Director-General's Report

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         October, 1996

     (Source: Review of International Co-operation,
     Vol.89, No.3/1996, p.4-6)

                  Director-General's Report
                  *************************

Following the highly-successful Centennial Congress in
Manchester in September 1995, ICA's attention has focused on
the necessary changes and new priorities as it enters its
second century of existence.

The Board planning session in November 1995 identified several
key themes which have subsequently led to operational changes.

While supporting the new regional structure, the Board was
concerned that these centrifugal forces could weaken ICA as a
whole if they were not counterbalanced by the maintenance of a
strong Head Office. Accordingly, a number of staffing changes
have been made to increase the Head Office's capacity.

The first was the hiring of an experienced co-operative
manager, Mats Ahnlund, as Senior Adviser, Member Services, in
recognition of the fact that ICA, like most membership
organisations these days, is increasingly pushed to
demonstrate what real services it offers to its membership,
both present and potential. It cannot be assumed that previous
activities will be sufficient to attract new members, or
indeed even to maintain the existing membership.

Another top priority identified by the Board was to strengthen
relationships with the 14 Specialised Bodies, which have
tended to become weaker ever since the 1984 Congress decision
to allow non-ICA members to be members of the Specialised
Bodies. The Board now receives regular reports on each
organisation from Board liaison persons, who provide a two-way
flow of information. The first of what is likely to be a
regular annual operational consultation meeting was held in
Geneva in April, attended by 12 of the 14 Specialised Bodies.
It has now been agreed that the four Specialised Committees
will receive secretariat support from existing Head Office
staff. And finally, the new Senior Adviser, Member Services,
will be a regular focal point for relations with the ten
Specialised Organisations, seeking ways to identify new
services and opportunities for collaboration with them.

With development remaining a high priority of ICA and many of
its members, it has now been possible to find resources to
engage a full-time Development Director, beginning in 1997.
The appointment of Bjorn Genberg, well-known co-operative
development expert with the Swedish Co-operative Centre, to
this position will strengthen the ICA's overall development
programme, and not least in Africa, where the Board felt that
more attention and efforts are required.

As part of ICA's efforts to diversify the functional expertise
of its staff, as well as improve the balance of nationalities,
we have welcomed the secondment of Mr. Won-Sik Noh from the
National Agricultural Co-operative Federation of South Korea
as Agricultural Co-operative Adviser. In the year of the World
Food Summit, and in view of ICA's close working relationship
with the International Federation of Agricultural Producers,
this staff addition is particularly appropriate.

Collaboration with the International Raiffeisen Union also
continues to progress. The ICA and IRU Boards are scheduled to
meet for a first joint session in October, to be followed by a
joint two-day seminar on co-operative banking, with special
focus on Eastern and Central Europe. Held in conjunction with
the ICA's European Regional Assembly, these meetings also
demonstrate ICA Europe's commitment to continue the work of
the Co-op Network, whose dissolution in July 1996 should not
be interpreted as diminishing the importance attached to
East-West collaboration in Europe.

The very positive statement of the United Nations'
Secretary-General on the occasion of the second UN
International Day of Co-operatives, as well as his detailed
report to the General Assembly, indicate that the
international image of co-operatives is steadily recovering
from the set-backs experienced during the 1980s. ICA's working
relationship with the Co-op Branch of the International Labour
Office has rarely been better than it is today. The decision
by the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of
Co-operatives (COPAC) to transfer its secretariat to the ICA
is a further indication of the willingness of all members to
seek joint solutions to current problems. The ICA's UN/NGO
Director, Maria-Elena Chavez (appointed to this new position
as part of the reorganisation of the Head Office) continues
also to assist the Specialised Organisations in making
representations to the UN system, as was done very effectively
by ICA Housing in conjunction with Habitat II. She has also
been designated as ICA's focal point for issues dealing with
gender and with the environment and sustainable development.

In this year of Regional Assemblies, important developments
can be noted in all regions. In Asia-Pacific, G.K. Sharma will
retire in October after nine years as Regional Director, and
will be succeeded by Robby Tulus of Indonesia.

The Africa Co-operative Ministers' and Leaders' Conference in
Mauritius in May demonstrated the progress being made in
improving legislation and policy in many African countries.
The ICA Americas' Regional Conference is becoming a major
event on the co-operative calendar, attracting high-level
participation from co-operatives and outside speakers alike.  

This year's Americas' Conference, in Costa Rica in November,
will also feature the formal creation of a new ICA Specialised
Organisation, the International Health Co-operative
Organisation, whose rules were approved by the ICA Board in
June. Working closely with the Head Office, the IHCO can be
expected to play a useful role in this increasingly important
sector of co-operative activity in the years ahead.

ICA's Communications Department has maintained its high output
of both printed and electronic information throughout the
year, the highlight being the publication of an illustrated
version of Ian MacPherson's Co-operative Principles for the
21st Century.  There are indications that many ICA members are
making use of the new Co-operative Identity Statement in their
own education and training programmes for employees and
directors.

The conclusion of Ian MacPherson's report seems equally
appropriate for ICA as it progresses through this year of
change and growth: The co-operative movement is a movement of
perpetual promise, a movement of becoming, not of ending. It
never achieves a state of perfection; it never rests satisfied
with what it has accomplished. It is a movement that is always
torn between what its philosophy suggests and the contemporary
world requires.


Bruce Thordarson