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"Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility" (United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon).
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.
The United Nations General Assembly launched the International Year of Cooperatives (2012) at the UN General Assembly Hall on Monday, 31 October 2011 in New York.
With the theme of "Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World", the year 2012 seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of cooperatives all over the world. It also encourages individuals, communities and governments to recognise the agency of cooperatives in helping to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.
What exactly are cooperatives? What differentiates them from other forms of business? What are the advantages of cooperatives for members and communities in general?
Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members and their communities.
Cooperatives take many forms and operate in all sectors of society. Most share a unique set of principles which keep them attuned with their member-driven character.
Who are the partners for this initiative?
The United Nations General Assembly invites member states to set up national committees responsible for promoting activities related to the preparation and observance of the IYC. Experience from previous international years indicates that participation of strong national committees is essential to the success of the IYC. The national committees should be inclusive of local governments, UN country teams, cooperative movement representatives, private sector leaders and civil society organisations.
Many UN agencies work with various cooperative sectors and are positioned to add value to the IYC. UN agencies can contribute significantly in raising awareness, providing technical assistance and supporting national activities within the context of the IYC.
Crucial to the success of the IYC are cooperatives, big and small, from all sectors: agriculture, banking and credit, consumer, fisheries, health, housing, insurance, industry and services, tourism, utilities and social cooperatives. Cooperatives will, among other things: