Preface - Introduction

 ---------------------------------------------------------------
  This document has been made available in electronic format by
         the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
 ---------------------------------------------------------------

              FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN : 
         ACTION FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE 
            BEIJING, CHINA, 4 - 15 SEPTEMBER 1995

       *****************************************************
        THE CONTRIBUTION OF CO-OPERATIVE BUSINESS ENTERPRISE
            AND THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
           TO ACHIEVEMENT OF THE STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES OF
                  THE DRAFT PLATFORM OF ACTION *
       *****************************************************

                      New York, March 1995


PREPARED JOINTLY, PURSUANT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 49/155,

       BY THE INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE ALLIANCE AND 
    THE UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT FOR POLICY COORDINATION 
                AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

     * For information purposes only. Not an official document 
       of the United Nations and not officially edited


PREFACE
-------
In his penultimate report to the General Assembly on the status
and role of co-operatives in the light of new economic and social
trends (document A/47/216-E/1992/43 of 28 May 1992) the
Secretary-General recommended that :

"In the context of the implementation of the Nairobi
Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the
Year 2000 and of preparations for the Fourth World Conference on
Women : Action for Equality, Development and Peace, to be held
in 1995, the General Assembly may wish to urge Member States to
give full attention to co-operatives as a means to advance gender
equality;" (para.4(g)).

In his latest report to the General Assembly on this topic
(document A 49/213 of 1 July 1994) the Secretary-General pointed
out that :

"Women continued to find membership in co-operative enterprises
a most effective means to achieve economic empowerment, to engage
in entrepreneurial activities and in employment, and, of great
importance, to retain the benefits thereof. Not least important
was the protection afforded to their assets by their formal
association within a co-operative." (para. 35).

In resolution 49/155 on "the role of co-operatives in the light
of new economic and social trends" adopted by the General
Assembly at its Forty-ninth session on 23 December 1994 the
Assembly recognized :

"...that co-operatives in their various forms are becoming an
indispensable factor in the economic and social development of
all countries, promoting the fullest possible participation in
the development process of all population groups, including
women..." (third preambular paragraph); and :

"...the important contribution and potential of all forms of co-
operatives to the preparations and follow-up of ... the Fourth
World Conference on Women : Action for Equality, Development and
Peace ..." (fourth preambular paragraph).

Consequently it invited :

"... the Fourth World Conference on Women : Action for Equality,
Development and Peace ... in formulating ... strategies and
actions, to give due consideration to the role and contribution
of co-operatives." (operational para.6).

This background paper is intended to provide information on the
extent to which co-operative business enterprises and the
international co-operative movement already contribute to the
solution of problems identified as critical areas of concern, and
thereby work toward achievement of the strategic objectives set
out in the draft Platform of Action.


INTRODUCTION
------------
The fact that co-operative business enterprises are considered
to be particularly relevant as organizational means whereby women
may move toward full equality with men is an expression of broad
values and principles which are the basis for co-operative
enterprise throughout the world. Their relevance takes on great
significance when it is recalled that the international co-
operative movement has a global dimension probably unequalled
that the international movement. Before proceeding to a detailed
examination of the relevance of co-operative business enterprise
and the international co-operative movement to women's
advancement, it is useful to look at these values and principles,
as well as at the dimensions and functions of co-operative
enterprise world-wide. This is particularly necessary in view of
certain misconceptions concerning the nature of co-operative
enterprise : misconceptions which are examined very briefly at
the end of this Introduction.