Rules, Policies, Procedures, & Standing Orders

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

Source : ICA, November 1997

as approved by the ICA General Assembly, 15 September 1997


The International Co-operative Alliance is an independent, 
non-governmental association which unites, represents, and 
serves co-operatives worldwide.


Article 1. Name and Seat

The name of this organisation, which was founded in London, August 1895, is the
International Co-operative Alliance, ICA (Alliance Cooperative Internationale, ACI;
Internationaler Genossenschaftsbund, IGB; Mezhdunarodny Kooperativny Alliance, MKA;
Alianza Cooperativa Internacional, ACI). 

Its registered headquarters, since 1982, is Geneva, Switzerland.

The status of the ICA is that of an association organised as a 
corporate body regulated by the Swiss Civil Code in Articles 

The seat of the ICA may be changed by resolution of the General 

Article 2. Objects

The ICA, as a world-wide representative of co-operative organisations 
of all kinds, shall have the following objects:

a) to promote the world co-operative movement, based upon mutual 
b) self-help and democracy;

b) to promote and protect co-operative values and principles;

c) to facilitate the development of economic and other mutually 
beneficial relations between its member organisations;

d) to promote sustainable human development and to further the 
economic and social progress of people, thereby contributing to 
international peace and security;

e) to promote equality between men and women in all decision-
making and activities within the co-operative movement.

The ICA shall not affiliate itself to any political or religious 
organisation and shall maintain independence in all its activities.

Article 3. Methods

The ICA shall seek to obtain its objects:

a) by serving as a forum for exchange of experience and as a source of information on
co-operative development, research, and statistics;

b) by providing technical assistance for co-operative development;

c) by creating international specialised bodies in various sectors of 
co-operatives' economic and social activities;

d) by collaborating with United Nations organisations, and with any 
other governmental and non-governmental international and national
organisations which pursue aims of importance to co-operatives;

e) by any other appropriate means.

Article 4. Official Languages

English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish shall be the official 
languages of the ICA.  It shall be for the Board to decide to what 
extent each language shall be used.


Article 5. Co-operative Principles

Any association of persons, or of societies, shall be recognised
as a co-operative society, provided that it has for its object 
the economic and social betterment of its members by means of an 
enterprise based on mutual aid, and that it conforms to the ICA 
Statement on the Co-operative Identity, as approved by the General 
Assembly of the ICA:


A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united 
voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural 
needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-
controlled enterprise.


Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-
responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.  
In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe 
in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility 
and caring for others.


The co-operative principles are guidelines by which co-operatives 
put their values into practice.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons 
able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities 
of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their 
members, who actively participate in setting their policies and
making decisions.  Men and women serving as eleted representatives 
are accountable to the membership.  In primary co-operatives 
members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and 
co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic 

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, 
the capital of their co-operative.  At least part of that capital 
is usually the common property of the co-operative.  Members usually 
receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a 
condition of membership.  Members allocate surpluses for any or 
all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, 
possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be 
indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions 
with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved 
by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled 
by their members.  If they enter into agreements with other 
organisations, including governments, or raise capital from 
external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic 
control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, 
elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can 
contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives.  
They inform the general public - particularly young people and 
opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen 
the co-operative movement by working together through local, 
national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their 
communities through policies approved by their members.

Article 6. Eligibility

Organisations which conform to the ICA Statement on the 
Co-operative Identity and observe the aims of ICA shall be 
eligible for membership of the ICA.

The types of organisation eligible for membership are the following:
a) national unions or federations of co-operative societies;

b) national confederations of co-operative unions;

c) national co-operative business organisations with majority 
individual ownership 

d) international co-operative organisations.

As an exception, admission may also be granted to:

e) regional federations or unions of co-operative societies;

f) co-operative societies;

f) educational, research and other institutions which promote 
co-operatives and are affiliated to the co-operative movement.

The decision to admit to membership of the ICA lies with the Board.  
In the event of the Board's rejecting an application, the 
organisation in question may appeal to the General Assembly.

The ICA Board may decide to admit the following types of 
organisations as associate members, without voting rights:

g) candidates for membership whose co-operative nature is 
uncertain, but is under review by the ICA;

h) candidates for membership which are in the process of 
co-operative development, pending an improvement in their situation; 

j) organisations which are supporters of co-operatives;

k) organisations which are owned or controlled by co-operatives;

l) organisations which are members of a Specialised Body but not of ICA.

Organisations in categories h and i shall be allowed associate 
membership status for a limited time duration, as decided by the Board.

