Cooperatives have become a familiar and remarkable feature of our global community. In observing the annual International Day of Cooperatives, the United Nations recognizes the cooperative movement -- the largest and one of the longest-established manifestations of civil society -- as an indispensable actor in the economic and social life of nations.
The cooperative movement espouses values such as self-help, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity -- values that are fully in keeping with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the fiftieth anniversary of which we celebrate this year. Continuing the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in social responsibility and caring for others. By blending these concerns with commercial acumen, cooperatives meet many of modern society's most pressing needs. Many initiatives involving health insurance, public education and public housing, for example, were pioneered by cooperatives for their members, and subsequently adopted by States and transformed into universal programmes.
The cooperative model provides a formula which maximizes innovation and local empowerment without sacrificing the values of community, consensus and shared responsibility. It is highly adaptable and can be applied to virtually any social or economic activity. As the Untied Nations system and international civil society organizations together work towards our shared goal of a safer, cleaner, healthier world, a world in which all people have the opportunity to live out their lives in peace and justice, the cooperative movement will continue to be an essential partner.
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