Co-operative Principles, ICA Review 1995

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This document has been made available in electronic format
     by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
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                     January 1996

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                Co-operative Principles
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by Ian MacPherson*

Today and tomorrow we will be carrying out one of our obligations to the
continuing life of the International Co-operative Movement. Like
co-operative leaders in other generations we will be re-examining our
Movement's basic principles and reconsidering its fundamental purposes.

These perpetual questions, which seem necessary to undertake every thirty
years or so, are one of the great strengths of our Movement. They force us
to drink deeply from our rich and diverse heritage. They compel us to
consider respectfully and humbly the complexity of a movement that spans
the globe. They require us to examine the record of co-operative
achievement of institutions as small as a largely informal neighbourhood
child care co-operative or as large and complex as the organisations in
whose buildings we are meeting. They become pro-cesses of renewal from
which we gain a reinvigorated sense of purpose; they are experiences in
intellectual broadening from which we can all benefit.

We are in the ideally-named New Century House, a reminder that we are not
the first co-operators to think positively and constructively about the
future on the occasion of achieving an historic milestone. We are in a
complex of buildings belonging to the British Co-operative Wholesale
Society, Co-operative Bank, Co-operative Insurance Society, CRS
(Co-operative Retail Society), and Co-operative Union, all organisations
renowned and admired throughout the international Movement.

As we walk the streets of this city and others nearby, it is not difficult
to find co-operative outlets: banks, shops and insurance offices, that
suggest the strength and vitality of the British Movement. If we journey
northward, we can find the store of the Rochdale Society of Equitable
Pioneers, out of which, as David Thompson has reminded us in his delightful
recent book, emerged a tradition that still stirs the heart of human beings
everywhere. If we go a little farther north we find, wonderfully preserved,
Robert Owen's New Lanark, still a Beacon for those who would create better
communities and a place visitors to this conference should visit if they
can.

We are in an appropriate place, too, because we see all around us the
buildings - the factories and warehouses - that remind us of the power,
impact and complexity of the industrial revolution. That re-evaluation is
important to us because it provided the context out of which our Movement,
rural as well as urban, international as well as British, originally grew.
As Professor Birchall has explained in the valuable book he has written for
this Congress, our Movement largely emerged to control democratically the
immense economic and social changes wrought by the industrial revolution.
It is an ambitious vision of steadily widening influence we would do well
to remember.

But we can also readily see in the streets around us how much that context
has changed. The smokestacks are stilled. The armies of working people who
flocked to the mills and factories have been reduced to battalions. The
beautiful buildings once hidden beneath the inevitable, depressing grime of
the old industrialism have been refurbished, restored in anticipation of a
different kind of economic vitality. As one walks the streets, too, one
sees many manifestations of a new and different context: the prevalence of
service industries, the ubiquitous presence of the computer, global trends
in styles and customs, the soaring skyscrapers of powerful financial
industries, the mixtures of people drawn from all over the globe, the
furtive looks of underemployed youth, the names of companies whose head
offices lie thousands of miles from these shores. Much of our past is
associated with Manchester; much of what must be part of our future can
also be gleaned here.

We are in an appropriate place to end the journey that began seven years
ago when our president, Lars Marcus, challenged the international Movement
to re-examine its basic values and to provide a clear picture of the
Movement's purpose, especially for the troubled parts of the world and for
those whose faith in co-operative enterprise was waning.

That challenge was picked up by the international movement. At the Tokyo
Congress three years ago the first stage in the resultant discussions came
to an end when we considered the work on co-operative values so ably led by
Sven Ake Book of Sweden. Today and tomorrow we move forward; today and
tomorrow we will shape our Movement once again, preserving what is
important and adding what we must from our rich heritage and our common
experience.

The focuses for our discussions are three documents: a page that provides
summative statements explaining the distinctiveness of co-operatives; a
background paper that expands on that page more fully; and a declaration
which provides some directions for co-operators and their organisations as
they look forward into the next century.

