(Source: ICA Review, Vol.91 No.2 - Annual Report 1997-1998, pp. 31-34)
2. Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP)
(Robby Tulus - Regional Director)
The Asia Economic Meltdown
The financial crisis in Asia which started in mid 1997, and which developed into a full-blown economic crisis towards end of the year, is still with us. This crisis has robbed the Asia region of its stabilizing forces that the region had come to take for granted. Nowadays there are mounting bankruptcies, growing unemployment, and rising inflation in countries hardest hit by the meltdown such as Korea and Indonesia. South-East Asia is at the centre of the regional economic crisis, which could spill elsewhere if not immediately remedied. Even if currencies and stock-markets do stabilize soon, millions of poor people impacted by the meltdown will face grave difficulties. The crises in Asian nations are all characterized by the combination of initially overvalued currencies, significant external debt and weak banking systems. The situation will no doubt create new challenges, but also opportunities for co-operatives in this region.
Savings capacities of members will most likely be curtailed owing to
shrinking income levels resulting from the devaluation, and loan repayments
may likewise be slower due to higher consumption costs. Productivity may
also suffer due to imported raw materials still being used in agricultural
and industrial sectors. On the other hand, co-operatives can offer hope
for those communities effected by the economic slump because successful
people-based co-operatives have imprinted good discipline in the creation
and conduct of systems of governance and regulatory functions. It amounts
to a sound and transparent manifestation of “the ICIS (ICA Coop Identity
Statement) in practice”, benefiting not just co-operative institutions,
but ultimately their most important asset, i.e. individual members at the
ICA ROAP Objectives
The Planning session of ICA ROAP in November 1997 was largely shaped on the basis of the analysis of the ongoing economic crisis in Asia. However, activities earlier in the year were based on the objectives set in November 1996.
ICA ROAP Activities
Below are some of the activities carried out during the period under review.
The Fourth Asia Pacific Conference of Co-operatives Minister in Chiangmai, Thailand. This Ministerial Conference was hosted by the Government of Thailand and the Co-operative League of Thailand, and financially supported by the Canadian Co-operative Association and the Developpement International Desjardins. The theme was “Co-operatives in a changing socio-economic environment”. Prior to the Conference, an exhaustive critical study was carried out on “Co-operative Legislation and Competitive Strength”, profiling five selected countries. This critical study was followed by two successive symposia and a well-attended Regional Consultation in Myanmar. These activities have sharpened the policy development strategy of ICA ROAP, namely the adoption of a sound policy on co-operative competitiveness which contributes to sustaining good business practices within the co-operative system in Asia and the Pacific region. This policy was clearly spelled out in the resolution of the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference of Co-operative Ministers.
In an attempt to create the right platform for attaining all the objectives set in 1996, the ICA ROAP organised a Special Workshop on the ICA Co-operative Identity Statement in August 1997. It was aimed at reaching a common interpretation and understanding of the ICIS among ICA members in the Region. The workshop also examined the relevance of the ICIS in the context of the changing socio-economic environment in the Region, and formulated guidelines to increase the co-operatives competitiveness without loosing their identity. The results offered a rich input to the ICA ROAP long-term strategic planning exercise which followed right thereafter. 50 delegates from 12 countries in the Region and co-operative specialists attended the workshop. Special presentations on the ICIS theme were presented by Prof. Dr. Ian MacPherson from Canada, Dr. Peter Davis from U.K. and Mr. Gary Cronan from Australia.
Another important event in 1997 was the establishment of the Asia and Pacific Health Co-operative Organisation (APHCO). Dr. Kato has been elected Chairperson of APHCO.
The 12th ICA-Japan Training Course on Strengthening Management of Agricultural Co-operatives in Asia was successfully organised by ICA with funding support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of the Government of Japan. The Course also received active support from JA-Zenchu/CUAC and IDACA, as well as participation from other ICA member organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. It started in New Delhi on 20 October 1997, inaugurated by the Ambassador of Japan. Fifteen participants (including five women) from ten countries - Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam - will travel with the course, to India, the Philippines and Japan.
A joint ICA ROAP & AWCF Regional Conference was held in Tagaytay, Philippines, in May 1997, to focus on “Women in Leadership and Decision Making in Co-operatives”, attended by authoritative speakers on the subject from UNIFEM, ICA, and Asian women co-operative leaders. 107 participants attended the Conference.
A 7th Training Course for Rural Women Leaders of Agricultural Co-operatives in Asia, conducted by the ICA ROAP, in close collaboration with the Institute for the Development of Agricultural Co-operation in Asia (IDACA) is being held in Tokyo, Japan, from 4 November to 3 December 1997. Six women leaders, two each from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have been selected to participate.
Another activity in collaboration with the JA-Zenchu/IDACA, as well as the AARRO, was the 2nd Asian Top Leaders Conference of Women Farm Leaders of Agricultural Co-operatives in Asia in Tokyo from 4 to 10 November 1997 which emphasised the need for providing opportunities for the further development of rural farm leaders, especially among women.
Collaboration with ILO included the conduct of Women Leadership Training Workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 1997, and the decision to jointly produce a Training manual on “Women in Decision Making in Co-operatives”.
A restructuring of the ICA ROAP operations was carried out to improve efficiency, effectiveness and teamwork in the office, and thereby to enhance the quality of services to members. A new operational structure was established and the number of ICA ROAP personnel was trimmed from 20 to 13 persons. Closer co-ordination and more interaction with ICA Head Office in Geneva have evolved as a result.
Efforts are being made to explore new members in Australia and New Zealand where ICA lost contact with agricultural co-operatives following the closure of the Australian Association of Co-operatives in 1993. More focus will also be given to strengthen, and, where possible, add new members in the transitional economies such as Mongolia, Myanmar, and Central Asian countries. The ICA ROAP Plan also points to the need for urgent reforms of government-dependent member organizations in this region because self-reliance is considered the best contingency to alleviate the impact of the financial crisis.
The ICA ROAP identified the region’s Key Result Areas for the year 2002. These are as follows:
Policy Development and Legislation
Promotion and protection of ICIS
Leadership and professional management
International Co-operative Trade Network
Agriculture and Consumer Development
The above will be achieved by focusing on important cross-cutting mechanisms such as gender integration and human resource development, and the involvement of Youth.
Projects of ICA ROAP will be tailored to meet the above goal and Key Result Areas.