ICA Statement to PrepCom I (Jan/Feb 1994)

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

First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit
on Social Development, New York, 31 January - 11 February 1994

          (distributed to Delegates of the Session)
    Willingness and Capability of the World Co-operative 
    Movement to Contribute to Achievement of the Objectives
    Identified as Core Issues for Consideration by the 
    World Summit for Social Development

In its statement submitted to the Economic and Social  Council
at its substantive session of 1993 (document E/1993/NGO/3 of 14
June 1993), the International Co-operative Alliance welcomed the
decision of the General Assembly to convene a World Summit for
Social Development and to identify the three core issues
affecting all societies which were to be addressed by that

These three core issues are central to the concerns of the world
co-operative movement and to those of the International Co-
operative Alliance.  Consequently, the Alliance takes this
opportunity to pledge to the international community its full
commitment to the achievement of the objectives of the World
Summit, and its full collaboration with the United Nations system
and with the Governments of its Member States, as well as with
employers organizations, trade unions and other elements of civil
society, in pursuit of the expansion of productive employment,
the alleviation and reduction of poverty and the enhancement of
social integration.

In a series of twenty-eight resolutions and decisions adopted
over a period of more than forty years since 1950, the General
Assembly and the Economic and Social Council have recognized the
important contribution that co-operatives have made, and are
capable of continuing to make in ever-changing societal
conditions, the achievement of the objectives which have been
identified as core issues for the World Summit.

IN his last report to the General Assembly on the status and role
of co-operatives in the light of new economic and social trends
the Secretary-General of the United Nations concluded that "close
attention to the potential contribution of co-operatives to
national, economic and social progress appears to be a promising
option for Governments to examine, especially where confronted
by very severe problems of structural transformation".  The
Secretary-General also concluded that "...it appears important
the Governments give dull attention to the contributions that
many types of co-operatives are able to make to achievement of
social policy goals, particularly at a time hen it is
increasingly considered to be appropriate for the public sector
to transfer responsibility to individual citizens, particularly
when organized for the purposes of self-help" (document A47/216-
E/1992/43, para. 46 (a) and (f). 

In its resolution 47/90 of 16 December 1992 the General Assembly,
having considered the Secretary-General's report, referred to the
broad significance of co-operatives in contributing to the
solution of major economic and social problems and encouraged
Governments, in formulating national strategies, to consider
fully the potential of co-operatives for contributing to the
solution of economic, social and environmental problems.

The significance of co-operatives as a major contributing force
for social development was recognized at the last international
meeting held under United Nations auspices on the topic of social
development.  This was the interregional Consultation on
Developmental Social Welfare Policies and Programmes which was
held in September 1987.  This Consultation adopted a set of
Guiding Principles which were subsequently endorsed by the
General Assembly in its resolution 42/125, and whose validity was
reaffirmed by the General Assembly thereafter in its resolutions
44/65 and 46/90.

Stating the central objectives of social welfare policy remained
the enhancement of human well-being by raising the level of
living, ensuring social justice and widening opportunities for
peoples to development their highest capacities as healthy,
educated, participating and contributing citizens, the Guiding
Principles drew attention to the fact that co-operatives, among
other non-governmental and voluntary organizations, were major
sponsors of social welfare programmes that must be recognized,
support and consulted.

The International Co-operative Alliance appreciate the fact that
the Secretary-General in his analysis of the core issues set out
in his overview report to the Preparatory Committee (document
A/CONF.166/PC/6), refers to co-operatives in the context of
building up the institutions of civil society.  It fully concurs
with Secretary-General's observation that co-operatives, as
quintessentially democratic organizations, deserve special
attention in the broader context of fostering democratic,
participating institutions (paras. 92-94).  Indeed, the Economic
and Social Council, in its resolution 1987/47 of 28 May 1987 and
1985/22 of 29 May 1985, already point to "the importance of the
establishment and growth of co-operatives as a democratic
instrument for the full economic, social and cultural development
of all members of society".

However, the Alliance wishes to bring to the attention of the
Preparatory Committee the actual and potential contribution of
the world co-operative movement to the other two core issues --
that is to the expansion of productive employment and the
alleviation and reduction of poverty.  The Alliance wishes to
reiterate the findings of the Secretary-general in his last
report to the General Assembly that co-operatives, as business
enterprises active in the formal sector, and operating frequently
at large and middle scale in term so of turnover and employment,
and major actors in many local, regional and national economies.

The direct and indirect impact of co-operative business
enterprise is of major significance in many countries.  Million
of individuals secure employment by means of their membership in
production and labour contracting co-operatives   The jobs of
numerous others are secured by the fact that the enterprises in
which they are employed, although themselves are not co-
operatives, achieve economic viability because they are members
of supply or marketing co-operatives.  Many persons are employed
by co-operatives providing economic or marketing co-operatives. 
Many persons are employed by co-operatives providing economic or
social services to their members, although they themselves are
only employees.  The economic weight or a resilient and stable
co-operative sector in  many regions is an important  source of
multipliers which make possible the creation and maintenance of
employment in other enterprises.  In amy countries the threat to
employment associated with retrenchment in the public sector,
combined with the recession in the private sector, has been
mitigated by the formation by the workers affected of production
or labour co-operatives.  Public agencies and private enterprises
have collaborated in this process:  in some countries local and
national governments are giving serious attention to the
widespread co-operativization of public services.