I would like to provide some explanation for how these documents were
prepared during the years since the Tokyo Congress. First I distributed a
questionnaire to ICA member co-operative organisations to ascertain
attitudes towards the current Co-operative Principles. The results of the
survey, while hardly scientific since not all kinds of co-operatives in
enough countries around the world responded, were nevertheless instructive.
They revealed some unhappiness over the existing Capital Formation
Principle as well as concern over the omission of a specific reference to
gender, the lack of a definition of a co-operative, and the general absence
of a reference to values and community obligation.

My primary reference group for considering these results and for exploring
alternatives consisted of six people: Ms Raija Itkonen and Dr Yehudah Paz,
both from the board of the ICA; Dr Hans Detlef Wulker from the
International Raiffeisen Union; Dr Masahiko Shiraishi from Tokyo
University, an expert in agricultural co-operation; Dr Hans Munkner from
Marburg University, who has done more in recent years than any other
individual I know to shape co-operative legislation around the world; and
Bruce Thordarson, the Director-General of the ICA. Altogether we met four
times to discuss various drafts, particularly of the co-operative identity
page. They were, for me at least, particularly memorable occasions in which
discussions were frank and open and in which a wide range of co-operative
experiences shed light on some very complex issues.

I also referred early drafts of the documents to an advisory panel of fifty
people scattered around the world. I am indebted to them for their
reactions and suggestions, most of which I hope I have faithfully
implemented.

As the months went by I circulated four drafts (out of some seventeen at
one time on my computer) - so many that I know I caused considerable
confusion for many people, though translators around the world are indebted
to me for all the work I have created for them. The reactions I received to
all those drafts, however, were invaluable in understanding what was
important and necessary and what the limits of change were.

In addition, whenever and wherever it was possible, co-operators in various
parts of the world met and discussed how the Principles should be changed.
I attended as many of these sessions as ICA funding and my time constraints
would permit. I was struck, both in the meetings I attended and those I
heard about, by the degree of unity that was achieved and by the
willingness on the part of all concerned to understand co-operative
traditions that were different from their own.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge the role of the Board of Directors
of the ICA. The Board devoted two lengthy sessions to considerations of the
Principles, a significant amount of time for any one topic in the life of
such an organisation. I will long remember in particular our last meeting
when the Board reviewed the Principles at length in preparation for this
Congress. Again, a remarkably wide range of experiences, cast over many
types of co-operatives and reflective of many national Movements, was
brought to bear on the major issues. Individuals with deeply-held
convictions, indeed I suspect among the most important convictions of their
lives, struggled constructively to find common ground. I think they
succeeded remarkably well.

On a personal level, I want to thank you and the ICA for giving me the
opportunity to be part of this process. It has been the most rewarding
experience in a particularly fortunate co-operative career. Above all, I
have been humbled by the immensity of the task of understanding the
international movement. I do not mean 'humbled' in some obsequious way, but
in the sense that there is so much to understand. I am a middle-aged,
Northern, privileged male whose belief systems and characteristic attitudes
have been shaped by that background, a background with much potential good
in it but also severe limitations of understanding. For me, therefore, the
greatest personal benefit has been in gaining a fuller appreciation of the
different societies. My sense of the power and dignity of the Movement has
been deepened and I thank you for making it possible.

All of these deliberations and discussions, however, do not amount to a
perfect process: it was merely the best that we could do. The resultant
documents are similarly not perfect: they too are simply the best possible
at a given point in time. In that respect, they are typically
'co-operative': when you try to mingle ideals and thought with action and
practice, the results are always a little messy and rarely as conclusive as
some would like. I firmly believe though that they are consistent with the
best of co-operative thought and deed: they do show a path that we should
follow.

The documents, I hasten to add, do not 'belong' to anyone specifically.
They are not mine, they are not the resource group's, they are not the
Consultative Committee's, they are not even the Board's, though all of the
foregoing accept them. I do hope, though, that, with suggested additions
that will improve them, they will be owned by this Congress.

