President's Message (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
April, 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.1, 1997, pp.9-10)

President's Message

Dear Co-operative Friends,
One thing which is striking about today's business environment 
is the rapid increase in and dependence upon electronic and 
computer technologies particularly in the field of communications. 
In the last twelve months, the media have given great prominence 
to the potential of the Internet. The technology is already proving 
itself to be an efficient means of disseminating information across 
frontiers and the development, by the ICA, of its own World Wide 
Web service has given a lead to ICA member organisations.

The increase in global communications is a reflection of the growth 
in the worldwide flow of goods and services. Even the largest 
countries have recognised that they cannot stand by on the wings 
eventually to be held hostage to the changes in the economic 
environment. In consequence, we are seeing classic co-operative 
behaviour with the consolidation of regional trading groups, the 
most prominent being the European Union, the pan American 
NAFTA and the ASEAN grouping of pacific rim tiger economies.

Likewise, many co-operative organisations are coming to terms with
structural changes in their local markets. The transition is most obvious 
in Central and Eastern Europe and development of its co-operative 
sector remains the top priority of the ICA's European region following 
the winding down last year of the Co-op Network. I must pay tribute 
to my fellow ICA Board director Ota Karen, who will be retiring 
this year, for his contribution through ICA and as President of the 
Network which has done so much to safeguard the future of a 
vibrant co-operative movement in the former Comecon countries 
when their very existence was at one stage in question.

Less in the media limelight, but just as significant, are the new 
uncertainties in other regions where deregulation and a rush to 
liberalise markets has created social upheaval and distress. 
In these circumstances we have a duty to direct what support we 
can to underpinning the co-operative presence in these countries. 
None are in more need of our support than co-operatives in  Africa. 
Whereas Europe, the Americas and Asia all have their own sources
of development funding to some extent, Africa stands alone in relying
mostly on external support.
At its meeting in Budapest in October, 1996, the ICA Board formally 
set up the ICA Development Trust. Constituted in Luxembourg, 
the trust will encompass the funding for the current ICA 
Development Programme as well as a new trust fund which, 
hopefully through the contributions from the stronger ICA 
members, will grow to become a sustained resource for 
development activities. Today the priority is Africa but 
it is intended in the future that the fund will continue to 
generate income to meet the ICA's future priorities.
Following the ICA panel meeting in July last year with
 Nintin Desai, United Nations Under Secretary-General,
 the UN General Assembly confirmed its
support for the co-operative movement through its resolution 
of 28th January, 1997, and goes some way to adding weight to 
the voice of the ICA in  representing its members before 
governments and international bodies.

The full text of the resolution can be found printed within this review, and
in particular it makes reference to the efforts ICA has made to encourage the
active participation of women in co-operative management and governance.
I see it as one of my personal goals to encourage a greater representation of
women in the governing bodies of the ICA, including the ICA Board itself.
To this end the Special Committee on Rules and Finance met in Geneva in
February and will put proposals to the next Board meeting in Uganda. I
hope members will consider nominating women candidates for the ICA
Board elections which will be conducted at the General Assembly in Geneva
in September.
There is a growing recognition that co-operatives have a role to play in
providing for the needs of individuals where governments are increasingly
finding they lack the resources or the will to provide support for social
welfare. The co-operative movement, is the largest and longest established
organised body within what is becoming known as the civil society, and
increasingly it must take the lead in addressing the needs of those
disadvantaged by economic structural change. The opportunities as well as
responsibilities this entails will be one of the central planks, along with co
operative housing, of the Agenda for this year's General Assembly being
held in Geneva.
1997 looks like being another active year for the Alliance and I look forward
to seeing you all in Geneva in September.
Graham Melmoth