World Overview (1997)

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This document has been made available in electronic
format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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April, 1997
(Source: ICA News, Issue No.2/1997)


                                World Overview
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BELGIUM :  Happy 50th, CIRIEC!
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The 50th anniversary of CIRIEC, the International Centre of 
Research and Information on the Public and Co-operative 
Economy, will be celebrated 26 September 1997 in Brussels.  
A scientific colloquium addressing "The Public, Social and 
Co-operative Economy and the General Interest.  Which Roles 
in the XXIst Century?" will be presented.  Those interested in 
attending should contact CIRIEC at (+32 4) 366 27 46 or by 
e-mail at ciriec@ulg.ac.be.  Their web site can also be viewed 
at http://www.ulg.ac.be/ciriec/ciriec.htm.

CANADA :  Second Annual Youth Unity Conference
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Following the success of its Youth Unity Conference held in 
August 1996, the Co-operators Group will hold a second 
such conference this year.  The conference aims to provide 
a forum for young adults, aged 18 to 21, to explore, express 
and listen to diverse views on Canadian unity.  An evaluation 
of the last conference showed that 90 per cent of the attendees 
found the event "exceeding their expectations."

(Source:  ICMIF NetWork, no. 20, February 1997)

New Newsletter for Co-op Connections
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In the fall of 1996, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) 
published its first issue of the Linkages Bulletin, a newsletter for 
the Co-op Connections Programme.  The target audience of the 
bulletin is co-operatives and credit unions, both in Canada and 
overseas, involved in the Linkages Programme, as well as 
Canadian developmental education co-ordinators and CCA staff.  
The purpose of the Co-op Connections Programme is to link 
co-operatives and credit unions in Canada with those in countries 
where CCA is actively involved.  Co-ops with similar challenges 
and services agree on a linkage, or a "co-op connection," for 
three years.  During this period, they are able to participate in 
activities such as internships and exchanges, designed to benefit 
both partners.  For further information, or to be added to the 
Linkages mailing list, please contact Laurie Tennian at 
(+1 613) 238-6711 or by e-mail at laurie@coopcca.com. 


New Canadian Co-op Act
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On 21 March 1997 Industry Minister John Manley and 
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister, Ralph Goodale, 
introduced the Canada Co-operatives Act, designed to modernize 
laws governing federally incorporated, non-financial Canadian 
co-operatives. This Act strengthens and clarifies the corporate 
governance rules relating to co-operatives and gives them access 
to different sources of capital.  As well, it provides benefits to 
small and large co-operatives by simplifying incorporation and 
providing clear standards for directors' liability. The co-operative 
sector, through the Canadian Co-operative Association, in 
collaboration with the Conseil canadien de la cooperation, played 
a key role in drafting the legislation.  Industry Canada and 
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada used this draft to conduct 
a series of consultations and fine-tune the legislation. 

(Source:  Government of Canada News Release)

Desjardins: Economic Success and Social Responsibility
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The 1996 annual report of the Mouvement des Caisses Desjardins 
shows that the Quebec-based financial co-operative movement 
increased its assets to 83 billion Canadian dollars and increased 
its operating surplus by 8.5 percent to 473 million Canadian 
dollars last year.  The movement is the largest private employer 
in the province of Quebec. It is also the Canadian leader in direct 
payment, with over 28,000 point-of-sale terminals. The movement 
also published its annual "Socio-economic and Cooperative Audit 
Report", showing that it returned 89 million dollars to the 
communities it serves through a combination of patronage refunds
(66 million dollars), gifts, sponsorships, and scholarships.  
57 percent of the local caisses collaborate with other caisses, 
and 32 percent have links with other kinds of co-operatives in 
their communities.

(Source: 1996 Annual Report: Review of Operations)

CZECH REPUBLIC : Housing Seminar in Prague
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Last November over 40 participants met in Prague for a United 
Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE)  
workshop for central and eastern European countries,  
organised by the Federal Union of German Housing 
Associations, an affiliation of housing co-operatives in 
collaboration with the Co-operative Section of CECODHAS 
(European Liaison Committee for Social Housing). The 
objective of the workshop was to offer information to those 
countries in transition, where co-operative structures have to 
be adapted to the needs of a market economy; and also to draw 
attention to the fact that privatisation of state-owned housing 
can be transformed into new housing co-operatives. During the 
workshop, the Czech, Slovakian, Polish and Hungarian 
movements showed how successfully housing co-ops can carry 
on their work once legal preconditions are met. Nevertheless,  
problems such as increases in real estate and energy need to be 
solved. Saving schemes and favourable terms of credit can help 
to overcome some obstacles, but subsidies are also necessary for 
the lower income sections of society. 

A follow-up of the workshop in Prague will be organised in 
Warsaw.  The first draft of a new handbook for the foundation 
of new housing co-operatives was presented by GdW in Prague
and will be finished for publication in Warsaw.