I hope too that we will be able to sustain the spirit of openness and
collaboration that has characterised this project from the beginning. Once
more, I would like to pay tribute to all those so far engaged in it: women
and men who have realised the necessity to accommodate different views, the
value in hearing contrary opinions, and the need to reach outward to other
peoples. I have learned in this project that 'I have read, I have
experienced, I know' is important, but it is not as useful as 'I have
heard, I understand, I respect'.

The board has also adopted that approach, attested to most recently by a
series of changes it made in response to resolutions submitted by member
organisations. Those resolutions were considered by the Board of the ICA on
Monday. With some modifications they are going to be presented to you for
consideration today and tomorrow. I will refer to each of them in turn as I
review the identity page with you.

Over the last several months I have often asked myself: 'What is important
about the revisions of the Principles?'. Arguably, one of the important
changes is not to the Principles themselves but, rather, that they have
been placed in the context of a statement on 'the Co-operative Identity'.
This general concern over identity, in a sense, can be traced back to Alex
Laidlaw's report to the Moscow Congress in 1980, if not earlier. Alex
sensed in that report a crisis around the World as the Co-operative
Movement tried to maintain its distinctiveness from the private sector and
as it struggled in many countries to escape the dominating influence of the
State. They were concerns that were echoed in President Marcus' speech in
1988. There were reasons for even greater concerns in the early 1990s as
uncertainty over State/Co-operative relations grew amid the dismantling of
most of the command economies, the restructuring of the economies in many
Southern countries, and the headlong rush to full market economies in the
industrialised world.

I believe that placing the Principles in the context of co-operative
identity is an important step. One of the problems of the two previous
formulations, I believe, is that they did not, of themselves, offer any
understanding of their intellectual or philosophical roots. I think that
omission was unfortunate because it  unintentionally contributed to the
tendency to see the Principles as a set of organisational injunctions
rather than as an integral part of a coherent philosophy.

The explanation of the co-operative identity has three parts, each of them
as important as the others. The first is a definition of a co-operative.
This is the first time in the history of the ICA that it has been possible
to accept such a definition. In its deliberations on Monday, the ICA Board
considered a resolution from the German Movement requesting that 'cultural'
be omitted from the proposed definition printed in the Congress booklet.
This change emphasises that co-operatives are concerned primarily with
meeting specific goals, including principle social goals, in the market
place, as economic organisations. If members decide they would like their
co-operative to undertake other activities that right is clearly provided
for in other parts of the document. The Board did not see, nor do I, any
difficulty in accepting this change especially in light of the entire
document.**

The importance of the definition, I suspect, will become more apparent as
the years go by. As it is commonly used in public discussions, as it is
included in legislation, and as it finds its way into training and teaching
materials, it will help to create a clearer understanding of the unique
structures and purposes of co-operatives. For the 'outside world', in
particular, the definition may be the most important part of the identity
page. It is also fortuitous that the definition conforms relatively well to
the one adopted in 1966 by the International Labour Organisation, an
institution with which the International Co-operative Alliance frequently
collaborates.

>From a philosophical perspective, the second part, which refers to the
values is profoundly significant. The challenge in summarising values is
that there are arguably so many of them that might be included. Those of
you who have read Mr Book's study will be aware of the complexities. In
order to reduce the number of specified values to an acceptable size, they
have been divided into two groups.

The first, which, as printed in your Congress book, includes self-help,
democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, are particularly important
because they directly underlie the organisational structure of a
co-operative. At its meeting on Monday, the Board accepted the addition of
'self-responsibility' to the list. This suggestion, made by our German
colleagues, emphasises the autonomous nature of co-operatives and provides
a certain reference in the values upon which to base the Principle of
Autonomy. The Board concurred, as do I, with this view, believing that it
clarifies an important part of our value system perhaps not clearly covered
by 'self-help'.