Article 7. Cessation of Membership

Membership of the ICA shall cease:

a) by a decision of the Board following non-payment of full 
subscriptions for two successive years;

b) by voluntary withdrawal, notice of which shall be given 
by the organisation concerned at least six months before the 
end of the calendar year; subscriptions for the year in which 
the withdrawal occurs are payable in full, regardless of the cause of withdrawal;

c) by resolution of the General Assembly in the case of a member 
organisation's acting contrary to the Rules or interests of the ICA.

Article 8. Rights of Members

Subject to the proper and timely fulfillment of their financial 
obligations to the ICA, member organisations shall have the right:

a) to take part in formulating the ICA policies and work programmes 
at the meetings of the ICA Authorities;

b) to receive from the ICA all appropriate services, information 
and assistance;

c) to participate in any Specialised Body of the ICA in accordance 
with its constitution;

d) to appoint representatives to the ICA General and Regional 
Assemblies, and to Congress, and to nominate candidates for 
election to the Board.

Article 9. Obligations of Members

Every member organisation shall have the following obligations:

a) to observe the aims and policy of the ICA and to conform in 
its activity to the ICA Statement on the Co-operative Identity 
as defined in Article 5;

b) to supply the ICA with its annual report and a complimentary 
copy of all its relevant publications, as well as regularly inform 
the ICA on significant national co-operative developments, changes 
in its rules and bylaws, and all actions of the public authorities 
which affect the co-operative movement;

c) to pay during the first three months of the calendar year its annual subscription;

c) to take all such actions as shall be recommended by the Authorities 
of the ICA in support of its policy decisions.


Article 10. Income

The income of the ICA shall be derived from:

a) subscriptions of its affiliated organisations;

b) sales of publications and promotional items;

c) funds provided through agreements with development agencies;

d) donations;

e) other sources as agreed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Board.

Article 11. Subscriptions.

a) Every member organisation shall pay an annual subscription in 
proportion to its economic activities and in accordance with the 
formula established by the General Assembly for different co-operative 

b) any co-operative organisation affiliated to the ICA which is not 
engaged in economic activities of its own shall pay its annual 
subscription on the basis of the aggregate business activity of its 
members, including primary members in the case of secondary and 
tertiary organisations, unless their members are themselves ICA members;

c) on the recommendation of the Board, the General Assembly 
shall review the formula at least every four years to ensure 
adequate resources for the ICA and, if considered appropriate, 
shall determine the minimum and maximum levels of subscriptions;

d) annual subscriptions shall be due and payable in the first 
quarter of a calendar year and, together with the appropriate 
supporting documentation, shall be sent to the ICA Headquarters 
by 31 March.  Failure to comply with this requirement shall lead 
to withholding a member's participation rights and other penalties 
as determined by the Board.

e) any member organisation which, because of exceptional 
circumstances, has difficulty in paying its subscription may apply 
to the Director-General for leniency.  Such requests must reach 
the ICA Headquarters by 31 March and be accompanied by full supporting documentation. 
Decisions shall be reported to the Board.


Article 12. Authorities.

The Authorities of the ICA are: General Assembly, Regional
Assemblies, Board, Audit and Control Committee, President, and 

Article 13. World Co-operative Congress

A World Co-operative Congress may be convened by the ICA, 
with an open participation, both for members and the general 
co-operative public.

The time, venue, and themes for the Congress shall be decided 
by the General Assembly.

Article 14. General Assembly

a) The General Assembly, being the highest authority of the ICA, 
shall consist of representatives appointed by affiliated organisations 
for a four-year term, and one representative from each of the 
Specialised Organisations and Committees.  The Board may establish 
targets for the representation of women at the General Assembly.

b) the General Assembly, as a rule, shall meet every second year.  
Extraordinary meetings of the General Assembly may be convened:
 -on the decision of the Board, or
 -at the request of one-fifth of member organisations or 
one-fifth of the total representatives' votes in the General Assembly.

c) all member organisations, subject to the full discharge of 
their financial obligations, shall be entitled to at least one 
representative with a vote;

d) the number of representatives shall depend on the amount of 
subscriptions paid to the ICA Head Office and shall be calculated 
in accordance with the rules set by the General Assembly, provided 
no single member organisation or a group of member organisations 
from one country shall have more than 25 representatives, 
excluding the President of the ICA.

