President's Message

**The Work of the ICA Since the Stockholm Congress**

*President's Message*

*From Congress to Congress - 4 years of change*

World events should actually affect co-operatives less than other sectors
of the economy; we are so local.  Nevertheless, the last four years have
made it clear that, for co-operatives also, there is no such thing as
absolute security. The changes which have affected our movement in recent
years have been more dramatic than any that have occurred in the post war
era, and their consequences  have been far-reaching.

Long-standing ICA members, who have been operating for almost 50 years in
the planned economies of Eastern and Central Europe, have been facing
far-reaching reforms or even confiscation of property.  Additionally,
Western European members, who still form the financial backbone of the ICA,
are in the midst of structural changes which have become more radical on
account of the growth of a common market, which has challenged their local
or national characters.

Younger members of our Alliance have other reasons for worry.  Not only
have many of them been hit by the economic recession but also by the
growing tendency for protectionism and an abuse of economic might by the
industrialized countries.  Furthermore, co-operatives in the Third World
are likely to find that development support will shrink due to the new
political and economic situation.  The OECD area has problems of its own
and has, therefore, become more inward-looking.

In many respects, the co-operative situation does not differ from what has
happened to joint stock companies or the public sector.
Although co-operatives have faced losses in the past four years, there have
also been gains  - our growth in Asia is evident. Already more than fifty
percent of the co-operators are to be found there.

The role of the ICA during this period has been to use its resources in the
most flexible way.  Our position is not one of superiority or dominance.
We offer common ground and a friendly network for a membership that has
co-operation as its guiding principle. In addition, we have tried to act in
defense of our membership whenever this has been requested.

At a time when many co-operatives have been under strain, ICA has
anticipated the ideological risks of structural changes and focused the
attention on basic values, through seminars and working parties in all
continents. This process has been invaluable to the movement and will
culminate in a report to the Tokyo Congress.

Another effort has been our reaction to the economic and political reforms
in Eastern and Central Europe.  At the request of its members in the
region, ICA has not only made contact with the new political powers, but
has also hosted meetings of their leaders, arranged seminars and given
information on the current situation in the ECEC to co-operators worldwide.

The consequences of change in Eastern and Central Europe have been
far-reaching.  A number of our weaker members have found that essential
support to their development efforts has drained.  We have tried to find
new contacts for them and prove that they are not isolated.  On the other
hand we have found that co-operatives, which had initially decided not to
join the ICA, are now showing an increasing interest in our activities. Our
membership development is not only positive but strong.

Our efforts in the Third World will remain a major task for years to come.
Since the last Congress, the role of the ICA has been redefined and the
results of our regional offices have dramatically improved.  So far this
has helped us to enlarge the group of partners and sponsors.  A number of
ministerial conferences in Asia and Africa have raised the respect of
governments for the contributions to national economies that co-operatives
can offer.  As self-aid projects become increasingly attractive for donors,
the ICA will be prepared to assist.

Finally, the Executive has proposed a new structure for the ICA, which was
accepted by the Central Committee meeting in Berlin last year.  It was the
result of a careful analysis of the past and of present trends.  Above all
it tried to anticipate a future where international collaboration between
co-operatives would no longer be limited to fraternal delegations, but
where one would expect joint ventures as well as mergers.

The going might seem a little rough at present for many of us, but the
message from ICA, as well as from co-operatives in almost all parts of the
world, is that we will come out of this recession and through the political
changes which are taking place, stronger than ever.

Lars Marcus