Last month the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, António Guterres, presented a new report Cooperatives in social development to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly which highlights the opportunities for achieving sustainable development through cooperatives.
The report has been published in response to a resolution by the General Assembly in December 2019. The resolution recognised the importance of cooperatives in promoting universal development and requested that the Secretary General submitted a report on cooperatives in social development and the initiatives being taken by Governments, international organisations and cooperatives to further enhance the growth and performance of cooperatives
The report contains a review of the actions taken by cooperatives to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities for achieving sustainable development through cooperatives.
The report notes that next year, 2022, will be the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Cooperatives, which was introduced by the General Assembly thanks to UN resolution 64/136. Successive resolutions after 2012 encouraged Member States, as well as the United Nations and all other relevant stakeholders, to share the best practices identified through the activities implemented during the International Year and to continue those activities, as appropriate. The new report includes an assessment of the extent to which actions have been taken to implement those recommendations.
The new report also notes that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is still prevalent throughout the world and speaks of ways that cooperatives have been doing helping to respond to the pandemic and limit its impact on countries and communities.
According to the UN report, the health pandemic is now also becoming a socioeconomic crisis which threatens to reverse progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The report includes numerous examples of the actions taken by cooperatives around the world in response to the pandemic. It also highlights the benefits of the cooperative identity both in responding to the current health emergency and in the long-term action which will be needed in order to “rebuild better together from the pandemic”.
“A coherent, strong and supportive legal and regulatory framework is a key enabler for cooperative success” states the report. This requires that policymakers and legislators everywhere ensure that the special characteristics of the cooperative business model is embedded in their national/regional regulatory frameworks. In the report, the Secretary General calls on governments around the world to “create policies and programmes to leverage the cooperative enterprise model for a more inclusive and resilient recovery by scaling up the provision of cooperative healthcare services to cover a larger number of people, with a particular focus on underserved communities”. There is also mention of the role of cooperatives in providing access to finance towards underserved communities.