ICA Membership from Developing Countries

ICA Membership from Developing Countries

by J.M. Rana

This is the centenary year of the International Co-operative Alliance
(ICA), an appropriate occasion to take stock of what has happened in its
life. An attempt is made in this paper to deal with the growth and
diversification of membership of the ICA as well as structural changes and
the kind of policies followed by the ICA in the second half of the present

The changes in the ICA membership and policies took place against the
backdrop of the following world events.

The end of the second World War marked the end of an era. This period saw
the establishment of the United Nations to preserve world peace and
security.  Several UN agencies including the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund were
founded to evolve a saner international economic and social order and to
develop collaborative relations among nations. It also witnessed the
attainment of independence by a number of colonial countries, the growth in
the number of communist countries and the spread of socialist beliefs among
most developing countries. There was a revolution in the means of transport
and communications which gathered momentum during the last three decades
with the result that we now talk of the world in terms of a global village.
Also far-reaching technological changes have taken place with dramatic
impact on the world economy and the life of the individual human being.

The collapse of the communist form of State organisation during the current
decade is another momentous event whose consequences will take still few
more years to unfold.

Membership Growth and Diversification

The ICA was founded in 1895 by  co-operative organisations from 12
countries. Two of the founding organisations were from third world
countries viz. Argentina and India. Aside from the  co-operative League of
the U.S.A., the rest of the organisations were from Europe. By 1946 when
the second world war ended, 21 countries were represented in the Alliance;
15 were from Europe, the rest were: two from North America, two from Asia,
one each from Africa and South America.

However, the character of the ICA started undergoing a change in the
fifties. The ICA steadily increased its global reach in the second half of
this century. By 1955 the non-European countries in the ICA outnumbered
those from Europe. However, the individual membership of the affiliated
organisations from Europe continued to predominate well into the 1970s.

As may be seen from the statistics given above, there has been a steady
increase in the members from the developing countries since 1951. The
developing and developed countries were almost equally represented for the
first time in 1969, and thereafter the former were in larger number.

By 1994 the developing country members far outnumbered those of the
developed countries; the respective numbers being 59 and 42. However, the
difference is not that striking when one compares the number of
organisations. While the developing countries had 109 member organisations
in the ICA, the developed countries had 90 member organisations in 1994.

However, a comparison on an intercontinental basis reveals that Europe
still leads in terms of the number of countries (35) and the number of
organisations (95). The next large continent viz. Asia & the Pacific, has
21 countries and 63 organisations in ICA membership.

The individual membership represented in the ICA through its member
organisations presents a different picture. In 1994, Asia and the Pacific
Region accounted for 65 per cent, while Europe only accounted for 20 per
cent of the total individual membership.

The ICA also changed from a predominantly consumers' body to a more
diversified membership and it increased its coverage to a variety of
co-operatives such as agricultural co-operatives, credit co-operatives,
fishery co-operatives, insurance co-operatives, housing co-operatives and
workers' productive  co-operatives.  By 1960, the individual membership of
these various types of co-operatives outnumbered those of the consumers
co-operatives. As per 1993 data, the agricultural and multipurpose co-ops
together become the largest sector accounting for 48 per cent of the total
individual membership. (They are clubbed together because the multipurpose
co-ops are basically farmers' organisations on the one hand, while on the
other  a large part of their activities are financial.) Financial co-ops is
the second largest sector representing 32 per cent of the total individual
membership. The share of the consumer co-ops is only 15 per cent.

In 1994 ICA had 101 countries and 226 organisations in membership. Besides
this, nine international organisations had become members of the ICA. Two
of these organisations were business enterprises; the rest were promotional
and representative bodies with members from a geographically dispersed
region, such as the Organisation of  Co-operatives of America (OCA) or
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). The individual membership in the
ICA was over 760 millions.