Article 15. Powers of the General Assembly

The General Assembly shall have the following powers:

a) to formulate and implement the policy on major issues 
affecting the future of the ICA and the world-wide 
co-operative movement;

b) to approve the work programme of the ICA;

b) to elect the President and the Board, and the Audit and 
Control Committee, and to ratify the election of the Vice-Presidents;

c) to ratify the appointment or removal of the Director-General 
on the recommendation of the Board;

d) to amend the ICA Rules, and Standing Orders, Policies and 
Procedures, by a majority of two-thirds of the votes represented;

e) to decide on the membership subscriptions and representation 

f) to approve the ICA annual audited accounts and report 
of the Audit and Control Committee;

g) to confirm on behalf of the ICA all dispositions taken 
by the Board, or by any other regional or specialised body 
of the ICA, which imposes liabilities or obligations on the ICA, 
such as investments, borrowings, mortgages, buying and selling 
of real estate, as well as other agreements;

h) to approve the establishment or dissolution of ICA Specialised 
Bodies on the recommendation of the Board;

i) to decide upon the dissolution of the ICA by a majority 
of two-thirds of the votes represented.

All questions on which the General Assembly votes, unless 
specified otherwise, shall be decided by a majority of the 
votes cast.  In special circumstances voting may be by correspondence.

Article 16. Regional Assemblies

In order to promote collaboration among the ICA member organisations
at the regional level, and to provide a forum for discussion of 
regional issues, the ICA shall establish Regional Assemblies as 
part of its governing structure.

The geographic area of each such body shall be as follows:

Regional Assembly for Europe - open to all member organisations 
with a head office in Europe;

Regional Assembly for Asia and the Pacific - open to all member 
organisations with a head office in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific;

Regional Assembly for Africa - open to all member organisations 
with a head office in Africa and adjacent islands;

Regional Assembly for the Americas - open to all member organisations 
with a head office in North, Central and South America, 
and the Caribbean.

International member organisations may participate fully in
other Regional Assemblies, provided they have members in those regions.

The Regional Assemblies shall, as a rule, take place every second year, alternating with
the General Assembly.  They shall:

a) implement the decisions of the General Assembly in the regions;

b) establish the priorities for the ICA work programme in the regions;

d) submit reports, proposals, and resolutions for the consideration 
of the General Assembly;

e) elect a person to serve as ICA Vice-President, subject to 
ratification by the General Assembly; 

f) draw up their own business procedures and representation rules, 
subject to approval by the General Assembly.

ICA members from other regions may attend Regional Assembly 
meetings as observers upon payment of the established registration fee.

Article 17. Board

a) The Board shall consist of the President, four Vice-Presidents, 
and 15 other members, elected by the General Assembly for a 
four-year term.  Vacancies shall be filled through election at a 
subsequent General Assembly.

b) The Board shall meet at least once a year.  Meetings may also 
be called at the request of one-third of the members or by the 
decision of the President.  Substitutes without voting rights 
shall be allowed to attend the meetings only under exceptional 
circumstances and dependent on approval by the President.  
Decisions may be taken by correspondence.

c) The member organisations from one country shall not have more 
than one representative on the Board, excluding the 
President of the ICA.

d) No person shall be entitled to serve on the Board whose 
organisation has ceased affiliation with the ICA or is in 
arrears with its membership fee without a valid reason approved 
by the Board, or who has ceased to be an accredited representative 
of the nominating organisation--or, in the case of Vice-Presidents, 
of the respective Regional Assembly.

Article 18. Powers of the Board

The Board shall have the following powers:

a) to control the affairs of the ICA between the meetings of the 
General Assembly;

b) to prepare the agenda and organise the meetings of the General 

c) to decide on all membership applications and related issues

d) to approve and monitor the ICA budget;

e) to take decisions on investments, borrowings, mortgages, and 
buying and selling of real estate for confirmation by the 
General Assembly;

f) to be responsible for the appointment or removal and the 
remuneration of the Director-General of the ICA;

g) to receive reports from the Audit and Control Committee 
prior to their submission to the General Assembly;

h) to appoint, and receive annual reports from, the Auditor of the ICA;

h) to establish committees from among its members and others, 
and decide upon their terms of reference;

j) to appoint a Board member to act in the absence of the 

Article 19. Audit and Control Committee

The General Assembly shall elect from amongst its member representatives an Audit and
Control Committee, consisting of not less than three and not more than five members.

The Audit and Control Committee shall:

a) examine the financial management of ICA in relation to its 
constitutional obligations;

b) examine the fulfillment of the financial obligations of 
member organisations;

c) meet at least annually with the Auditor of the ICA;

c) report to the General Assembly, and to the Board, on such 
matters as they deem appropriate.

For these purposes the Committee shall have access to all relevant ICA documents.

