INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP DELIBERATED ON THE FUTURE OF COOPERATIVES

Ariel Guarco, ICA President to launch book, Akin-Falaiye charges Cooperatives in Africa to rejig Marketing Cooperatives

Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) organized an impressive congress in Brasilia between 14th and 16th May, 2024. The Congress themed Empowering Futures: Cooperatives at the forefront of inclusion, resilience and environmental management had over 3000 cooperators in attendance. An international Training organized as a side event of the OCB congress was attended by participants from 20 countries.

The international workshop was sponsored by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in collaboration with the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil. The workshop aimed to promote sustainable development, increase the resilience of cooperatives worldwide and strengthen the cooperative movement and its contributions to global economic and social progress. The workshop was designed not only to address the challenges faced by cooperatives in today’s dynamic environment, but also to explore innovative solutions and best practices that can be adapted and applied in different contexts.

The opening panel of the International Workshop was attended by the Head of UNDESA’s Training Division, Oleg Serezhin, and the OCB System’s Superintendent, Tânia Zanella. They welcomed the international representatives, presented details of the program for the next few days and officially began the exchange of cooperative knowledge.

The first technical presentation was attended by the President of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), Ariel Guarco, the President of the ICA for the Americas, Graciela Fernandez, and the First Vice President of the ICA for the Americas, José Alves. These outstanding leaders presented why cooperatives are so important for a sustainable future, as well as revealing some regional, global and personal projects aimed at this end.

There was a round table discussion moderated by Professor Sonja Novkovic, Professor at St Mary’s University, Canada. The panelist explained how their organization, country or cooperative was working to ensure social justice and the inclusion of minority groups. Experiences were shared by the President of Instituto Cresol, Alzimiro Thomé, the President of the International Organization of Health Cooperatives, Dr. Carlos Zarco, and the President of the ICA’s Gender Equality Committee for the Americas, Myriam Baez Rojas.

Panelist in one of the sessions, presented case studies from their countries on the importance of cooperatives in overcoming economic crises. Participants included Guillermo Tavernier from Sancor Seguros in Argentina, Dr. Atuwaire from the Kamacos Cooperative in Uganda, and Hilda Ojall from the ICA Africa Gender Equality Committee. The panel was moderated by the National Secretary for Traditional Peoples and Communities and Sustainable Rural Development, Edel Moraes.

In another panel made up entirely of female cooperative leaders, discussions on the topic: Creating Resilient Supply Chains through Cooperative Networks, centered on how their organizations were positioned to promote sustainable supply chains. Participating were representatives of cooperative organizations from the National Cooperative Union of India, Savitri Singh, the Federation of Cooperatives of the Philippines, Tetay Plantilla, and Cooperative Federation of Nigeria (CFN), Ebun Akin-Falaiye. The President of the Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Paraguay, Simona Cavazzutti, moderated the panel.

Mrs Ebun Akin-Falaiye, representing Nigeria posited that there was a need for the Cooperative Movement in Nigeria to rejig marketing cooperatives as they existed before the oil boom. She reiterated that the likes of Association of Nigeria Cooperative Exporters (ANCE) and Nigeria Cooperative Wholesales Association played prominent roles assisting cooperative farmers to market their products locally and internationally at good prices.

She also presented opportunities for creating resilient supply chains through cooperatives in Nigeria and Africa to include;

1.  African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) which aims to boost free flow of goods and services across Africa;

2.  Africa Cooperative Development Strategy (2023-2033) which aims to promote cooperation amongst        cooperatives,

3.  Declaration of a state of Emergency on food production in Nigeria with massive investments in                   mechanization, technology to boost production and;

4.  The Renewed Hope Agenda of the current government in Nigeria and ease of doing business which           presents opportunities for Inter-cooperative as well as international trading using cooperative                   networks.

Moderated by Brazilian professor and cooperative researcher Dr. Alair Ferreira, the workshop’s fourth panel spoke with government representatives from Uruguay, Elbio Fernandez, Paraguay, Carlos Roa, and Brazil, Nelson Andrade, to understand how partnerships with cooperatives can facilitate the implementation of the SDGs.

Bringing the important perspective of cooperatives, the President of the Board of Directors of the cooperative COACEHL, from Honduras, Gloria Soriano, spoke about the inclusion of women and the importance of youth in the future of cooperatives.

Other panelists focused on the participation of cooperatives in business.

The President of the OCB System, Márcio Lopes de Freitas, was present in the international room. The President thanked the international participants for coming and for their commitment to bringing contributions to the discussion.

To close the program of the International Workshop and pay tribute to the cooperatives in Brasilia, the group visited the Central of Recyclable Materials Work Cooperatives of the Federal District. The international participants were welcomed by the President of the center, Aline Sousa. The international group got a close look at the work of the more than 20 cooperatives that operate there. The week of technical contributions and knowledge exchange ended on a high note, learning about the work and importance of cooperatives around different climes.

The meeting in Brasilia was an opportunity to build bridges, forge new partnerships and lay the foundations for future collaborations. Through the discussions, interactive sessions and networking opportunities, participants learnt from one another.

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