2012: International Year of Cooperatives

Last week, the United Nations declared that 2012 will be the International Year of Cooperatives.

Here are some excerpts from a draft resolution, which is reportedly identical to the final draft that will soon be available.

Recognizing that cooperatives, in their various forms, promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of all people, including women, youth, older people, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples, are becoming a major factor of economic and social development and contribute to the eradication of poverty…

(The General Assembly) 3. Encourages all Member States, as well as the United Nations and all other relevant stakeholders, to take advantage of the Year as a way of promoting cooperatives and raising awareness of their contribution to social and economic development;

4. Draws the attention of Member States to the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General for further action to promote the growth of cooperatives as business and social enterprises that can contribute to sustainable development, eradication of poverty, and livelihoods in various economic sectors in urban and rural areas and provide support for the creation of cooperatives in new and emerging areas…

The International Cooperative Alliance was instrumental in passing this resolution, which was proposed by 55 states (!) and passed by consensus. It follows numerous resolutions affirming the value of cooperatives, as well as a series of International Days of Cooperatives.

I can’t help but notice that the year chosen is rich with irony: 2012 is variously  believed to be a) the end of the world, b) a time of glorious spiritual transformation, and c) an election year.

Each of these scenarios raise some questions about our future together on this beat-up little planet.

Will this long-due global acknowledgement of the value of cooperative economics be upstaged to the global cataclysm that some are predicting? Having cities crumbling into the seas will certainly complicate trying to figure out the best location for a new food co-op or worker-owned solar panel factory. But at least we’ll all go together when we go.

Or, could it be that 2012 isn’t so much the end of the physical world as the end of an era, in which we experience a paradigm shift to higher consciousness? If so, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that such transformation might also include a shift toward more democratic and participatory economies. I have a hard time seeing how enlightened people could put up with our current mess of economic injustice, and a year of cooperatives fits nicely into the paradigm shift narrative.

Or, is this going to be the year that we finally realize that whether we elect a Democratic president and Congressional majority, or whether we then turn around and blame those Democrats for failing to solve the problems they inherited (and which really can’t be blamed on Bush, going much deeper than the policies of a single administration), government is not really the solution to our problems? Already, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (GOP-CA) is calling for a new GOP platform that includes employee ownership, and I think that would be a particularly worthwhile thing for Republicans to consider.

A decade ago, Rohrabacher reached way across the aisle to co-sponsor a bill with socialist Bernie Sanders (and Ron Paul). I’m not sure that we want to wait for more government resolutions, but it can’t hurt to have people in our own government who get the concept of empowering communities to take care of their own needs. That way, we don’t have to rely on centralized government-based approaches.

Whatever happens, it will be helpful to have a coordinated international observation of how co-ops can help improve the economy (as well as their shortcomings). I suspect that 2012 will be chock full of Y2K-style survivalist antics, so we’ll need all the help we can get in providing folks with though processes that don’t involve wondering whether they have enough ammo.

We’ve got a couple of years to get ready for the big show.

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4 Responses to 2012: International Year of Cooperatives

  1. coopgeek says:

    It’s official and public! Here’s the UN press release:

    Interesting highlight: “International Years are declared by the United Nations to draw attention to major issues and encourage action. To commemorate the Year, regional conferences will raise awareness of cooperatives and seek ways to leverage their contribution to socio-economic development and foster regulatory frameworks. A research agenda will be proposed and Member States are to form national committees that will serve as focal points for the Year’s activities.”

    This sounds a little top-down for my tastes, but still pretty interesting. It seems like the International Cooperative Alliance and national co-op associations need to be really proactive to avoid too much government shaping of whatever is happening.

  2. olisb says:

    It’s a great plan, lets hope it brings some action with it, rather than just more words… I truly believe the co-op movement has lots to offer but atm (in the UK) they just spam me with adverts for widescreen TV’s…
    We have quite a long way to go.
    Shame they didn’t decide to do it in 2010 really 🙂


  3. coopgeek says:

    Good point about needing action. As writing that, it certainly crossed my mind that this document approximately as substantive as the Copenhagen accord. This observance is a good start, but only a start. Ultimately, it’s not the job of government to make it happen, but their help in getting the word out is positive.

    Personally, I think that 2009 would have been an excellent year for it. We don’t have time to screw around really.

  4. Dr.Yatish Jain says:

    Dear All,
    ‘International Year of Cooperative 2012’ as declared by UN. It is milestone in cooperative world, to unite all the nations through.
    While endeavoring to rejuvenate the nation, the significance of cooperative sector,has been recognized and to enhance qualitative growth of cooperative movement.
    By synchronizing,supplementing,coordinating various activities of different cooperative units and developing attachment among them.

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