Article 20. President

a) The President is the chief representative of the ICA and 
shall preside over the General Assembly and Board of the ICA;

b) The President shall provide the policy and organisational 
leadership of the ICA, in collaboration with the Director-General;

c) The President shall meet once a year with the Audit and 
Control Committee to review the finances of the ICA;

d) The President shall have the right to attend the meetings of the ICA Specialised

Article 21. Vice-Presidents

a) The Vice-Presidents shall assist and support the President, and shall serve as the
link between the Regional Assemblies and the Board;

b) The Vice-Presidents will also assist the President in the policy and organisational
leadership of the ICA, together with the Director-General, and may undertake such other
tasks and responsibilities as the Board shall determine.


Article 22. Director-General

The Director-General is the Chief Executive Officer of the ICA, 
accountable to the Board, and, as such, responsible for the 
leadership, recruitment and efficient management of its Head 
Office and Regional Offices.

The Director-General shall:

a) be responsible for implementing the policies of the ICA 
Authorities and take the necessary initiatives to present to the 
Board and General Assembly any relevant issues affecting the 
co-operative movement;

b) attend and advise the meetings of the ICA Authorities, 
without voting rights;

c) prepare documentation for the meetings of the ICA Authorities;

c) report to the Board on the use of finances, implementation 
of the work programme, and changes in staff;

d) maintain close working relations with the ICA Specialised 
Organisations, and provide support as mutually agreed to the 
Specialised Committees of the ICA;

e) maintain relations with the ICA's present and potential 
members, and  submit regular reports on membership issues 
to the Board;

f) designate a member of the Secretariat as second-in-command, 
subject to Board approval;

h) deal with any other issues as may be required by the Board.

Article 23. Regional Offices

In order to extend the services of the ICA Head Office, the ICA 
may establish Regional Offices headed by Regional Directors, 
appointed by and acting under the authority of the Director-General 
of the ICA, with responsibility for:

a) promotion and defence of co-operative values and principles;

j) coordination and implementation of the ICA co-operative 
development programme within the region;

k) representation on request of members' policy concerns to 
governmental bodies and the public;

d) organisation of the Regional Assemblies;

l) carrying out of any other activities as may be requested 
by the Director-General, as approved by the Board.

These offices are to be established with the collaboration and 
agreed financial support of the co-operative organisations in the
Regions, subject to approval of the General Assembly.

The Regional Directors shall be responsible for submitting 
annual programmes and budgets to the Director-General for 
approval and inclusion in the overall global budget of the ICA.

The Director-General shall also approve all agreements with 
funding agencies.


Article 24. Specialised Organisations and Committees

The ICA Board may establish or dissolve, and recognise or 
withdraw recognition from, international specialised 
organisations and committees in such sectors of economic and 
social activity of co-operatives as considered desirable.

The Specialised Bodies shall:

a) draw up their Rules, which shall be approved by the ICA Board;

e) report regularly on their activities to the ICA Board and General 

f) be entitled to one representative at the General Assembly, 
who shall have full voting rights;

g) have the right to propose to the ICA Board themes for 
discussion at the meetings of the ICA Authorities;

h) seek to establish a working collaboration with each other, 
where practicable and desirable;

i) collaborate with the ICA Head Office and Regional Offices, 
where practicable;

j) ensure that their regional committees are established, 
and operate, in conformity with policies established by 
the ICA Regional Assemblies.

The ICA Board may designate liaison persons in order to 
ensure a regular two-way flow of information between the Board and the Specialised

The Specialised Bodies shall, in consultation with the Board, 
establish policies and timetables to ensure that at least 
half of their members are also direct members of the ICA.

The Specialised Organisations, based on sectoral membership, 
shall self-finance their own activities.

The Specialised Committees, based on functional or multi-purpose 
activities, shall receive support from the ICA, as mutually agreed.


Article 25. Status of the ICA in Switzerland

As long as the Head Office of the ICA is in Switzerland it is 
subject to Swiss legal requirements and any legal or judicial 
query will be handled in Geneva, according to Swiss procedures.

Article 26. Amendments to the Rules

Proposals to amend the Rules may only be submitted by the Board 
to the General Assembly, or by a special committee appointed by 
the General Assembly for that purpose, or by not fewer than 
five member organisations.

Article 27. Definitive Text of the Rules

The definitive text of the Rules shall be that of the English 

(In legal matters arising in Swiss Law as stated in Article 25, 
the French text shall be regarded as definitive.) 

as approved by the ICA General Assembly - 15 September 1997


1. Organisations shall apply for membership on the official 
form to be supplied by the ICA, and shall send with their 
applications two copies of their rules, and their last annual 
report and balance sheet.  If the language in which the rules 
are printed is not one of the official languages of the ICA, 
a translation in one of the official languages shall be enclosed.