Incidentally, I urge you sometime to study the Principles as manifestations
of that particular list of values. The relationship is striking and
powerful. It demonstrates, I think very well, the integration of
co-operative thought despite the varieties of experiences and outlooks.

The second list of values reflects the commitments co-operators have
traditionally tried to bring to their organisations. They are: honesty,
openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. In addition, the
Board, at its Monday meeting, also listened to opinions that the phrase 'in
the tradition of their founders' be added back to the Principle; it had
appeared in several earlier drafts; the Board agreed to do so. I welcome
that return because it indicates the fact that there are several 'founders'
to our various kinds of co-operatives.

The final proposed version of the values statement therefore reads:
'co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility,
democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their
founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty,
openness, social responsibility, and caring for others'.
The third part of the  identity page is the restatement of the Principles.
Attempting such a task has been, as it was in the past, a daunting but
rewarding exercise. Part of the challenge has been that, even more so than
previously, we have tried to specify Principles that will apply to all
kinds of co-operatives in all kinds of situations. Some have viewed the
1966 Principles as being still oriented towards consumer co-operatives. I
hope that it is completely clear in the document before you that the
Principles are equally applicable - to the maximum extent possible, keeping
in mind the immense diversity of our Movement - to all kinds of
co-operatives.

In particular, I believe they are applicable to consumer, financial,
producer, worker, and the main service co-operatives. One of the objectives
of this pro-cess has been to make certain that all of these great
co-operative traditions feel equally at home in their international
organisation.

I would also remind you that each sector, in general conformity with these
Principles, is preparing its own Statement of Principles, elaborating on
any specific needs it might have.

As you generally consider the Principles, I would urge you to think of two
of their rather remarkable special characteristics. First, please note
their inherent flexibility. I think each Principle demands a form of
minimal behaviour from every co-operative. For example, under the
Democratic Member Control Principle, a co-operative must invite members to
'actively participate in setting ........ policies and making decisions.'
What that actually means in any co-operative will vary considerably
depending upon the type of activity in which it is engaged, the kind of
decisions that must be made, and the nature of its member communication
system. Inevitably, for each significant issue there will be a continuum of
possible choices from which a co-operative can select the most appropriate.
The only choice that is questionable is not to make a conscious decision
or, more likely, a set of decisions.

All of the other Principles also require choosing among alternatives. In
other words, the Principles are only guidelines that indicate minimal
standards of organisational behaviour and continuously suggest further
possible actions: they are not just commandments. For me that quality of
continually raising issues to be considered and resolved is part of their
inherent wisdom and power.

Indeed, I must confess that, despite some thirty years of involvement in
the Movement, I had never before realised fully the animating quality that
the Principles possess when they are employed properly. During this
process, I came to realise that, perhaps like many others, the Principles
had tended to be a checklist for institutional structures rather than a
continuous and energising dynamic. As I look back I realise how much was
lost in the organisations on whose boards I have sat because we did not
regularly and seriously take advantage of the natural dynamics and
objectives that truly alive principles can provide.

I urge you here and especially after Congress, therefore, to think of the
Principles as active catalysts and not just as regulatory maxims. I firmly
believe that the Principles before you represent a relevant amalgam of what
the co-operative founders espoused for their Movement, of what common
practices have found valuable, and of what we can employ as a strategic
advantage in the world around us. Far from being a constraint on what we
do, as some might argue, the Principles will give us the insights and
dynamism we require to become even more valuable in the future to the human
family around the world.

The second general quality for which I gained a deeper understanding during
this process was the profound way in which the Principles are interrelated.
I came to believe that it was just wrong to emphasise any one Principle or
even any group of Principles too much over the others. That is why I am not
convinced that it is wise to list some of the Principles as 'essential' and
others as 'desirable', as was done in the 1937 version.

The point is that the Principles are subtly intertwined with each other:
for example, in the ways they reflect their base in the membership concept,
on how they facilitate functioning aggressively in the market place, and in
how they forge collective entities.