GREECE :  Ambelakia, the Co-op's Birthplace
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A small village in the mountains of Greece, Ambelakia is historically 
recognised as the home of the first co-operative. Formed in 1795, 
the co-op exported naturally dyed colourful cotton yarn all over 
Europe.  

Dimitra, the Institute of Information, Training and Development, 
and the Cultural Association of Ambelakia are working together 
on a comprehensive rural regeneration project to secure and 
enhance the historic and economic prosperity of Ambelakia.  

A multi-lingual interactive touch screen CD-ROM on the 
historical, architectural and economic development of Ambelakia, 
as well as a Visitors' Centre where the CD-ROM can be viewed, 
are being planned.  

The project is partially funded by the RAPHAEL programme 
(The European Community Action in Support of Culture), which 
works for the preservation and increased awareness of cultural 
heritage.  However, the programme is still in need of funding. 
Please contact the head office at (+30 41) 554 027 or be-mail 
at dimitra@hol.gr for more information.

UK : CWS Foils Attempted Takeover
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In April an attempted take-over of the Co-operative Wholesale 
Society  by Galileo, a company headed by 31 year-old old 
entrepreneur, Andrew Regan, was foiled thanks to the swift 
response of CWS officials. After a lengthy battle a last-minute 
injunction forced Galileo to abandon the launch of their hostile 
$1.6 billion bid.

WS Chief Executive, Graham Melmoth, said that the attempted 
bid failed mainly because CWS were able to prove that it was 
based on stolen documents. The CWS, which hired a team of 
private detectives to trace how information was being leaked,  
is now taking legal action against one of its executives, Allan 
Green, who allegedly handed confidential documents to Galileo.

According to the Manchester Guardian Weekly of 27 April, 
Galileo disclosed that it had been about to publish its long-awaited 
strategy for unlocking the multi-billion pound value of the CWS.  
It had intended to make formal proposals for the conversion of the 
CWS into a limited company, so that Galileo could then make an 
offer for the mutual society.

The court order obtained by the CWS forbade Mr Regan, Mr Green, 
Galileo or its parent company, Lanica, from using confidential CWS 
information.  It also required them to disclose all the information 
they had and what they had used it for, and to return all papers to the 
CWS.

On April 22, a spokesman for Mr Regan said he would stand down 
as a director of Galileo as soon as the company was able to go public 
with its plans.  It was seen in some quarters as the first sign of a crack 
between Mr Regan and his financial backers, led by Hambros Merchant 
Bank. Later Hambros made an unreserved apology to CWS over its 
conduct in the affair and is understood to have paid substantial damages. 

Apologies have also been sent by lawyers Travers, Smith, Braithwaite 
who acted as legal advisers to Galileo and Larnica. Galileo have 
subsequently gone into voluntary liquidation.

The situation of CWS  in Britain is clearly something that co-operators 
world-wide must face up to. According to Gary B. Hansen of Utah State 
University, the Wall Street Journal recently published an article stating 
mutual insurance companies in the US are considering converting to 
stockholder companies in order to raise more capital for acquisitions, 
etc.  If this path is followed, warns Hansen, it will mean that the policy 
holders will soon find themselves at the mercy of shareholders who are 
interested only  in profits and dividends and not about the interests of 
the member-policy holders. These enterprises will no longer be 
functioning as co-operatives or espousing co-operative values, he 
cautioned. 

(Sources: Manchester Guardian Weekly and Co-operative News 
cooperative-business listserver)

 Co-op Party Celebrates Landslide
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The Co-operative Party in the UK celebrated a landslide victory in the 
general election on 1 May  which saw all 26 Labour/Co-operative 
candidates victorious. They now form the biggest-ever group of 
Co-op backed members of parliament. The wins came in England, 
Scotland and Wales, and included seats in traditional Conservative 
strongholds.  Majorities for Co-op Party candidates ranged from 
23,931 to 3,636. Dr. Peter Clarke, National Secretary of the 
Co-operative Party said that the sitting MPs are joined by a new 
bunch of MPs who have come up through the Co-operative Party 
and understand the agenda. He said these new MPs would work 
with long-standing members to promote co-operative ideals.  For 
the first time candidates had been clearly labelled as joint Labour/
Co-op Party candidates, and the high press coverage that Andrew 
Regan's bid had given the movement had established the Co-op 
and its ideals firmly in the voter's mind according to Mr. Clark. 
The  Galileo bid had shaken up the Movement, he said, and now 
it was time for reform.  Larnica has put the movement firmly in the 
media spotlight and we need to keep ourselves there, he stressed.