To sum up, the ICA to-day is a truly global organisation of  co-operatives
of all types. It has members in all parts of the globe. Diverse types of
co-operatives with peoples of widely varying cultures and economic
backgrounds are its members. A remarkable feature is its universal appeal.
The ICA has remained undivided despite two devastating world Wars, and the
intense cold war.


Since its early days the ICA was concerned with four main areas:

(i)     Co-operative identity and co-operative principles

(ii)    Co-operative development

(iii)   International collaboration, and

(iv)    International  co-operative trade.

An attempt is made below to deal with  co-operative development in
historical perspective. Other areas are not dealt with due to limitations
of space and also because so much has happened in this area. (The share of
co-operative development in ICA activities has continued to grow since the
sixties. In 1993, 67 per cent of the ICA budget was spent on  co-operative
development programmes.) Some observations in regard to the other areas
will be made, especially in so far as they relate to co-operative

Co-operative Development

Eastern Europe was the first ' co-operatively backward region', (as it was
then called) to which attention was given by the ICA as early as 1904. A
comprehensive enquiry was carried out and a report titled "Backward
Condition of  co-operation in the Eastern and Northern Countries of Europe:
its  Causes and the Proper Remedies" was submitted to the 1904 Congress
held in Budapest. Finland, Iceland and Norway were included in this study.
In the words of W.P.Watkins 'it was the Alliance's first attempt to explore
an economically backward region of the world with a view to effective
co-operative development.' The Congress resolution requested co-operatively
advanced movements "to come to the assistance of the countries still
backward in the movement." Not much is reported on the progress of
implementation of this Resolution. However it is significant that the
promotion of  co-operatives in less developed countries had occupied the
thoughts of the pioneering leaders of the ICA even in its early years.

Promotion of co-operation in the Developing Countries became an important
element in the ICA Policies since the fifties under the inspiration of the
UN programmes of technical Assistance and the increasing importance of the
developing countries, which had become free from alien rule, in world

The increasing membership in the ICA from the developing world was another
strong reason to move in this direction. In May 1953 the Executive
Committee of the ICA established a  Co-operative Development Fund with UK
5,500 pounds. Contributions of UK 10,000 pounds, 5,000 pounds and CHF
50,000 from the British, Swedish and Swiss movements respectively were soon
added to the Fund. By 1957 the Fund had UK 45,896 pounds at its disposal.

"Co-operative Development in Underdeveloped Countries" was one of the
themes at the Paris Congress in 1954. Following a resolution on this
subject, a Technical Assistance Sub-Committee was constituted under the
chairmanship of the ICA President, Sir Harry Gill. Dr. Mauritz Bonow of
Sweden who was elected ICA President in 1960 and who led the Swedish
movement to play an outstanding role in ICA's  co-operative Development
Programme, was one of it members.

Co-operative Development Policy

The Sub-Committee formulated the following guidelines for its work.

1.      The ICA's work will be complementary and not
        competitive to that of the UN and its specialised

2.      The ICA's contribution shall be in the field of education,
        training and propaganda for leaders and members of
        co-ops and not for government officials.

3.      The Fund of the ICA shall not be used to finance
        economic undertakings.

4.      A short-term programme of technical assistance, of two
        to three years will be prepared. Based on its results and
        experience, a long-term programme will be formulated.

The Sub-Committee's activities in the initial years were devoted to
exploratory work and to carrying out of a few practical projects such as
the supply of a mobile audio visual unit to the Ghana Co-operative
Alliance, and the exchange of technology through sending experts to the
field or arranging for co-operators from developing countries to be trained

Long-term Technical Assistance Programme

The two Congresses held in Stockholm in 1957 and Lausanne in 1960 were
important landmarks in ICA's co-operative development work. There were
substantial discussions on the subject of Promotion of Co-operation in
Lesser Developed Countries in the Stockholm Congress. Three papers were
presented on the subject, one of which was by Mr. B.J.Patel of India, who
was perhaps the first member from the developing world on the ICA Executive
Committee. The Stockholm Congress was also notable for the impulse it
provided to the Swedish co-operative movement for the establishment of the
'Without Boundaries Fund' starting in 1958. It also marked the beginning of
an intensive involvement of the Swedish movement in international
co-operative development activities and its support to ICA's development
work. The Congress Resolution asked the ICA Central Committee to present
plans to the next Congress for placing the promotional activities of the
Alliance on a regular and adequate basis.

