ICA President's Review of 1996-97 (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
July, 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.2 - Annual Report 1996-1997)

ICA President's Review of 1996-97

1996 was the Year of the Regional Assemblies when the priorities and 
concerns of co-operatives from a regional perspective were given full 
rein for the first time, at least from the constitutional point of 
view. It took ICA a century to reach this point. In retrospect this 
seems a long time to recognise that this venerable world body is 
only as effective as the sum of its parts. But the Tokyo Congress of 1992 
adopted the rules to give effect to the creation of a strong regional 
structure. 1994/95 saw the foundations laid for regional governance,
the first assemblies and the nomination of regional Presidents 
ICA-Vice Presidents). In 1996 those achievements were built upon 
in each of the four regions by highly successful assemblies which 
determined priorities appropriate to the Region concerned. For me, 
personally, it was a particular cause of satisfaction that my wife, 
Jenny, and I were able to attend each of the Regional Assemblies and 
to witness at first hand the problems and opportunities of co-operatives
on the ground. Each Vice-President made us very welcome as did the 
host organisations in Malaysia, Senegal, Hungary and Costa Rica; to 
them go our grateful thanks. Following the Centennial Congress, the 
ICA Board convened in Miami in December 1995 and set for itself a 
number of priorities and determined or, in some cases, reaffirmed its 
principal strategies. Amongst the issues which the Board addressed 
then and to which it has returned since were:

- relations and liaison with Specialised Bodies;
- gender issues: improving the representation of women in the 
  national and international movements; 
- formulation of a corporate communication strategy;
- creation of a Development Trust;
- developing and expanding ICA membership;
- review of ICA constitution;
- strengthening links with the United Nations system.

During 1997 there has been progress with most of these themes.
The Board appointed a member to liaise with each of the recognised 
Specialised Bodies, to represent the views of the Board to the 
organisation concerned and vice-versa. The object of this liaison role
is to ensure that the ICA and the associated organisations remain in
step with each other and can jointly advance the interests of the 
co-operative movement in their particular sector or area of activity.

One of the priorities I have personally sought to carry forward as 
President has been the issue of gender. There are belated and somewhat
ambiguous signs of progress here. The Board at its meeting in Uganda 
in April, 1997 (the first ever Board meeting in Uganda) resolved that 
the new Elections Committee, which the Board has set up to assist the
election process at the forthcoming General Assembly, will "make 
every effort to have women nominated for the Board," there being a 
provision, failing this, for co-option of women. It takes much 
pressure to change the culture, traditions, and habits of generations, but 
this is an area in which the ICA should lead the way and indeed in some
countries and regions is actually doing so. It is proposed also that 
the ICA Board should increase from 16 members to 20 and this will be put 
to the General Assembly in Geneva in September. Mary Treacy gives details 
elsewhere in this report and in the Review 3/97 on the ICA Four-year 
Communication Strategy which includes the development of the ICA I
nternet Web site,a targeted TV strategy, the setting up of databases on 
the co-operative movement, future plans for a global communications 
policy and plans to set up a subcommittee on Communications and Trade. 
These projects are seen as vital elements in promoting the ICA as a
thoroughly up to date organisation to its world wide audience.

The Development Trust has virtually cleared the hurdles in the way 
of setting it up. Members now need to be encouraged to provide it 
with discretionary funds to enable the Trustees (namely members of the ICA
Board) to consider appropriate cases to assist co-operatives and 
co-operators outside the scope of conventional project funding. 
Bjorn Genberg has now taken up his duties as Development Director;
he will be based in Nairobi. He brings extensive in-depth experience, 
particularly on the African continent, to this challenging job. 
Mats Ahnlund has been advising the Director-General and the Board 
on how to broaden the international membership base and how to 
navigate through some of the constitutional complexities associated
with computing ICA subscriptions. Twenty-nine new members have been
admitted in 1996/97 and there has been a good positive response to 
the membership survey. But Mats Ahnlund will be spending his time 
familiarising himself with the different requirements of members in 
different parts of the globe. MariaElena Chavez in her new post as
Director, United Nations liaison, has made her mark in fashioning
a productive working relationship with the UN and improving 
partnerships with the UN and NGO community, in registering the 
ICA's key role as No.1 NGO as Coordinator of COPAC. MariaElena has 
also assumed the role of Secretary of the ICA Global Women's 
Committee to underline the importance which the ICA Board attaches 
to the development of gender policies.

I know that members will wish to acknowledge the outstanding service 
to international co-operation for many years of Raija Itkonen of 
Finland and of Ota Karen of the Czech Republic. Although Hasle 
Nielsen of Denmark has served on the ICA Board a shorter period he 
has been a colleague whose judgment and wisdom are highly valued. 
We shall miss them in the ICA Board room and convey to them our 
thanks for their service to the Alliance and good wishes for the 

I am sad that I shall not be standing again for election as President 
ICA, contrary to my original intention. The reasons for the decision 
are by now well known, but for the record they are that my own Society,
the CWS in the UK, will require most of my attention for the next 
year of two. So, regretfully, after five years as a Board member 
I must step down. I owe a debt of gratitude to my long serving and 
distinguished predecessor, Lars Marcus, as well as to my fellow 
Board members, to Bruce Thordarson and his ICA management colleagues for 
their friendship and support. Above all, I wish my successor a happy, 
constructive and productive period in office as ICA-President.

With Co-operative Greetings.
Graham Melmoth,
ICA President.
May, 1997