The significance of the activity of co-operative business
enterprises for the expansion of productive employment can be
judged by the economic dimension of the co-operative movement:
for example, in his last report of the General Assembly, the
Secretary-General of the United Nations pointed out that more
than half of European agricultural production was harvested,
processed or sold through co-operative marketing systems.

Access to stable employment in reasonable conditions of labour
is naturally a major contribution to the alleviation and
reduction of poverty, or avoided falling into it, through
membership of savings and credit co-operatives ("credit unions").

Consumer co-operatives provide quality commodities and services
at fair prices to hundreds of millions of members, helping to
maintain acceptable real income and to provide good standards of
nutrition, housing, utilities, health service, care for children
and the elderly and many other forms of economic and social
service.  This has provided a base for productive employment and
helped to avoid catastrophic events capable of forcing families
into poverty and precluding their full participation in the
labour force.

Again the great significance of the co-operative contribution can
be judged from some examples of market share and level of
activity: in many European countries consumer co-operatives
occupy 25 to 30 percent of retail trade - in Switzerland, 50
percent of the retail food trade is provided by co-operatives. 
In the United States of America, 55 million adults are members
of savings and credit co-operatives, which had in 1992 assets
exceeding $200 billion.

Indeed, the Alliance wishes to draw the attention of the
Preparatory Committee to the fact that million of families which
are now living in reasonable conditions owe their prosperity to
their membership, or that of their parents and grandparents, in
co-operative business enterprises, of which there are many
examples of spectacular success from very humble origins.  Thus
the co-operative Rabobank in the Netherlands, today one of the
largest in the country and among the most efficient in Europe,
originated only four generations ago in a group of impoverished
farmers who pooled their land as the first capital to secure the
saving and credit co-operatives they established.  One of the
dominant economic complexes in the Basque region of Spain, the
Mondragon Group, originated three generations ago in the efforts
of the work force of a closed factory to avoid unemployment.

The International Co-operative Alliance wishes to draw the
attention of the Preparatory Committee to the fact that the
special significance of co-operatives for the task of achieving
the expansion of productive employment and the alleviation and
reduction of poverty is the very fact that they ares essentially
and primarily business enterprises.  Because they are owned and
managed by their members for the purpose of providing benefits
which members themselves identify, co-operatives business
enterprises are operated in a manner designed to meet a set of
objectives which combine the viability in competitive market
conditions with concern to meet the general welfare of their
members in a stable and continuing manner.  This includes member
access to stable and productive employment in acceptable
conditions, opportunities for social and cultural fulfilment,
enjoyment of a democratic life-style, and a reasonable degree of
control over key elements of daily life and individual, family
and community progress.

In short co-operatives can be characterized as business
enterprises with a social conscience and, increasingly in recent
years, with an environment conscience.

These characteristics which render co-operatives a major partner
in the task of development receive particular significance when
the dimension of the global co-operative movement are taken into
consideration.  As of November 1993, the International Co-
operative Alliance comprised 237 member organization from 102
countries.  These organizations in turn represent 720 million
individual members.  Together with their immediate families or
households, they constitute about 45 percent of the world's
population.  Moreover, through their membership in very active
alliances and representative organizations this large section of
the world's population is in a state of awareness and
mobilization which makes them a most significant constituency for
social development,  and a major partner in global efforts to
achieve it.

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 47/90 the Secretary-
general will submit a further report on the status and role of
co-operatives to the General Assembly at its forty-ninth session
later this year.  The International Co-operative Alliance has
collaborated closely with the Secretary-general in the
preparation of his earlier reports, and it is ready to assist in
the same way in the preparation of the next in the series.  This
will constitute a succinct and authoritative overview of the
activities of the co-operative movement, the factors which
facilitate or constrain co-operative contributions to productive
employment expansion, poverty alleviation and reduction and the
enhancement of social integration.

The International Co-operative Alliance requests the Preparatory
Committee for the World Summit on Social Development, at its
second session in August-September 1994, and at its third session
in January 1995, to take into consideration the conclusions and
recommendations of the Secretary-General in his forthcoming
report, particularly those relating to the potential of the world
co-operative movement to contribute to social development.  It
requests the Preparatory Committee, when formulating its own
recommendations in respect to an instrument which might be
adopted by the World Summit and which will serve to guide the
endeavors of humanity as it reaches a new century and new
millennium, to take fully into account the capabilities of the
hundreds of thousands of co-operatives active in all areas of
human activity throughout the world, and to take fully into
account the willingness of the world co-operative movement and
its representative organizations, including the Alliance itself,
to serve energetically as a full partner of Governments and all
elements of civil society, at international, national and local 
levels, in the task of achieving social progress for all.