UNITED STATES  :  Lawsuit Against the AT&T Family FCU
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On 24 February 1997 the US Supreme Court announced that it 
will hear arguments regarding a lawsuit against the AT&T Family 
Federal Credit Union (FCU), brought by bankers challenging its 
field of membership. The Court will review the decision made by 
the US Court of Appeals on 29 July 1996, ruling that the National 
Credit Union Administration (NCUA) had acted beyond its scope of 
authority with the approval of membership expansions for the AT&T 
Family FCU to include multiple-employer groups.  Bankers argue 
that the NCUA has been improperly interpreting the Credit Union Act
since 1982 by allowing credit unions to include groups of employees 
with different employers.  NCUA believes that the act allows these 
groupings, and that such groupings in a credit union provide strength 
through diversity.  There is no court date as of yet, but a final decision 
by the Supreme Court is likely to be handed down by the end of 1997 
or early in 1998.

(Source:  NCBA Cooperative Business Journal, vol. 11, no. 2.)

Co-operative Development Forum
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The 1997 Co-operative Development Forum, sponsored by the 
Co-operative League of the USA (CLUSA) Institute for 
Co-operative Development, will be held 13 to 15 June in St. Paul, 
Minnesota. The Forum will be held in conjunction with the annual 
conference of the National Association of Resource Conservation
 and Development Councils (NARC&DCs), which runs 14 to 18 
June.  The theme will be "The Co-operative Model, a Tool for 
Community Economic Development." The programme will focus 
on six major issues: co-operative approaches to community 
economic development: moderate income communities;  
co-operative approaches to community economic development: 
persistent poverty communities;  meeting the needs of the 
growing elderly population;  consumers and small businesses 
in the marketplace;  technical resources;  and financial resources.  

Registration information for the 1997 Co-operative Development 
Forum and the NARC&DC annual conference is available from 
John Gauci, CLUSA Institute Executive Director, by telephone 
at (+1 202) 638-6222, by fax at 638-1374 or by e-mail 
at jgauci@ncba.org. 

(Source:  NCBA  News Release)

The 1997 Co-operative Conference
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The Value of Co-operation, the theme for the Co-operative 
Conference, was amply demonstrated April 23-24 as the 
National Co-operative Business Association (NCBA), in 
conjunction with  the National Co-operative Bank (NCB), 
and the Co-operative Development Foundation, held its 
annual meeting and conference  in Washington, D.C. The 
conference programme focused on the benefits of working 
together through co-operation and featured the annual  
meetings of each organisation as well as special joint 
programming concerning educational sessions on co-operative 
development, mergers and crisis communications.  NCBA 
President and CEO Russ Notar called the joint conference 
an "historic event"

At the NCBA annual meeting, delegates approved the 1997 
Statement of Policy and various bylaw amendments. NCBA 
Chair, Tom Lyon, CEO of Co-operative Resources 
International, told the delegates "through the efforts of your 
diverse and engaged board and a well qualified staff, NCBA 
is, within its limited resources, well positioned to advance the 
organisation's mission - to develop, advance and protect 
co-operative enterprise."

As in previous years, the Future Co-op Leaders Programme 
was part of the Co-operative Conference.  The programme is 
designed to build leadership in US co-operatives by encouraging 
up-and-coming co-operators to attend the NCBA Co-operative 
Conference where they can meet and learn from other co-op 
leaders.  Special activities were planned for the 18 future co-op 
leaders who were selected for this scholarship programme. The 
programme is funded, in part, by NCBA's Honored Cooperator 
Awards programme.

(Source:  NCBA News Release, 28 April 1997)

ZAMBIA: Zambian Co-ops to get new Lease of Life
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The co-operative movement in Zambia which has been on the 
verge of collapse since the liberalisation of agricultural 
marketing in the country in 1992 may get a new lease of life
if current government initiatives to revive the co-operative 
sector are implemented. After a miserable performance of 
the private sector in agricultural financing and marketing, 
the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries is contemplating 
reactivating co-operatives by amending the Co-operatives 
Societies Act of 1970 and reviving the Co-operative Bank 
which was closed in 1995.

Government has since asked the co-operative movement to 
take stock of its performance since liberalisation, identify its 
weaknesses and strength and come up with proposals for the 
way forward.

Agriculture Food and Fisheries Minister, Edith Nawakwi 
told Parliament recently that government had stopped giving 
agricultural loans to individual farmers and was currently 
holding consultations on how to create an appropriate financing 
mechanism for farmers groups and co-operatives. Under this 
mechanism, deserving farmers' groups and co-operatives would 
be targeted for a wide range of financial services including 
capital investment support. During the last three years, the 
government had done away with co-operative institutions like 
the Credit Union and Savings Association (CUSA) and the 
Zambia Co-operative Federation's Finance Services in providing 
seasonal credit to about 600,000 small scale farmers who are 
mostly members of co-operatives. In March this year, Lima Bank 
which was a government owned agricultural financing company 
was closed due to liquidity problems while government bemoaned 
the loss of K26 billion, the equivalent of US $20 Million owed to 
it by Cavmont Merchant Bank and SGS - the two private institutions 
appointed by government to coordinate credit at the expense of 
co-operative institutions.