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…
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.