The Long-term Technical Assistance Programme whose main elements were as
follows was adopted at the Lausanne congress.

1.      The continuation and completion of the Exploration of
        the Developing Regions, more especially Africa and
        Latin America;

2.      Intensive Research into problems of the various types
        of  co-operation in the regions;

3.      Promotion of Education at all levels through permanent
        educational institutes, regional seminars and the
        financing of books and teaching material;

4.      Collaboration with the UN and other Agencies; and

5.      Promotion and expansion of trade between  co-
        operative organisations in developing countries and the
        highly developed movements, as well as the promotion
        of co-operative insurance societies, banks and credit

Asian Regional Office

Asia was the first region chosen for exploratory work.  In 1955-56,  Dr. G.
Keller of K.F., Sweden carried out a fact-finding mission in Asia on behalf
of the ICA. The next step of the ICA was to hold a Regional Conference in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1958. The Conference was attended by the
President, Director, and General Secretary of the ICA, members of its
Sub-committee, specially invited experts from the developed movements on
trading, agricultural and housing co-ops, and the leaders of the movements
in the Region. Delegates from affiliated organisations in Australia, India,
Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended. Also present were
delegates from other countries whose organisations were not yet members.
These countries were: Burma, Indonesia, Sarawak, Singapore, and Thailand.

The Conference paved the way for the establishment of the Regional Office
in New Delhi in November 1960. (The office was called the Regional Office
for South East Asia, even though it was located in New Delhi and covered
South Asian as well as East Asian countries, such as Japan, right from the
beginning. An Education Centre, which was financially supported by the
Swedish Co-operative Movement, was also attached to the Regional Office.

Establishment  of  Regional  Offices

Year          Geographical Region                       Place

1960    Asia (now Asia & the Pacific                New Delhi
1968    East, Central and Southern Africa          Moshi
1979    West Africa                                           Abidjan
1990    Central America and the Caribbean       San Jose
1993    South America                                      Brasilia
1993    Europe                                                  Geneva


Co-operative development and regionalisation/decentralisation have
proceeded side by side. Subsequently other Regional Offices (ROs) were
established as shown above. The ICA regional structure became almost
complete in 1993, nearly a hundred years after its birth in 1895. While an
Office has been established for Europe - a developed region, no structure
of any kind has been established for North America.

An exploratory study of the Central and South American region was carried
out by Mr. Rafael Vicens in 1961. But the question of an Office for this
region was not pursued as it was agreed at the All-American  Co-operative
Conference held at Bogota, Colombia in February 1962 that an Organisation
of the  Co-operatives of America (OCA) will be formed. This organisation
was to operate within the framework of the ICA and in collaboration with

The establishment of the Office for East, Central and Southern Africa was
facilitated by the excellent ground work done by the Swedish  co-operative
Centre in the Region in the early sixties through its Assistance Programme.

Regional Office Structure

An Advisory Council with one member from each country was constituted to
advise the Regional Office and Education Centre for Asia. The Council met
once a year. Usually the national  co-operative unions nominated the member
on the Council. Later, however it was felt necessary to bring on the
Council one additional member from the agricultural sector from each
country in view of the preponderance of agricultural co-ops in most
countries in the Region. As the years rolled by and other types of co-ops
acquired direct membership in the ICA, a demand grew that they too should
have representation on the Council and especially, that each member
organisation must receive an invitation to send participants to the
educational activities of the Education Centre. Ways were found to satisfy
these demands. Furthermore, as the member organisations acquired greater
international experience and improved their competence, they were no longer
satisfied with an advisory status. They wanted effective control over the
operations of the Regional Office. The ICA Regional Director had to tread a
careful diplomatic path in order to satisfy these aspirations on the one
hand and his responsibility to the ICA Director, in terms of the ICA
Constitution, on the other. In reality the Head Office never countermanded
any recommendation of the Council. But it was a matter of feelings.
Similar advisory bodies were established in other regions also.

