International Summit of Cooperatives 2016 - Quebec

International Summit of Cooperatives 2016 - Quebec

Roos Peirsegaele
Roos Peirsegaele
Regional Director Rikolto in Vietnam (ad interim)

From 10 until 13 October 2016, the International Summit of Cooperatives took place in Québec Canada. Roos Peirsegaele, senior strategic advisor of VECO participated in this summit.

The main theme of the summit was: The power to act, which means increasing the capacity of cooperatives to adapt to the new business reality and act accordingly, expanding the economic power of the cooperatives while materializing business opportunities and contributing to reach the UN sustainable Development Goals.

In other words: Act together on the economic reality for future generations.

The cooperative enterprises gathered in Quebec City addressed the issue of cooperatives’ capacity to act in the social, environmental and economic spheres. In regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to 2030, cooperatives and mutuals recognize that they are a significant lever for introducing sustainable development strategies and for resolving the key global issues.

Cooperatives also highlight the central role of young people and women in achieving those sustainable development goals, and are aware of the upcoming challenges that will have to be overcome so that these two groups can become full partners in achieving those goals. Cooperatives undertake to place a priority on getting youth and women to participate in decision-making processes. Women and youth must become involved in serving as agents of change. 3000 people from 116 countries participated in the summit. There were 235 speakers on several themes. Special attention was given to ‘Young Leaders’, every day they had breakfast sessions together before other sessions started. The program of the summit consisted of sessions, speakers, panel discussions, working groups on several themes, such as: food security, agriculture and value chain, employment, growing inequalities, poverty, use of big data, health and social services, finance, innovation,…

The most famous speakers of the summit were: Yves Morieux (smart simplicity), Navi Radjou (Frugal innovation), Mark Kramer (shared values), Joseph Stiglitz (inequalities and the system), Jeremy Rifkin (technology and sharing economy) and Robert Reich (the future in hands of cooperatives).

On the Food Security and agriculture (the issue most related to our core business) the following objectives were formulated: Cooperatives undertake actions to support global food security by:

  • becoming an indispensable tool for organizing and marketing agricultural production;
  • improving the productivity and sustainability of family and small agricultural operations;
  • facilitating access to agricultural lands and water, as well as to maintaining local properties;
  • improving small agricultural producers’ access to the following essential instruments: markets, energy, financial services, information, knowledge and technologies;
  • fostering the new generation of agricultural producers, namely by helping young people get established;
  • giving small agricultural producers a voice so that governments can pass and implement effective policies;
  • supporting the role of women in agricultural production by helping with their training and access to information and technologies; and
  • helping to mitigate the impact of food insecurity on young people, particularly the rising cost of staples and lost harvests.

Globally what I have learned is that a cooperative is a school in democracy, that cooperatives are active in several sustainable development goals and do more: they work on change of the system, that cooperatives have to be more visible, that cooperatives do a lot, but others don’t know, that cooperatives have to learn how to leverage, that cooperatives have to allow investors to be member of cooperatives, that cooperatives have to join forces to play a huge role in society, that the digital world is an opportunity for cooperatives, that innovations is a need and that we can do it in a ‘frugal’ way (more with less)

In a context marked by the resurgence of protectionism, the closing of borders and individual disillusionment, as much as the pursuit of globalization, a connectivity never before seen in the history of humanity and the rise of the collaborative and circular economy, the cooperative model, more than ever, is a response to the challenges posed and the opportunities that arise. By committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and adopting growth objectives for 2030, the global cooperative movement is demonstrating and exercising all its knowhow and its power to act.