I and others came to the conclusion as the process unfolded that the 1966
formulation did not emphasise enough the importance of members in
co-operative enterprises, perhaps because those involved in the earlier
process took membership for granted since it seemed like an obvious
'given'. In contemporary circumstances, that is not desirable and it may
not even be possible if co-operatives are to succeed. Thus the first three
Principles, which refer most directly to the internal dynamics of the
co-operative form of organisation, are phrased deliberately from the member
viewpoint so that their diverse roles are clearly indicated. Similarly, the
last four Principles - on autonomy, education, co-operation among
co-operatives, and community - stress the centrality of member concerns in
all these areas.

In fact, the most important emphasis apparent in these revisions has been a
celebration of membership as the key element of co-operative
distinctiveness; in that connection, I commend the report of the joint
project on member participation to you for your careful consideration.
Members of that project team will be making their report on Thursday
morning.

The new Statement also reflects the perspective that, while co-operatives
are collections of individuals, they are also reflective of the joint
concerns of the membership. In that sense the whole is greater than the
parts. That is why, despite the challenges in finding appropriate wording,
the board is suggesting that the practice of indivisible reserves be
encouraged, a matter I will be returning to later. That is why, too, a
concern for community has been emphasised, albeit within limits approved by
members. That too is why the education Principle has been amended to
mention the necessity of educating youth and opinion leaders specifically
on 'the benefits of co-operation'.

The more one considers such fundamental themes the more one becomes aware
of the fact that the Principles are a seamless web: ignore any of them at
your peril.

Before discussing some aspects of the revised Principles, I want to
emphasise that I do not regard any of the so-called 'changes' as an
abberation. As I listened to the ways in which co-operators proposed
reinvigorating or expanding their organisations, as I explored the debates
of the past, I came to realise that our heritage  indeed, that co-operative
philosophy is as profoundly broad as it is deep. Each Statement of
Principles, past and present, in fact, is a selective set of choices drawn
from that heritage in order to meet the most pressing needs of co-operators
and co-operatives at a particular time. This report is no different in that
respect: to paraphrase slightly a comment made by professor Karve, who
chaired the 1966 committee  it was 'a process of reburnishing which permits
the underlying principles to shine with a brighter light'.

I would like now to discuss the Principles, not in detail but to mention
some of the more important points of emphasis.

The First Principle, which refers to voluntary and open membership, has
been significantly altered by indicating that people able to use a
co-operative's services and willing to accept the responsibilities can not
be excluded on the basis of gender. It is a modest but important step in
recognising one of the most important social revolutions of our times. It
is also, I believe, in keeping with a powerful current evident in
co-operatives since the mid-Nineteenth Century. In that respect, it is
interesting to read the original rules of the Society of Equitable Pioneers
from a gender perspective: they are remarkably free of reference of gender
bias, especially considering the times. Given the background of many of the
Pioneers, this characteristic of their rules was not accidental.

The Membership Principle has also added a reference to member
responsibilities in the belief that many co-operatives do not explain these
responsibilities adequately under the existing Membership Principle.
Moreover, since one of the underlying themes of the Principles is to
enhance the role of membership, it is important that responsibilities as
well as benefits be emphasised.

Perhaps the key 'new' elements in the Democratic Member Control Principles
the Second Principle also relate to members: as I mentioned earlier, it
requires that members should be actively involved in making decisions.
There is also another addition, reminding elected leaders that they are
accountable to members for their actions and decisions. It is a reminder of
where power and authority within a co-operative should ultimately rest.

Similarly, the Third Principle, which deals with member economic
participation, is strongly situated within a member perspective. It is
different from the two previous principles on the financial operations of a
co-operative in several respects. It is called 'Member Economic
Participation'. It emphasises the vital importance of members controlling
the capital of their organisation, and indicates that they should receive
limited compensation on the capital they subscribe as a condition of
membership. The Principle allows for a market return on capital otherwise
invested by members. As for capital emanating from other sources, one would
have to consider the implications of attracting such capital in light of
the Autonomy Principle: the key concern must always be to preserve the
capacity of members to decide the fate of their organisation.