2. All applications must include the calculation of the 
subscription based on the economic activity of the applying 
organisation, or on the aggregate business activity of its 
own members (Article 11), and in accordance with the formula 
established for the following types of co-operatives:

a) consumer, agriculture, industrial, fisheries, 
tourism and other types not specified below;
 b) housing;
 c) insurance;
 d) banking, credit and other financial institutions.

3. If the amount of subscription calculated by the applying 
organisation in accordance with the relevant formula fails to 
reach the established minimum dues level, the organisation 
shall undertake to pay minimum subscription.

4. Organisations applying as educational, research and 
other institutions which promote co-operatives may request 
the Board to consider granting them a "minimum-dues-paying" status.

5. Before any application is submitted to the ICA Board, 
the Director-General shall make appropriate inquiries as to 
the suitability of the organisation concerned to be admitted 
to membership of the ICA, including consultation with existing 
member organisations from the same country and with the regional 
authorities and/or offices of the ICA.

6. New members of the ICA shall pay their subscriptions 
during the first year on the basis of a pro rata amount 
determined by their month of admittance.

7. Organisations once expelled from the ICA for non-payment 
of subscriptions cannot re-apply for membership until their 
outstanding debts are cleared.

8. Associate members should pay an annual fee based on 
one-half of the amount that would be required of full 
members in accordance with the subscription formula, or such 
other amount as the Board may determine.


1. Membership subscription formula, which shall be reviewed
by the General Assembly at least every four years, is established 
for different co-operative sectors and at present is as follows:

(Note: All calculations should be made on the basis of economic 
performance two years previous to the year of payment.  Calculation 
should be made in national currency and then converted into
Swiss francs using the current rate of exchange.)

a) Consumer, Agriculture, Industrial, Fisheries, Tourism, 
and Other types not specified below:

 Number of complete millions of annual turnover
 -multiplied by three

b)	Housing:

 (Factor A + Factor B) x per capita GNP
 -divided by 18.67

 No. of co-op apartments	Factor	No of apts.	Factor 
 managed during the year	A		constructed/yr	B

 Up      	to 50,000	5		Up to     1,000	5
 50,000  	to 99,999	6		1,000 to  1,999 	6
 100,000 	to 149,999	7		2,000 to  2,999	7
 150,000	to 199,999	8		3,000 to  3,999	8
 200,000	to 249,999	9		4,000 to  4,999	9
 250,000	to 299,999	10		5,000 to  5,999	10
 300,000	to 399,999	11		6,000 to..7,999	11
 400,000	to 499,999	12		8,000 to .9,999	12
 500,000	to 599,999	13		10,000 to 11,999	13
 600,000	to 799,999	14		12,000 to 15,999	14
 800,000	to 999,999	15		16,000 to 19,999	15
 1,000,000	to 1,249,999 17		20,000 to 24,999	17
 1,250,000	to 1,599,999 19		25,000 to 31,999	19
 1,600,000	to 1,999,999.21		32,000 to 39,999	21
 2,000,000	to 2,499,999 23		40,000 to 49,999	23
 2,500,000	and more	 25		50,000 and more	25 

c)	Insurance:

 Number of complete millions of net premium income
 -multiplied by 30

d)	Banking, Credit and Other Financial Institutions:

 Number of complete millions of share capital and reserves
 -multiplied by 90
 Number of complete millions of share capital and reserves
 -multiplied by 9

2. Organisations with membership from more than one economic
sector shall calculate their subscriptions using appropriate 
sectoral formulas, and pay the aggregate amount.

3. Minimum subscription, as established by the General Assembly, 
shall be 5,000 Swiss francs.

4. Maximum subscription, as established by the General Assembly, 
shall be 250,000 Swiss francs.

Maximum subscription, either for an individual member organisation 
or for the group of member organisations from one country, shall 
only be used on a voluntary basis, and shall not prohibit payment 
of dues above the maximum level.


1. The basis for calculating the number of representatives to 
the General Assembly shall be Sfr. 5,000 of subscriptions, giving 
a member organisation the right to appoint one representative 
with a vote. 

2. Each member organisation or a group of member organisations 
from one country shall be entitled to one additional voting 
representative for each complete Sfr. 5,000 of their total 
subscription, after the first Sfr. 5,000 of subscription, with 
a maximum of 25 representatives per country, excluding the 
President of the ICA, as laid down in Article 14 of the Rules.