NEW YORK (11/1/11)--Calling cooperatives a "catalytic force," United Nations General Assembly President Nassir Adbdulaziz Al-Nasser officially launched the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives at special ceremonies in New York Monday.
More than 150 CEOs and presidents of cooperatives the attended the events, which continue through today.
At the United Nations' launch of 2012 International Year of Cooperatives Monday are, from left, Cliff Rosenthal, CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and CUNA President CEO Bill Cheney. (CUNA PHOTO)
Noting the theme, "Cooperatives Building a Better World," Al-Nasser emphasized that people must be at the center of social and economic development. No country can develop unless the people are developed. International Year of Cooperatives marks the first time the UN has awarded a business model an "International Year" designation.
Cooperatives' principles contribute immensely to this, he said, to reduce poverty, create jobs, promote social and economic integration. And they do so with honesty, social responsibility and caring for others.
"We'll focus on the achievements of cooperatives and support for the objectives to bring people together to resolve societal issues at a grassroots level," he said at Monday's launch.
Cooperatives are a "catalytic force" because they aggregate economic power, create opportunity and enable communities to compete successfully in a global economy, he said, adding they deserve more support and encouragement in order to thrive in their respective countries.
Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, noted that the emphasis of the International Year of Cooperatives is an opportunity to raise public awareness and encourage governments to establish policies conducive to their growth. Co-ops help to reduce poverty, create jobs, empower youth, the elderly, those with disabilities, women, she said.
Dame Pauline Green , president of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), highlighted the outcome of a morning panel. Cooperatives reflect the combined power of economic opportunity and social responsibility, and have taken millions out of poverty with dignity, she said. After the year is over, it is her hope that efforts pivot from IYC to a decade of cooperative growth.
Also speaking was Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, who also addressed the World Council of Credit Unions' annual conference in Edinburgh this year. "Literally a billion of us are part of a movement of men and women who believe in something," he said, adding, "It's monumental. When the strong help the weak it makes us all stronger."
He noted that, "We must do more than talk about our interdependence and our moral sense that cooperatives are good. We must listen to the voices of discontent, the unemployed, the impoverished--listen to these voices and set out a cooperative vision of the future."
Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney attended the events. "Today's remarks by these very distinguished speakers on the floor of the UN General Assembly were truly inspiring. They highlighted the value and accomplishments of cooperatives and the great potential cooperatives have to accomplish still more."
Also attending the UN sessions, World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch remarked, "It was striking how many countries--nineteen, including the United States--had their representatives speak to the benefits of cooperatives, including a number of references to the work that credit unions do around the world."
Monday morning CUNA's Cheney attended a round table discussion that focused on the theme of cooperative enterprises--how to help create sustainable development. He will also participate in today's events.
Today's agenda includes:
- Cooperative business;
- Cooperative finance; and
- How businesses use communications to meet objectives.
Today's events include an ICA Leadership Forum and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions' "New York: Building a Cooperative City" at the Ford Foundation today. Co-sponsors include the Council of New York Housing Cooperatives and the National Cooperative Bank.