There was much debate over the inclusion of a reference to indivisible
reserves. The 1966 formulation did not refer to this normal aspect of
co-operative economic structure perhaps because the matter had become
increasingly complex and practices were beginning to vary. The unfortunate
result has been that many co-operators have lost sight of the importance of
commonly-owned capital, as a symbol of a co-operative's distinctiveness, as
a security for its financial growth, and as a protector in times of
adversity.

The problem of including a reference to indivisible reserves has been
finding the best wording for a limited space. After much discussion at two
meetings, the Board decided, at its meeting last Monday, that the most
appropriate wording, suggested at the European Region meeting, was to make
two additions. The first was a sentence:"At least part of the assets is
usually the common property of the co/operative." The second was to
indicate that members, in allocating part or all of the co-operative's
surpluses, should consider setting up reserves, part of which would be
indivisible.

The complete principle would then read: "Members contribute equitably to,
and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least
part of the assets is usually the common property of the co-operative.
Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed
as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of
the following purposes: developing the co-operative, possibly by setting up
reserves, part of which would be indivisible; benefiting members in
proportion to their transactions with the co/operative; and supporting
other activities approved by membership. I think making such changes is
particularly important, and I hope you will agree.

The already mentioned Fourth Principle is the new principle on Autonomy. In
a way, it is a restatement of the Rochdale commitment to political
neutrality with an added emphasis on autonomy, whenever co-operatives
associate themselves with other organisations. It is a reminder of how
necessary it is for co-operatives to guard at all costs their capacity for
independent action. It is only when co-operatives are genuinely autonomous
that they can follow the wishes and meet the needs of their members
energetically.

The Fifth Principle refers to the long-standing and vitally important
commitment to education. In many ways it is similar to the 1966 version
except that it specifically mentions the need for co-operatives to inform
young people and opinion leaders about 'the nature and benefits of
co-operation'. The reason for making this addition was a perception that
the Movement was limiting its future by ignoring youth and failing to
explain well enough the values and purposes of the Movement to such people
as politicians, public servants, educators, and commentators; the result
has been a decline in the public understanding of the organised movement.

The Sixth Principle calls upon co-operatives to work together to best meet
the needs of their members. It is a principle much like the Sixth Principle
of the 1966 formulation. No less than in the recent past, it is a principle
that needs to be more carefully observed in the present and future.

The last Principle refers to the traditional co-operative concern for
community. At the Monday meeting, after reviewing submissions on this
Principle, the Board agreed upon a slight change of wording and recommends
to you the statement: 'co-operatives work for the sustainable development
of their communities through policies approved by their members'. This
Principle implies a commitment to sustainable human development and thus
nicely blends with the report on 'co-operatives and sustainable human
development'. In fact, the two reports make good companions.

Viewed as a totality, these Principles, linked to their sustaining values
and summarised in the definition, indicate what is unique about
co-operatives regardless of where they exist. In doing so, they reaffirm in
the present what has been central to the co-operative Movement since its
inception: a commitment to a truly international perspective. That, of
course, was one of the implicit goals of those who formed the ICA a century
ago: they envisioned creating an organisation that would genuinely span the
world; some issues do not change, some challenges have been with us for a
long time.

It was a task much more difficult than the delegates of a hundred years ago
knew. Overcoming the differences created by national perspectives and
histories, coping with the ideological cleavages that swept the world in
the Twentieth Century, recognising the biases each of us possesses,
understanding empathetically the nature of co-operative experiences in
non-European societies has not been easily accomplished. In the important
book she prepared for Congress, Rita Rhodes has explained the deep tensions
that made progress in creating a strong international Movement for most of
the Twentieth Century difficult to achieve. It is a story worth pondering
as we seek to understand how we can forge even stronger links among
co-operative organisations spread around the world.