Present Control Structure

The Tokyo Congress, 1992 decided to restructure the ICA as follows. It is
hoped that the new structure would increase the effectiveness of the ROs in
satisfying members' needs and their democratic aspirations.

The General Assembly, the highest authority of the ICA, has a four year
term. It meets every two years. It  replaces the Central Committee which
used to meet annually. The General Assembly elects the Board for a
four-year term. The Board consists of the President, four Vice-Presidents
and 11 other members, all elected by the General Assembly.

The Regional Assemblies, one for each region, have been established in
order to promote collaboration among the member organisations at the
regional level and to provide a forum for discussion of regional issues.
They are  part of the ICA's governing structure. They meet every second
year,  alternating with the General Assembly. The powers and duties of the
Regional assemblies are:

*       to implement the decisions of the General Assembly;

*       to establish priorities for the ICA work programme in
        the regions;

*       to submit reports, proposals and resolutions to the
        General Assembly; and

*       to nominate one regional candidate each for election as
        an ICA Vice-President.

The ICA Constitution suggests that the Regional Councils may be set up to
assist and advise the Regional
Offices in:

(i)     formulating the overall policy and reviewing the results
        of the activities of the Regional Office; and

(ii)    serving as a permanent contact organ between the
        national movements and the Regional Office. The
        Councils meet annually. Each member organisation in
        the region is entitled to send up to two representatives
        to the Council.

Each Council may elect an Executive Committee of six members, the Chairman
and the Vice-Chairman to assist and advise the Regional Director between
the meetings of the Council.

The Regional Assemblies are given the flexibility to modify the regional
structure as per needs, while maintaining the basic framework outlined in
the ICA Constitution. For example, the Regional Office for Asia & the
Pacific (ROAP) does not have an Executive Committee. Its Executive Council,
however, has 23 members, on the basis of one from each country; this is an
overly large number, even compared with the ICA Board, and makes it a
deliberative body rather than a decision-making organ.

The new control structure is a step towards considerably more
Regionalisation and an attempt to satisfy the democratic aspirations of the
regional members while preserving the essential international unity of the
Organisation. As stated by the latest Evaluation Report on the ICA
Development Programme of the Delhi and the Moshi Offices, opinions have
been expressed in the Regions that the Regional Offices should be
accountable to the Regional Councils and to the Regional Assemblies. This
appears a logical step. While Regionalisation has its merits, it is
essential to ensure that the ICA does not get splintered into various
regional units. In the context of the rapid globalisation that is taking
place and the threat to the co-op sector worldwide from the transnationals,
it would be suicidal if the ICA's capacity to respond  rapidly  to emerging
global challenges is impaired. An important question in the coming years
will be : how to make co-ops and the co-op sector, nationally and globally,
competitive vis-=E0-vis private enterprise which is being dominated by the
transnationals. The structural questions will be certainly important in
this exercise.

A related point in this regard is the efficacy of a rather elongated
structure for the regional Offices comprising the Regional assembly, the
Regional Council, and the Executive Committee. The Council appears

Current Development Policy

i)      The ICA Central Committee approved a new policy for
        co-operative development in 1982. The objectives of the
        Policy are: establishment and growth of independent
        democratic and viable co-operative organisations, in
        which men and women participate on equal terms.
        Efficient service to members, economic growth and
        social equity should be the goals of these co-ops.

ii)     strengthening collaboration between co-operative
        organisations of various types and in different countries;

 iii)   influencing public opinion, and enlisting the support of
        national authorities and international organisations in
        order to create a favourable atmosphere for the co-
        operative movement and to stimulate its growth.

