Director General Focuses on ICA Priorities (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
Dec., 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.4, 1997, pp. 27-29)

Director-General Focuses on ICA Priorities
by Bruce Thordarson*

In the ICA Annual Report which was distributed to participants, we have
tried to describe in some detail the activities of the ICA Head Office and
Regional Offices, as well as work of the Specialised Bodies.

Rather than repeat what is said there, I would like to focus this morning on
the priorities which have been established by the Board, and to explain
briefly the way in which we have sought to carry them out.

Our new Special Projects Unit is essentially  designed to make more senior
staff time available for three purposes:  first, to identify new services 
desired by member organisations; second, to help improve the nature of the
services we are already providing; and, third, to collaborate more closely
with the Specialised Organisations.  We have found that many members,
particularly the larger ones, have particular needs that are not always met
through our more traditional activities.  We also know that there are some
sectors, such as agriculture, which have received insufficient attention in the
past.  Similarly, there are more and more ways in which we can work with
the Specialised Bodies.  Already the ICA provides the secretariat for the
four Specialised Committees, and increasingly we are supporting the work
of the eleven sectoral Specialised Organisations through full or partial
secretarial services.

Communications, of course, remains at the heart of much of ICA's work. 
A noteworthy feature of the last two years has been the department's
innovative efforts to use the Internet in order to spread co-operative
information both more widely and more cheaply.  More of the ICA's
publications are now available in languages other than English, although the
cost of translation remains a serious obstacle to this effort.  Although we
have long talked about the need to improve our data bank and statistics, a
serious project has now been launched, beginning with Europe.

Relations with the United Nations system remains a high ICA priority as
well.  The numerous global summits of the last two years - in Copenhagen,
Beijing, Istanbul, and Rome - have enabled ICA to promote the co-operative
message, often in collaboration with the relevant Specialised Bodies. These
final summit documents now contain many favourable references to
co-operatives which can be used by member organisations for their own
promotional purposes.

Then there is Development.  We have benefitted here, as we have with the
Special Projects Unit, from a staff secondment that has significantly
strengthened our technical capacity.  The newly-created Development Trust
is the vehicle through which development resources flow, in order to
separate development funds from other ICA resources, and the newly-
created Advisory Committee (which will hold its inaugural meeting this
week) is designed to provide expert, external advice for this work.

It is, of course, through the network of Regional Offices and Project Offices
that most of this development work is carried out.  Many ICA members
provide additional support for these activities in their regions - for example,
Japan and Korea in Asia, and Brazil and Argentina in the Americas - which
is an important addition to the funding ICA continues to receive from many
development agencies.  Our West African office was relocated this year
from Abidjan to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso as a cost-saving measure,
and we are looking at similar ways of reducing administrative costs in East
Africa.  In the Americas, the active Project Offices in Brazil and Argentina
are supplementing the work of the Regional Office in Costa Rica.  The Asia
Pacific office, based in New Delhi, remains the largest of our regional
offices in terms of both activities and size.

The European Secretariat, which the European Council and ICA Board have
just this week decided should become an official Regional Office, still
operates from the Head Office, and there seems no need to change this
mutually-beneficial arrangement.  As with the other regions, ICA Europe
now has a well-defined work programme, concentrating on inter-sectoral
and pan-European areas which do not duplicate in any way the work of the
Brussels associations.  We anticipate that a staff secondment from France
will shortly strengthen the capacity of this newest ICA office.

Providing organisational support to the Head Office and the Regional
Offices is the Administrative Unit.  Financial control remains strong, as
confirmed by the Audit and Control Committee.  Membership is growing in
a promising way, particularly from the Americas region.  From a gender
perspective, although ICA like other organisations still has much progress
to make, we can at least report that 33 percent of our Senior Management
Team are women.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I would like to show delegates one of the new
initiatives of the Communications Department, in collaboration with the
Development Section.  To mark the 1997 International Co-operative Day,
ICA issued for the first time a video news release.  This short video, on the
theme of co-operatives and food security, was widely used by satellite and
cable television networks around the world.

For ICA it is only one example of what we expect will be increasing use of
new ways of spreading the co-operative message in the future.