This revision of the Principles, along with the other elements of the
identity page and the background paper, strive to explain the uniqueness of
the Movement as it has evolved; that was an issue that perplexed the first
delegates to the ICA when they met a century ago, it created considerable
divisions in the early years of the Twentieth Century, and it challenged
those who were responsible for the preparation of Statements of Principles
in 1937 and 1966. In some ways this document has been more than a century
in the making.

It is also true that, even with those changes, the documents are not as
crisp and precise as some would prefer. I understand their concerns, and I
hope that following this Congress, some of the wonderful communications
experts in our Movement will be able to distil what you will have accepted
so that it is immediately understandable to people who do not well
understand the Movement and what it stands for.

In your Congress book, you will also find a document entitled 'Into the
Twenty-first Century: Co-operatives Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow'. It is
offered as a declaration of what co-operatives should at least partly try
to do in the future. There is some brief mention in this document of the
past and present simply to show that there are important patterns of
continuity and to show the general benefits of people working together
through co-operative enterprise. It also emphasises the diversity of the
International Movement and tries to show briefly that, while structures are
the same, movements in different regions and nations vary tremendously.
Indeed, those differences are profound and they should be welcomed not
regretted; they are the potential source of immense power and influence.
More-over, the true value of the International Movement is only partly
explained when we accumulate statistics and refer to impressive market
shares. The full value is only apparent when we understand the importance
of co-operatives for their members and within their communities.

The paper makes the point that co-operatives are far more successful than
many  including most of their supporters realise. Many have long histories
of accomplishments, most are economically viable. Most have cadres of
devoted employees. Most have numbers of devoted volunteers concerned about
their welfare.

Moreover, like other economic organisations, many of them have gone through
trying times recently but have emerged better organised and more efficient
than ever before. They are well situated to confront the challenges that
await them.

But, if the International Movement is to meet its potential, the paper
argues, it will only be done if co-operators, each and every one of us,
continually strive to make our co-operatives more effective. We can do so,
I particularly suggest, if we do the following: cele-brate the advantages
of membership; recognise the unique strengths provided by the Co-operative
Principles; empower members, employees, managers and elected leaders;
assist co-operatives to combine their resources prudently; help them
improve their financial strength; and think strategically about the role of
the Movement.

At the same time, co-operative organisations will encourage more people to
meet their needs and achieve their aspirations through co-operatives if
they do the following: provide better nutrition, housing and health; expand
co-operative financial services; provide satisfying employment; welcome
enlarged roles for women and young people; protect rural communities; and
enhance urban life. The Movement already has a strong track record in all
these areas; there is no reason why it could not become even more effective
in each of them.

The reasons why co-operators must build stronger co-operatives and why
co-operative organisations must do better than they already do are clearly
evident. The rapid growth in the global population, the increasingly
uncontrolled movement of capital around the world, the increasing
concentration of economic power in a decreasing number of hands, the
continuing marginalisation of many women, the increasing numbers of people
with decreasing wealth, the bleak outlook facing many of our youth and
aboriginal peoples, the misuse of science and technology, the inappropriate
exploitation of our environment all of these suggest that in a phrase that
was popular in North America a half century ago: 'the possibilities of
co-operation are truly great'.

Today and tomorrow we will complete our rather lengthy pause to consider
who we are. We will begin our consideration of where we want to go and how
we are going to get there. We do so to enrich our present, to honour our
past, and to understand our future. They are not easy tasks because they
can disturb our assumptions, cause us to question what we do, and force us
to change how we do it. The co-operative values and principles are
difficult masters but they can be wonderful allies; they are the means of
their own success.

I look forward (in almost equal measure) to hearing the comments,
criticism, and suggestions of the delegate body.

*Dr. MacPherson is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the
University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.  He was responsible for
the ICA project on the redefinition of the co-operative principles.

**(Editor's Note: The reference to 'cultural' was subsequently retained, by
decision of the General Assembly)