The Policy document goes on to outline the fields of action, priorities and
resources for aid. Within the framework of this overall policy, the ICA has
formulated guidelines for human resource development and women in
co-operative development.

The years 1984 and 1985 saw some significant changes in the development
programme. The heavy emphasis on education and training that characterised
the development work in Asia & the Pacific and in East, Central and
Southern Africa was replaced by what may be called a Project Approach to

The Education Centre in ROAP was abolished and staff therein was
redeployed, and reduced. More development partners were enlisted and
funding sources were diversified. The development programme was given a new
orientation as described below.

Strategy and Programmes

The ICA's role has been defined as catalyst and coordinator of
co-operative development.  The focus of the ICA Development programmes
currently are as follows:

i.      institution building, human resource development,
        women's integration, strategic planning and the

ii.     influencing governments as mentioned above including
        organising regional conferences of Ministers of Co-

iii.    networking and promoting the exchange of experience
        and movement-to-movement assistance;

iv.     promoting and facilitating joint ventures; and

v.      mobilising financial resources for co-operative

The various Regional Offices are carrying out several projects with well
defined objectives.  Each project is the responsibility of one Project
Officer. The planning, coordination and monitoring mechanisms are in place.

The ROAP, for example, currently has 10 projects in operation in fields of
Policy Development and Legislation, Development Planning and Coordination,
Agricultural Co-ops Development, Consumer Co-ops Development, HRD, Gender
Integration, Agricultural Management Training, Rural Women Leaders
Training, Industrial Co-ops and Insurance.  All the projects, except the
industrial co-ops project, cover the entire region.  They comprise
research, training and consultancy elements.

The most recent priority in all the regional offices is to develop
appropriate responses to the Structural Adjustment Programmes and
Liberalisation Policies sweeping most of the developing world.  A study
"Co-operative Adjustment in a Changing Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa"
will provide a basis for an Action Plan.  In Central America a
"Reconversion Project" has been initiated.

Currently the ICA collaborates with nearly 30 international and national
development agencies which support the ICA Development Programme through
finances, experts and equipment.


The development budget has continued to grow since 1986 when it was 4
million Swiss Francs.  It was CHF 8.5 million in 1993-94.  No such figures
for previous years are available due to non-existence of a focal
Development Section in the ICA head office.

The Swedish Co-operative Centre has given the most outstanding support to
the ICA's development programme since 1960.  It has remained a major
contributor so far.  In 1992 its financial support was 34 per cent of the
total;  amounting to CHF 2.3 million out of a total ICA development budget
of CHF 5.7 million. The SCC contribution is coming down and this presents a
potential danger.

Achievements and Limitations

It is not possible to give a proper assessment of a large programme such as
co-operative development which has spanned over nearly four decades.
However, a few remarks are made to give the reader some idea of
accomplishments and limitations.

*   As noted earlier, the development programme was initiated to
    assist the developing movements which had joined the ICA after the
    second World War.  In turn the opening of the Regional Offices and
    the provision of much-needed services through the development
    programme increased the ICA membership manifold.

*   The development programme has been periodically evaluated. While
    suggestions have been made to improve the programme, the overall
    assessments have been positive.  The Assessment Report on the work
    of the ICA Regional Office and Education Centre (ROEC), the first
    such assessment was made in 1975 by a team of four experts under
    the leadership of Prof. K.F. Svardstrom, had the following to say
    " It is clear from the investigations made that the work of the
    ROEC over the past fourteen years has proved to be of real benefit
    to the member-organisations - the team has found much evidence of
    the extremely valuable work of the ROEC since its inception, and
    of its impact on co-operative development in the Region.
    Appreciation of its services has been freely and widely
    expressed." (PP. 5 & 20)  The last Evaluation Report in 1990
    states that the development programme, "with its three main
    objectives, four priority areas and the catalyst and coordinating
    approach, seems to form a strategy which is and will be of great
    benefit to the target organisations for ICA's development work."
    (P.5)  The Report on Evaluation of the SCC Support to ICA
    Development Programme, 1994 (not an evaluation of ICA's programme
    as such) rates the progress of the programme as positive and

