Opening Ceremony

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

                    Opening Ceremony

by G. W. Money*

Participation in a Co-operative Congress is a special event for any
Co-operator, be it Sectional, Regional, National or International. To be
present, and to be involved in the Congress of the world-wide Co-operative
body in its 100th anniversary year, it seems to me is a very special
privilege indeed. This is the 31st Congress of the Alliance, little could
those Co-operators responsible for the very first Congress in London in
1895 have envisaged just how their ideas would grow and develop over the
next century.

As the President remarked just a short time ago, today we can count more
than 750 million Co-operators in our ranks.

Some three years ago at the Tokyo Congress, and incidentally the first to
be held outside Europe, our Movement was pleased to extend the invitation
for this Congress to be held here in Manchester. This is the sixth occasion
that the Alliance has held its Congress within these shores, the last
occasion being 1963 in Bournemouth, on the South coast. But our invitation
was specifically to invite a return to Manchester (yes, it was last here in
1902!) as our Movement regards this city as the Co-operative capital of the
United Kingdom. The reason is not difficult to understand - the
headquarters of the principal Co-operative organisations are right here,
literally just along the street from where we are sitting this morning.
And, it is those Co-operative organisations, along with the local consumer
society, that are your hosts over this period.

>From those small beginnings 150 years ago, have grown the Co-operative
Union, the CWS, the Co-operative Bank, Co-operative Insurance Society,
Co-operative Retail Services, United Norwest Co-operatives and many other
Co-operatives across the country. All are contributing in some way to
welcome this Centennial Congress.

 I am advised that the official number of participants will be the highest
yet - it could exceed 1,100 representatives, observers and guests. That
compares with a figure for the first Congress of around 225, 200 of whom
were British Co-operators!, and about one half the size of the previous
Manchester Congress.

But of course you will realise that there is a significantly larger number
of people here this morning and I want to extend a particularly warm
welcome to our many friends, local and national, business associates,
employees and others who accepted our invitation to join us in this opening
ceremony. We hope that you will feel something of the warmth and friendship
that exists amongst Co-operators around the world, all of whom are seeking
to improve their quality of life through co-operation.

The Congress, and associated meetings are of course working occasions, and
for some days now, the various Specialised Bodies that meet under the
auspices of the Alliance have been busy dealing with their own particular
issues. Some important matters are on the agenda for discussion and debate
during the Congress and the General Assembly, which should have a bearing
on the way in which our Movement progresses into the next century.

But, as we all know, occasions such as this are not wholly about formal
business or philosophical discussion - they are also about meeting old
friends and making new ones, renewing acquaintances, and learning from all
the informal contacts that are possible when a group of like-minded people
come together. We hope that you will enjoy the social programme that we
have arranged we hope that you will find some time to explore the City and
its surroundings and what it has to offer, and we hope that you will also
find time to venture a little further, and visit Rochdale, where it all
began 150 years ago. There you can visit our small Museum, housed in the
original first store of the Pioneers, visit a splendid Town Hall and also
shop in a Co-operative store.

This, then, ladies and gentlemen is not just a Centennial Congress - but a
cele-bration, a celebration of 100 years of international co-operation, and
the Alliance coming back to its roots to do so. As President Lars Marcus
has been known to say on past occasions, have some fun!

I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, with some information about our British
Co-operative Movement today, not, you will be pleased to hear, by an
extended speech from me, but by way of a video, specifically produced for
the occasion. We hope that you will find it interesting and informative.

* The son of a Durham miner, Mr Money has been Chief Executive Officer &
Secretary of Yorkshire Co-operatives, one of the largest regional consumer
societies in the UK, for 17 years. He is also a director of CWS, Deputy
Chairman of the Co-operative Insurance Society and Chairman of the central
Executive of the Co-operative Union Ltd. He was awarded the MBE in the
Queen's 1995 New Year's Honours