attempts to set out in a
comprehensive manner the very wide range of important
contributions made by the international co-operative movement to
sustainable development.   However, it should be considered a
provisional version in that it collates and presents only readily
available, if dispersed, information of a predominantly
descriptive nature.   It certainly does not purport to be based
upon a comprehensive enquiry undertaken throughout the
international co-operative movement.

   The paper will now be circulated to specialized bodies and
member organizations of the International Co-operative Alliance
with a request that they comment and supply additional
information and views.   On the basis of their response a revised
paper will be prepared and made available for information
purposes, specifically in the context of observance of the first
United Nations International Day of Co-operatives, on 1 July
1995, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 47/90.   A summary
will constitute one part of a comprehensive study of the
contribution of the co-operative movement to the work of the
United Nations, with particular reference to the series of
international conferences, years and decades organized or
observed during the 1990s.  This will be published by the United
Nations early in 1996.