(Source: ICA Review, Vol.91 No.2 - Annual Report 1997-1998, pp. 3-4)
This ďannualĒ report in reality covers the 9 months which have elapsed since the General Assembly met in Geneva in September 1997. As the four Regional Assemblies will take place in 1998, the next full report to the membership will be made at the General Assembly to be held in Quebec City, Canada, in August 1999.
As a result of the elections held during the 1997 General Assembly, the ICA Board has quite a new appearance. In addition to a new President, Roberto Rodrigues, 10 of the 20 elected Board members are new. Moreover, as a result of a General Assembly Resolution, the Board has since co-opted two additional members, thus bringing the representation of women to four out of a total of 22.
A number of Rules changes were made at the Geneva General Assembly in recognition of the changes taking place within the ICA membership and structure. In addition to an increase in the size of the Board, the maximum national representation on the General Assembly was increased from 20 to 25. A new category of Associate member was introduced in view of the growing number of organisations interested in participating in ICA activities. The Vice-Presidents are now regarded as a distinct part of the governing structure in recognition of the important leadership role which they play in the regions. And a number of provisions have been introduced in order to promote closer links between ICA and the Specialised Bodies.
At its planning session in Mexico City in November 1997, the new Board confirmed the existing five core functions of the ICA: defending and promoting the co-operative identity, providing a network for members to work together, communications, development and representation. The reports which follow indicate the ways in which these priorities are being implemented.
Within Head Office a six-person Senior Management Group has been constituted consisting of the Director-General, Deputy Director-General, Director of Communications, Director of UN/NGO Relations, Director of Development, and Senior Adviser-Member Services. Twice-yearly meetings are also held between Head Office staff and the five Regional Directors in order to strengthen working relationships.
At the beginning of 1998, the new European regional structure was formally constituted with the appointment of Gabriella Sozanski as Regional Director. This followed an earlier decision by the European Council, ratified by the ICA Board, that the previous European Secretariat should be transformed into a full ICA Regional Office. The finalisation of this new structure, under the active leadership of Lars Hillbom, also owes much to the efforts of former European Chairman Graham Melmoth and former European Secretary Arsenio Invernizzi.
The other ICA regions have also been active during this period, not only in carrying out their respective regional priorities but also in preparing for this yearís four Regional Assemblies. In addition to normal statutory business, all Regional Assemblies will address in one way or another the theme which will form the basis for the 1999 ICA Congress preceding the General Assembly-the importance of adding value to membership in co-operatives. As was the case with this yearís Research Conference, the Regional Assemblies will remind ICA member organisations of the vital link between member loyalty and co-operative success, and will identify good case studies and issues for further discussion next year in Quebec City.
A new feature being planned at present is the Global Seminar to be held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly in Korea in October 1998. Last yearís membership survey showed that, although members generally appreciate the new regional structure, many would still like more regular opportunities to meet and learn through global meetings. Also in response to the membership survey, efforts to promote business opportunities for co-operatives are assuming a higher priority than before in the work programmes of both Head Office and the Regional Offices.
As part of its catalytic role, ICA has for many years supported the work of the Specialised Organisations and Committees which bring together ICA members, and others, in specific sectoral and functional areas. As identified clearly by the Board, the challenge for the future will be to continue efforts to strengthen the work of these bodies while at the same time improving the benefits in terms of synergy and stronger co-operative identity which can result from a closer working relationship. The annual consultation meeting between ICA Head Office staff and the Specialised Bodies was held in April, and in October the ICA Board will meet with the Chairmen of the Specialised Bodies in order to discuss new areas of mutually-beneficial collaboration.
In a time of great challenge for co-operatives in all countries, the ICA is continuing to support their efforts in its specific areas of strength. We are fortunate to have a capable staff dedicated to that purpose, both in Head Office and in the Regional Offices, and to them I offer my appreciation for their continued efforts.