*   Under inspiration and encouragement of the ICA, several countries
    set up Co-operative Education/Training Centres or programmes in
    the sixties and the seventies.  These Centres/Programmes are to be
    found, inter alia, in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel,
    Japan, Sweden, the UK and the USA. The former USSR and several
    former socialist countries as well as a few developing countries,
    such as India and Malaysia, had also put up co-op training
    programmes for sister movements.  All these programmes have made
    an immense contribution to human resource development and
   leadership growth in developing countries.

*   The UN agencies, Government bilateral programmes and the ICA
    Specialised Bodies and the International Co-operative
    Organisations such as WOCCU were, in one way or another,
    influenced by the ICA to make their contributions to co-operative
    development, as envisaged by the ICA's Long-Term Technical
    Assistance Programme and the Current Co-operative Development

When all these are put together, it is an impressive effort. There has also
been a tremendous growth of the co-operative movement in the third world,
as may be seen from the individual membership of affiliated organisations
given earlier. However, it is pertinent to indicate some weaknesses.

Lack of Adequate Funds

Lack of adequate finance has been a major problem in mounting a
comprehensive and multi-pronged effort at co-op. development.  As a result,
the envisioned plan of the ICA Education Centre for Asia around 1970 to
develop research and consultancy, along with training, as an integrated
package could not be realised.  For the same reason the development effort
under the Project Approach adopted in 1984-85, while it incorporates these
elements, is rather thinly spread.  It is indeed commendable that so much
was still achieved, thanks to the commitment of the development personnel,
who are entitled to a well deserved tribute.

Trade Potential Unexploited

The development of international trade and joint ventures which was one of
the objectives of the founders of the Alliance and an important element of
the Long-term Technical Assistance Programme remained by and large an
unrealised dream. Not that efforts were not made.  The Trade Promotion
Projects of the ICA and the ILO could not produce the expected results.  A
major problem has been the lack of interest on the part of the trading
partners from the developed co-op. movements and their inability to
appreciate the mutually beneficial relationship in the long run.

In fact, in the years to come the very survival of the co-operative
movements worldwide, including those of the developed countries, will
depend on the capability of the movements to build viable international
production and trading arrangements. The collapse of the consumer
co-operative movements in some European countries and the increasing
pressures felt by others are a serious warning that something is amiss.

In the opinion of the author, the ICA should establish a high powered
commission to consider and suggest strategy as to how to build
international trading and joint venture etc. and other needed collaboration
in order to survive and grow within the emerging globalisation scenario.
Members may be drawn from the trading bodies from the national consumer and
the agricultural fields, NAF, the finance sector, and include economists
and management experts sympathetic to the co-operative sector.

Exceptions to the above are the Scandinavian Co-operative Wholesale Society
(NAF), International Co-operative Petroleum Association and the
International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation whose
performance gives much hope for realisation of the above ambitions.

Need for Professional Fund-Raising

Not being a business body, the ICA did not have and will never have enough
funds, through its member subscriptions, to do all that must be done to
achieve its objectives.  The member organisations must support, each
according to its capacity, the needed projects and activities and not
necessarily only the development programme, to further the objectives
enshrined in the ICA Charter.

Also the ICA must seriously engage in a fund-raising campaign by entrusting
the task to a professional, supported by a small representative committee.
Seven hundred million members is not a small number; properly motivated and
approached, they can surely contribute enough to enable the ICA to meet
head on its Challenging Goals.