The Co-operatives Movement
Co-operatives have been acknowledged as associations and enterprises through which citizens can effectively improve their lives while contributing to the economic, social, cultural and political advancement of their community and nation. The co-operative movement has been also recognized as a distinct and major stakeholder in both national and international affairs.
Co-operatives' open membership model affords access to wealth creation and poverty elimination. This results from the co-operative principle of members' economic participation: 'Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative.' Because co-operatives are people-centred, not capital-centred , they do not perpetuate, nor accelerate capital concentration and they distribute wealth in a more fair way.
Co-operatives also foster external equality. As they are community-based, they are committed to the sustainable development of their communities - environmentally, socially and economically. This commitment can be seen in their support for community activities, local sourcing of supplies to benefit the local economy, and in decision-making that considers the impact on their communities.
Despite their local community focus, co-operatives also aspire to bring the benefits of their economic and social model to all people in the world. Globalization should be governed by a set of values such as those of the co-operative movement; otherwise, it creates more inequality and excesses that render it unsustainable.
The cooperative movement is highly democratic, locally autonomous, but internationally integrated, and a form of organization of associations and enterprises whereby citizens themselves rely on self-help and their own responsibility to meet goals that include not only economic, but also social and environmental objectives, such as overcoming poverty, securing productive employment and encouraging social integration.
The earliest record of a co-operative comes from Fenwick, Scotland where, in March 14, 1761, in a barely furnished cottage local weavers manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker's whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount, forming the Fenwick Weavers' Society.
In 1844 a group of 28 artisans working in the cotton mills in the town of Rochdale, in the north of England established the first modern co-operative business, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society. The weavers faced miserable working conditions and low wages, and they could not afford the high prices of food and household goods. They decided that by pooling their scarce resources and working together they could access basic goods at a lower price. Initially, there were only four items for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar and butter.
The Rochdale Pioneers are regarded as the prototype of the modern co-operative society and the founders of the Co-operative Movement.
Today the sector is estimated to have around 1 billion members. Co-operatives employ, directly or indirectly, 250 million people around the world. The world's top 300 co-operatives by themselves have an estimated global turnover of 2.53 trillion USD (2533,1 Bn), as revealed by the 2016 World Co-operative Monitor.
United Nations observance
In 1992, following a concerted lobbying effort by the cooperative movements in membership of the International Co- operative Alliance (ICA) and members of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the International Day of Cooperatives by the UN by resolution 47/90 of 16 December 1992.
The date of the celebration of the International Day was chosen to coincide with the already existing International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) International Cooperative Day with has been celebrated since 1923.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly adopted another resolution 49/155 of 23 December 1994 on cooperatives which not only called on governments and international agencies to: "consider fully the potential of cooperatives for contributing to the solution of economic, social and environmental problems in formulating national development strategies; and consider reviewing legal and administrative constraints on the activities of cooperatives with a view to eliminating those constraints that are not applied to other businesses and enterprises", but also invited: "...governments, relevant international organizations, specialized agencies and national and international cooperative organizations to observe annually the International Day of Cooperatives on the first Saturday of July starting from 1995, as proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/90".
Since that date the global community celebrates United Nations International Day of Cooperatives and ICA's International Cooperative Day on the first Saturday of July. Celebrations of the Day are held at the international, national and local levels around the world.